Years ago, when this blog was young and pink of cheek, I remember asking whether there could be such a thing as a standup tragedian. Jess Walter, near the top of my list of "Authors who Live in Spokane," said of his writing:
I do think I have my own distinctive voice as a writer—a bemused wistfulness maybe? (The nicest description of it came from a my friend, the novelist Jim Lynch, who once accused me of writing “standup tragedy”.)
Jess Walter is the kind of writer who can make you feel full and achingly empty at the same time. His stories are peopled with characters who cry out for you to love them even in their sinfulness. Walter's writing seems to want a solution to the problems of sin, poverty, and suffering, even if the solution isn't apparent. "Wistful" is a good description. If Jess Walter's short stories are examples of standup tragedy, then the world cannot get by without it.
Here's the interview, which you should read the rest of. But really, you should skip the interview and read Jess Walter's short story collection, We Live in Water. It's so good, I almost don't want you to read it because I want to keep the stories for myself.