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PictureNo one writes about the misfortunes of the body quite as wryly as Valerie Sayers, who describes herself as a “cheerful hypochondriac.” In her fiction and personal essays, you meet neurotic people who you can’t help liking, loving even, as much for their unsentimentality as for their own bald nakedness about their selfishness and angst. Sayers will tell you all the unflattering things about illness, the things people usually avoid talking about. She looks unsparingly at the way pain drives us into ourselves, with no easy pulp about it making us wiser or stronger or more generous. In Sayers’s stories and essays, pain intensifies everything about us: our generosity and wisdom, maybe, but also, frankly, our vanity, our folly, and our white-knuckled grip on life. There’s nothing transcendent about the way Sayers’s characters experience illness, but somehow, redemption creeps in at its own dawdling pace. And precisely because Sayers doesn’t clamor for it, it arrives at last. And when it gets there, it’s the kind you can lean into.

Some of Sayers’s work is featured in Image issue 41, issue 53, and issue 70. Read an excerpt by Sayers here.


I was born and raised in Beaufort, South Carolina (which was to become the thinly-disguised Due East, South Carolina, of my fiction) and educated at Fordham and Columbia Universities. After taking my M.F.A. in fiction, I lived in New York for almost twenty years, writing novels, raising my two sons, and teaching writing.

In 1992 I was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in fiction and the following year I accepted a position as Director of Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame, where I am currently professor of English. My five novels, which have received wide critical attention, are Due East, How I Got Him Back, Who Do You Love, The Distance Between Us, and Brain Fever. All were published by Doubleday. Due East was published in five foreign editions, and (along with How I Got Him Back) became the basis for a Showtime feature film. Who Do You Love and Brain Fever were named “Notable Books of the Year” by the New York Times Book Review.

My stories and essays appear widely. I review regularly for the New York Times Book ReviewThe Washington Post, and Commonweal.

Current Projects
May 2005

I have recently embarked on The Powers, a novel set in 1941, the year of Joe DiMaggio’s record-breaking hitting streak and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The novel explores private and public acts of witness as Americans confronted the plight of European Jews. In both realistic and fantastic chapters, it grapples with heroism and public heroes (Joe DiMaggio, Superman, Dorothy Day, Walker Evans); Catholic anti-Semitism; pacifism; photography––and, of course, baseball. Joe DiMaggio appears as a character whose physical powers are extraordinary but nonetheless human; his ability to predict the future, however, is superhuman. Like most of the characters in the book, he would prefer to deny the coming terrors.

I am intrigued, as always, by popular culture (the real Joe DiMaggio was a Superman fan), moral dilemma (surely the pacifists of World War II faced the strongest possible challenge to their beliefs), and the narrative possibilities of the twenty first century novel.

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The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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