Sunday, September 23, 2007

The short story: an endangered species

Once upon a time, there were many popular, commercial magazines that published short fiction. You could buy them in bookstores, newsstands, drugstores, supermarkets, and variety stores. Today, there are very few of those periodicals, so publication of the short story has largely been left to literary journals. This has caused the literary journal One Story to begin a campaign, Save the Short Story, which was inaugurated at the Brooklyn Book Fair last week. upstreet supports this campaign, the details of which you can find on the Save the Short Story website. We especially like their Annotated History of the short story, and the section on How You Can Help. Here's my own How You Can Help list:

Read more short stories. I do. All the time. I even publish some of them. :)

Buy short story collections. I just bought several, including No One Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July; I Like It Better Now, by James B. Hall; and The Long and Short of It, by Pamela Painter.

Recommend short stories to others. I'll recommend two old favorites right now, by Frank O'Connor, who was my favorite short story writer until I discovered Alice Munro: "My Oedipus Complex," and "Guests of the Nation" (just to show that I still hold a very warm place in my heart for Frank).

Support literary journals that publish short fiction. If you're a member of The upstreet Fan Club, you probably already do this. Encourage your friends to do the same. upstreet thanks you.

3 comments:

ekay said...

Hallelujah, Vivian. Viva la short fiction revolution! Now that Junot Diaz's first novel is out, hopefully a new wave of readers will discover his story collection, Drown. And let's not forget Sherman Alexie's The Toughest Indian in the World. And Updike's Too Far to Go, and Licks of Love... Really, with so much astonishing short fiction in the world, it's a miracle anyone has time to read a novel.

vivian said...

Thanks, ekay.
Cute kids, btw.

Sampa_Ken said...

When Frank and Munroe were writing, there were probably one or two MFA programs in the country. Now, short story writing is a crowded market. And when markets get crowded, what happens? It goes elite -- a handful of agented, cocktail party writers get into Harpers or New Yorker, or Paris Review. Then there are MFA writers and professors vying for space in the handfull of A-list lit journals -- Boulevard, Antioch Review. The rest of us compete with the thousands upon thousands of short story writers vying for space in very small journals. Look at it this way, Vivian....if newspapers can barely survive, think about the short story and the literature journal. Ouch. Ken in Sampa.