Brad Watson (1955–2020) was the author of two critically acclaimed novels, The Heaven of Mercury and Miss Jane, and two collections of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives. His work has been recognized by the short list and long list of the National Book Award, the International Dublin Literary Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Great Lakes New Writers Award, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Fiction (twice), the Southern Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction, a National Endowment of the Arts Grant in Fiction, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Harper Lee Award, and the Award in Letters granted by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He taught creative writing at Harvard University, the University of Alabama, and the University of Wyoming, Laramie.

There Is Happiness: New and Selected Stories

Introduction by Joy Williams

A posthumous collection of beloved and never-before-read stories from a titan of contemporary Southern fiction.

“Here is a generous portion of the work of a swiftly passing lifetime. Bountiful is the deserving page,” Joy Williams writes in her introduction to this astonishing selection of Brad Watson’s published and unpublished stories: “excellent, assured, funny, startling, heartbreaking, wild,“ full of “freakish flair” and “melancholy realism”—stories that give us a “glimpse” of ourselves “so surprising, so varied yet unequivocal, so ruthlessly complete, that it does awaken us in some manner, if not protect or prepare us.” More…

W.W. Norton & Company
July 16, 2024

A brilliant short story writer, Brad Watson could write breathless, comic scenes, or dreamy hallucinations, or glowering repartee; and he could surprise a reader with sudden breaks into the supernatural. He was as good at delivering riveting bursts of menace as he was at alleviating that menace with moments of transcendent beauty. Watson was always pursuing the mysteries of what it means to be human in the world; in There is Happiness, his singular, beautiful voice lives on.

Anthony Doerr, author of Cloud Cuckoo Land

Kirkus starred review of There Is Happiness

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2024

From an American original, a posthumous collection that includes short stories old and new.

Watson’s stories—those in the volumes published in his lifetime and the new ones—are wry, tender, darkly funny, and deeply idiosyncratic. His first book, Last Days of the Dog-Men (1996), focused on dogs—always simply themselves, and therefore enviable and admirable—and often inhabited their bodies, channeled their voices. In one story here, “The Zookeeper and the Leopard,” Watson’s animism goes yet further; a zookeeper’s miscalculated revenge against a rival results in his being eaten by a big cat…and by story’s end his consciousness has been scattered among piles of scat that carry—poignantly, if you can believe it—what remains of his voice. In the terrific introduction here, Joy Williams speaks of the “strange, piteous, futile, and fickle” characters—often thwarted men self-exiled from their families—who people Watson’s world, and the kinships between his work and hers come clear. There’s the attentiveness to animals and the conviction—which never seems mean-spirited—that they’re superior to people; there’s the strong, often elegiac sense of the natural world. But perhaps the strongest link is an imaginative fearlessness that seems, finally, doglike: Both Watson and Williams exemplify Watson’s remark that a dog “is who he is and his only task is to assert this.”

Read full review at Kirkus Reviews

Publisher’s Weekly review

This vibrant collection of new and selected works from Watson, who died in 2020, showcases the author’s wry humor and taste for the bizarre. “Dying for Dolly” follows an ex-con who releases a novelty song about Dolly Parton and scores a spot opening for the singer. “The Zookeeper and the Leopard” concerns a zoo manager who sets a leopard free to antagonize the town’s chief animal control officer, whom he suspects of sleeping with his wife. Both stories draw sharp portraits of men in over their heads, while “Eykelboom,” written in third-person plural from the perspective of a close-knit Southern town, depicts the travails of a boy who moves there from “some crude and faceless Yankee state” and struggles to fit in. The title story begins in the register of a clinical report on a family’s car accident, which killed the father and maimed the teenage daughter, before swerving into an intriguing stew of gossip and speculation about the fate of the mother, who disappeared from the scene of the crash and may have been driving. In “Terrible Argument,” previously collected in Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives, a couple’s pet dog observes their incessant bickering. This accomplished volume puts Watson’s impressive tonal and stylistic range on full display. It’s sure to satisfy fans and newcomers alike. (July)

The “Watson Poems” by Michael Pettit

Even an author can become a character in someone else’s work and imagination. A long-time friend of Brad Watson’s, accomplished poet Michael Pettit, has been writing “Watson poems” since the days when both were in graduate school in creative writing at the University of Alabama, and Pettit, his life in transition, was spending nights on Watson’s couch. In a comparably transitional frame of mind, Watson was considering leaving graduate school and becoming a navy fighter pilot. Thus the genesis of “Blue Angel.” Over time, however, like most fictional characters, Pettit’s “Watson” began to take on an independent life of his own. More…