Anchor Books The O. Henry Prize Stories
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What does it mean to be included in the O. Henry Prize Stories? How does an author refine their art? We've given the authors of the winning and recommended stories free rein to share their thoughts on these questions and others, and the result is a rare treat.

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Comments Karl Taro Greenfeld
"Mickey Mouse"
2012 PEN/O. Henry Award-winning Author

When I was a kid I got my hands on a copy of the O. Henry Prize Stories and that was where I first read Woody Allen's "The Kugelmass Episode." The story had a strong and negative influence on me, as I spent my teens and early college years imitating it, straining and failing to write that kind of absurdist humor. I think the reason I was so taken with that story was that it was the first time I read a story and felt like I could understand why and how it worked and thought that I could somehow do the same thing and then have a story as good as "The Kugelmass Episode." I was wrong. I haven't written a story as innovative as The Kugelmass Episode, so there is no chance anyone would decide to emulate my story. But to appear in the same lineage of anthology is a certain kind of validation, that after so many attempts to copy that story, and then so many attempts to just write any kind of story, I have finally arrived somewhere. Though when I sit down to type, I still see myself as a running across a barren plain, chased by verbs and adverbs.

(author photo © Silka)

Writing Tips

I don't recall where the impetus to write this story came from. The only thing that comes to me is that I once wrote a non-fiction piece (assigned by Esquire magazine, who also killed it) about Tokyo University and spent some time at their very old Komaba campus and so recalled the atmosphere from that.

About the Author

Karl Taro Greenfeld was born in Kobe, Japan, in 1964. He is the author of six books, including a novel Triburbia, a story collection NowTrends, and the memoir oy Alone, a Washington Post Best Book of 2009, about his autistic brother Noah. His fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories, The Paris Review, One Story, Commentary, and The Missouri Review, among other journals. His non-fiction has appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best American Travel Writing, Best American Sports Writing, and Best Creative Nonfiction. He lives in New York City.

Writer's Desk

I am going over the final drafts of my novel Triburbia, coming out later this year.

Writing Tips

From "Mickey Mouse" by Karl Tao Greenfeld

We need you, he explained, pulling out the cork stopped and taking a sip.


He held out the flask. I took a small nip.

He continued: To come up with a cartoon character, like Mickey Mouse, only Japanese. But as entertaining as Mickey mouse! We want to make cartoons better than the Americans. We can make wonderful Japanese films, but we have failed to come up with any entertainment between the news and films. We can't show these disgusting foreign cartoons.

He took back the flask. So you, Ohta-kun, you will work on a new cartoon character, a Japanese cartoon character that will make our pure race forget about all enemy characters.

He had thought of me because of the work I had done for the Weekly National, my caricatures and illustrations, what I considered my minor work but that had turned out to be the only work of mine that anyone knew. That kind of cartoon had come easily to me, pen and ink, bold lines, simple figures; I could capture a street scene or a rural village in three dozen strokes. But I knew nothing about animated characters.

Writer's Desk

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