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best american short stories

Seven Things For Sunday

You must read the first ten pages of Kyle Minor’s The Sexual Lives of Missionaries, which is up at Guernica.

Michelle Dean wrote a great essay, What Harry Potter Knows, for The Millions.

Wendy Wimmer does some analysis of Best American Short Stories and where those stories come from. Others have done similar breakdowns but it is worth reading. Over half of the stories over the timeframe she studied come from the same twelve journals. I’m not surprised.

There is a drawing for every page of Moby Dick.

Patsola Press is doing a Kickstarter.

Do we focus too much on plot?

Harper’s has six questions for Colson Whitehead. I only have one. You might also enjoy this interview with John Freeman.

Roundup / 35 Comments
July 17th, 2011 / 6:20 pm

A Bit of a Follow Up

It is difficult to talk about race and stressful and awkward and exhausting. To my mind, one of the reasons these conversations are so difficult, particularly between white people and people of color, is because, so often, white people question concerns raised as if the question is not “how do we solve this problem,” but rather, “does this problem exist.”  This is not a debate about whether there are racial and class (and gender and sexuality) disparities in publishing. These disparities exist whether you (choose to) see them or not. Instead these kinds of discussions are intended to function like a magnifying glass on a problem so big it should not require a magnifying glass.

And yet, the magnifying glass is clearly needed.

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Random / 148 Comments
December 6th, 2010 / 10:03 pm

A Profound Sense of Absence

I recently read Best American Short Stories 2010, edited this year by Richard Russo who is one of my favorite writers. Straight Man? Amazing. Empire Falls? Amazing. My expectations were high. I generally enjoy reading BASS because it gives me a sense of what the literary establishment considers “the best” from year to year. I may not enjoy all the stories in a given year’s anthology but I am always impressed by the overall competence in each chosen story. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story in BASS and thought, “How did that get in there?” At the same time, I often find the BASS offerings to be shamefully predictable. The stories are often sedate and well-mannered even when they are supposedly not. I don’t see a lot of risk taking and more than anything else, I don’t see a lot of diversity in the stories being told. This year, though, BASS really outdid itself. Almost every story in the anthology was about rich or nearly rich white people to the point where, by the end of reading the book, I was downright offended. I know people will disagree with my thoughts here and that’s fine, but I really think shit is fucked up in literary publishing. That’s coarse but I cannot think of a better way to convey my frustration. Anytime I talk about this issue, that’s the best way I can encapsulate my feelings. This issue has been on my mind for a couple weeks (and years) and two things triggered my… current pre-occupation with whose stories are or are not being told.

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Random / 255 Comments
December 3rd, 2010 / 5:11 pm

Isaac Bashevis Singer in Carbondale, Illinois

Four years before he died, Isaac Bashevis Singer visited Carbondale, Illinois, at the invitation of the Southern Illinois University English Department, and on money mostly from the Honors College.  It must have been some visit. Both times I’ve visited SIUC for their Devil’s Kitchen Literary Festival, there was no after-reading bar talk that was entirely Singerless. In the introduction to the new Best American Short Stories, Richard Russo, who taught there at the time, relates Singer’s formulation of the purpose of literature (First, to entertain; Second, to instruct; and in that order, and that order only.) My favorite account of Singer’s visit is recorded by Rodney Jones, in his estimable poetry collection Elegy for the Southern Drawl:

The Limousine Bringing Isaac Bashevis Singer to Carbondale

Rodney Jones

A town is the size of a language.

In four more years he would be dead, but now, READ MORE >

Random / 4 Comments
October 6th, 2010 / 3:22 pm