About Dennis Vannatta

Dennis Vannatta lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he is retired from three decades in the English Department at The University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

He has published stories in many magazines and anthologies, including Chariton Review, Boulevard, Antioch Review, and Pushcart XV. He is a winner of Arkansas' most prestigious and lucrative literary prize, The Porter Prize, which is presented annually to an Arkansas writer who has accomplished a substantial and impressive body of work that merits enhanced recognition. This is his sixth published collection of stories.

Around Centralia Square

In the tradition of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio or Eudora Welty’s The Golden Apples, Dennis Vannatta’s novel Around Centralia Square depicts the social and spiritual life of a small town, though Vannatta paints a larger canvas. He offers readers a host of small-town characters, each with their own rich histories. They include people like Gary Frazier, the hapless but devoted science teacher mourning his dead child; Russ Forte, the local bigot and no-good, with a surprising affection for his lost dog; Nicole Johnson, the harried mother fantasizing about witchcraft during the football game; Eunice Buddy, the old woman who takes her "senior citizen discount" by shoplifting; the staff at Wiley’s Café, so worried about their friend Jan’s struggle with cancer; and Reverend Holcombe, who has been pastor at First Baptist so long it seems like he will never leave. But these inter-linked stories make clear that this place, Centralia, and this time, 1999 to 2000, could not exist without countless other places and times. Wim Holland started the furniture store only after his history tracing back to South Africa and the Boer War. Vincent Kline opened his hometown gift shop only after years in New York. John Reinhardt loves meeting with his fellow members of the Elks lodge, but he can’t forget that day in '56, when Don Larsen pitched his perfect game.

In Around Centralia Square, an entire little world is evoked with wonderful inventiveness and attention to telling and evocative detail. As the sun rises and the old millennium marches toward its end, the little town of Centralia emerges in all its singularity, simultaneously resembling more and more all the other little towns in the American heartland and in the heart of the world.

Praise for Around Centralia Square

Like One Hundred Years of Solitude or The Sound and the Fury, Around Centralia Square is a book of abundant life. Its pages burst with experiment and invention, voice after voice and story after story folding continually out of one another, yet its formal daring is balanced by the tenderness it shows toward its characters, the way it opens itself―and so completely―to every mind and heart. Each of Dennis Vannatta's books has been artful, compassionate, and questing, and each, moreover, has been better than the one before. With this one, he fires himself into the stratosphere.” --Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Illumination, The View from the Seventh Layer, and The Brief History of the Dead

"Like Google Earth, Dennis Vannatta’s brilliant novel takes us on a walk around the square of a small town called Centralia. But Vannatta goes Google one better: instead of merely photographing the square, he takes psychic X-rays of the denizens of its stores and offices. In a graceful associative manner, he guides us through the minds and hearts of the citizens of this central square in the central city of a state in the center of our country, and in the process he parses what’s most central to our American character. The town and its people come so utterly to life that no matter where you’re from you’ll feel like you’re home. With this novel, Vannatta has added an essential new town to our nation’s literary map, one that ranks up there with Winesburg, Ohio, and Gopher Prairie, Minnesota. I suggest that everyone visit it, and soon. If you do, you may leave it, but it will never leave you." --David Jauss, author of You Are Not Here, Black Maps, and Improvising Rivers