Michael Byers Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The Coast of Good Intentions is Michael Byers’s first book.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Michael Byers was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University between 1996 and 1998. His story “Settled on the Cranberry Coast” was selected for Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards in 1995; “Shipmates Down Under” was selected for the annual publication The Best American Short Stories in 1997. The Coast of Good Intentions was a finalist for the Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award and in 1999 won the Whiting Writers Award, given to emerging writers of exceptional talent and promise.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Dyer, Richard. “Short Stories Long on Empathy, Resonance.” The Boston Globe, August 5, 1998, p. C5. Notes that although most of Byers’s stories are direct and intimate, they are also technically accomplished, with complex patterns of mirrors and receding reverberations. Says Byers’s writing is so good it is patronizing to call him promising, for he has already arrived.

Marshall, John. “Seattle’s Michael Byers Wins Whiting Award.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 6, 1998, p. 21. A biographical sketch/interview story; Byers credits Charles Baxter, under whom he studied at the University of Michigan, as being one of his most important inspirations, saying he likes Baxter’s scrupulousness and generosity and his moral approach to fiction.

“Michael Byers’ The Coast of Good Intentions.” Kirkus Reviews (May 11, 1998). Calls The Coast of Good Intentions a strong debut collection of graceful tales about unresolved lives; says that the crab factories, cranberry bogs, and fog-shrouded shores of the Pacific Northwest are the settings for quiet but astonishing emotional epiphanies.

Seligman, Craig. “Ordinary Beauty.” The New York Times, May 10, 1998, p. 7, 19. Discusses how Byers’s technically seamless prose depicts men for whom life has not worked out the way they would like; emphasizes that although Byers has some of the bleakness of the early Raymond Carver, his optimism shows though. Says his writing is both melancholy and hopeful, characterized by the unexpected beauty of the ordinary.

Smyth, Charles. “Byers’ Pitch Is True.” January Magazine (October, 1998). Praises Byers for his mature and tender compassion for his characters; says his stories are about people coming to terms with what life has dealt them. Claims that comparisons to Raymond Carver do not hold up, for Byers is less turbulent and more pensive; whereas Carver liked a spare, clean style, Byers likes longer, more leisurely sentences.

Wanner, Irene. “Byers Reveals Much About His Characters.” The Seattle Times, May 10, 1998, p. M2. Praises Byers for his ability to portray older adults and small children with convincing detail and to reveal character through carefully controlled dialogue. Calls his stories carefully crafted examples of tight, modern American short