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On this episode of Arts & Letters, we’ll be featuring a short story entitled "Preferred Signals, 1985" from Arkansas writer Woody Skinner's short story collection: A Thousand Distant Radios, published by Atelier 26 Books.
"We lived in a place where cable didn’t exist. Our water was pumped from a well, our electricity streaming in on a TVA river wave. We lived in Izard County, Arkansas, where dirt roads ribboned through hills, where people were all but waiting on a filmmaker to document their poverty...
But we had a satellite dish in our front yard. A marvel of engineering, a jellyfish puffing toward the sky. Its frame stiff, shiny, a monument to mass communication. According to my father, we were devotees of manufacturing, people who made an art out of industry. The satellite dish, the Buick, the trailer—our lives made of metals."
The story considers the limitations of language--the semiotics of the preferred signals, both real and imagined, that stand between us and bring us together. It traces the relationship of an ecentric father and his teenage son, as they tune in to their favorite satellite channels and as they tune out to the father's illness that pentrates their lives.
Skinner’s work has won the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award and appeared in Mid-American Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Hobart, Booth, Another Chicago Magazine, and elsewhere.
He holds an MFA from Wichita State University and a PhD from the University of Cincinnati. Originally from Batesville, Arkansas, he currently lives in Chicago.
Thank you to composers, singers and songwriters Michael Shackelford and Future Elevators and Whitman Bransford. Thank you to Stickyz Rock 'n' Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas.
Listen to the song "Just What You Wanted" by Future Elevators
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