Best American Short Stories 2007

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It has been announced that the guest editor of next years Best American Short Stories will be Stephen King.

Is this good or bad?

On the Subject of n+1

This post at Conversational Reading discusses the new article on n+1's website in which Benjamin Kunkel talks about the state of the novel. The only problem? The article in question is no longer there. Which is especially strange considering that the Conversational Reading post was put up today. Not even the WayBack Machine can find the article so I can read it.

This is, of course, the same thing that happened to the article on the short story we covered two weeks ago. What n+1 is doing, in other words, is putting articles up on the front page of their website and then taking them down. I suppose their thinking is that they're teasing us with a preview so that we'll go out and buy the latest copy of their magazine. This behavior is absurd. Particularly if they're putting articles up then taking them down on the same day. Such buffoonery will only turn people off when they stumble across a link like the one on Conversational Reading.

One of the advantages to putting things on the Internet is that they're in a permanent place where they can be found years later and linked to and be discussed. Unlike physical paper magazines which by their nature are periodically thrown away, a piece of writing can remain online indefinitely with relatively little effort or money. We've learned to expect things to remain in the same place where we found them before. We bookmark them. We link to them. We scribble URLs down on post-it notes and stick them to our monitors. Taking things down right after you put them up only serves to alienate your readers. But then, the editors of N+1 also believe it's within the normal experience of their readers to earn forty dollars an hour as a copy editor, so what do we know?

Dear n+1, please knock it off.

[Edit: Well I'll be the first one to admit when I have egg on my face. Benjamin Kunkel's article on the novel was never put up on the n+1 website, I simply misunderstood Scott's post on Conversational Reading. So, no, n+1 didn't put it up and then take it down on the same day.

This doesn't change the fact that they did put up the article on the short story that we talked about two weeks ago and then took it down, or that they've put up and taken down articles in the past. Which behavior they need to knock off.]

[Edit: I have been informed by an editor of n+1 that Elif Batuman's article on the short story can be found here. There was, however, no link to it anywhere that I could find on the n+1 website. According to the aforementioned editor, "All of [the articles] have obvious, intuitive html addresses. If you can't figure one out, you can email me or Chad [the web editor]." I'm not sure I understand—they move articles off the front page to other URL's, and then if you can't find them you're expected to email the editors about it? Is that all that different than taking the article down completely? I remain confused and frustrated.]

Shel Silverstein on La Duende and Mescaline

Russell Edson's surreal, distinctly American poetry glides carefully along the razor's edge between the flash fiction and prose poem genres. His pieces are short, often funny, mostly narrative in a vague sort of way, and given to an intensely convulsive deployment of language along the model of William Carlos Williams and Garcia Lorca. In the last few years, much of Edson's work—often difficult to find given his fringe status and association to the experimental postmodernists who followed in the footsteps of Jerome Rothenberg and his Deep Image poetics—has been collected and re-issued, and WetAsphalt recommends you get your hands on as much of it as you can.

The Rothenberg paintbrush is an association that's well deserved, of course. Peel back the surface on a Russell Edson poem and you're likely to find layers of weight and meaning hidden behind the sometimes childish images he uses. A sensitive reader can't help but feel the weight of these pieces, the sense that there is something darker and more serious lurking beneath the humor and childlike glee of his humor and subject matter. In this he is a close ally of such children's writers as Lewis Carroll, Shel Silverstein, and J.M. Barrie who frequently had at the heart of their writing a dis-ease with the idyllic myth of childhood. I think that Russell Edson has kept some of that ambivalence towards the fantasy of childhood as well, and I think any reader that cares to look can find it there.

A good place to start is The Tunnel, a thick selection of Edson's poetry from the seventies and eighties published in the mid-nineties. I find it interesting to note that according to Amazon.com, only 2 percent of customer's ultimately buy The Tunnel after viewing items like it, and 76% end up buying A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I don't know what that means, I just thought it was worthy of note: Dave Eggers. Really.

[Editor's note: Information on the "Duende" mentioned in the title can be found here.]

Let's Talk Numbers

There's a dramatic difference in scale between books and other media--especially the big three, television, movies and video games. If a book sells 100,000 copies it is a huge bestseller. If a television show has 100,000 viewers, it is cancelled. That said, The Da Vinci Code has sold over 60 million units worldwide.

Middle Passage

Middle Passage by Charles Johnson is exactly the sort of mixture of technical craft, intelligence and ripping storytelling we're trying to promote here on Wet Asphalt.

Workshop Fiction Wars 2: n+1 and the doomed short story

Is the short story dead? Is n+1 run by snobs living over-the-top, trustafarian life styles? Read on to find out.

Timothy McSweeney Against the World

I run hot and cold on McSweeney's, although they are one of the more interesting indy presses out there.

This morning I read FEEDBACK FROM JAMES JOYCE'S SUBMISSION OF ULYSSES TO HIS CREATIVE-WRITING WORKSHOP on McSweeney's Internet Tendency. It's funny and so today I'm running hot.

The question is, of course, one that any writer who has sat smiling through a writing workshop has asked herself: "Is this workshop really of any value? What would happen to the great works of English literature if they had been subjected to the opinions of these simpletons in my group?"

While I think Teddy Wayne goes a little bit easy on the Workshop Fiction tendency, there's still some biting satire. Highly recommended.

Changed over to Feedburner

Just changed our RSS feed over to Feedburner, which, among other things, allows for RSS 1.0 and ATOM feeds as well as the RSS 2.0 we already have. The feed will also display in your reader much more nicely. Anyone who happens to be using our old feed address to syndicate the site, please switch your readers over to the new Feedburner address.

If you have no idea what any of that means, just go about your day.

Charles Valle on The Economy of Small Press Print

Charles Valle, the editor of Fence, was kind enough to send us a detailed response to the articles on the economics of print literary journals Wet Asphalt recently published.