I don’t think there’s a single person on my list who couldn’t’ve been represented by any number of stories. ‘A Rich Man’ is simply the story of Edward P. Jones’s that I think of most often, because it has a passage that makes me laugh out loud every time, and also has one of the most brutal endings of any story I know. I’m still not over it. I won’t ever be over it, and I’ve read it dozens of times. I generally don’t like praising short stories by saying it’s like a novel or it feels like a novel. To me it’s like saying a hummingbird is good enough to be a pelican. I suppose they have some things in common, but why can’t they just be themselves? The thing that Edward P. Jones accomplishes in his stories – one of the things – is that he manages to get the life force of a whole novel into his stories, the emanations of souls. He does other things, too – in time and point of view and setting, his stories go where they need to go. They go everywhere. Their plots are doglegged and do not care for the paltry shapes and meager occurrences of other people’s stories.
First published in The New Yorker, and available to subscribers to read here; collected in All Aunt Hagar’s Children, Amistad, 2006