Friday, July 13, 2007

Anti-Lameness Measures

My last few posts have been sorta crappy, so I'm embarking on a new project: I'm going to actually read every short story that comes out in the New Yorker and Harper's over the next few months, and blog about them.

Wait what? You're not already reading them? I know, I know. It's awful. As a writer myself, and one brimming over with aesthetic scarring, moral confusion, and professional jealousies, it's very easy for me to skip the story, or sneer in disgust at the first sentence, or pretend the magazine doesn't actually contain any fiction. So for a few months, I will be reporting on The State Of American Letters, as seen from my porch.

Which brings me to the new Harper's, which is giving this new project a very easy start, on account of a new Alice Munro story--called, appropriately, "Fiction." I'll post about it on Sunday, if Rhian doesn't beat me to it. There are also new poems by Frederick Seidel and a nice letter from Wyatt Mason, on the subject of Cynthia Ozick's recent despairing piece about lit crit. In it, he reassures us on the subject of man's hunger for stories, but reminds us of how rarefied an act reading is: "Books, it seems to me, were never the interest of the majority." He goes on to say:

All that has happened to our "literary culture" that, lately, we have seen the rise of a better technological approximation of the campfire--the passive, story-absorbing state we have long preferred.

I am not 100% in Wyatt's bunker here, as I think there's a big difference between a "story" and "literature," the latter being, at its best, a sometimes difficult but exquisite refinement of the former, and thus inherently more challenging to appreciate. And it's the latter I think Ozick was talking about. But I will agree that the dissolution of the critical establishment is not necessarily a bad thing, and I think of this blog as a small part of its broader, less carefully vetted, and more egalitarian fledgling replacement.

And to this end, I will be posting enraptured words about Alice Munro in a couple of days. Natch.


5 Red Pandas said...

I was going to ask y'all what you thought of the new Munro story. I'm not sure if I think it's one of her stronger ones actually. It may be a silly complaint but too many spouses and coincidences for my taste.

jrlennon said...

Rhian certainly seemed to like it last'll have my opinion soon enough!

5 Red Pandas said...

I'd like to qualify my comment by saying that I thought the writing was terrific, but the plot was a bit- eh.