David Armstrong’s stories don’t rely on plotting and surprise; they rely on character, and not the kind of outlandish meth heads and bank robbers you find peppering a lot of contemporary fiction, either. Armstrong’s characters are the mundane everymen whose sufferings might be small compared to global economics, warfare and natural disaster, but are elevated to the heights of tragedy through careful attention to detail and voice. He’s able to inhabit the skin of everyone from a Midwestern band geek dealing with his father’s coming out to a New Yorker trying to unload his best memory of his dead wife with the help of a mysterious man.
Although Armstrong’s stories have won numerous awards (the Mississippi Review Prize and New South Writing Contest, to name a couple), he’s as unassuming as the people he writes about, a medium-height 30-something with dark hair and eyes who’s more likely to tell you a story about his wife and their dog than about his long list of accomplishments. But Armstrong has been living in the Valley for about three years as a Black Mountain Institute writing fellow. So why keep an eye on him now?
He’s spending the winter working on a novel about the history of photography before wrapping up his creative writing Ph.D. this spring. While his short stories are a rich mix of poignancy and humor, he’s primed to stretch his legs a bit on a full-length work. Based on the career trajectory of former BMI fiction fellows like Alissa Nutting, perhaps a movie option based on a page-turner is in Armstrong’s future. It’s always nice to be the person who gets to say, “Oh, him? I’ve loved his work for years.”