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Posts in "Atlantic Monthly" category

The Atlantic Renews Commitment to Short Stories

Atlantic Monthly April 2010  The Atlantic is going to start publishing fiction again. So no more of those newstand-only summer fiction issues (which were good, though, especially the 2008 one that highlighted emerging authors). Instead, a supplement will accompany the May issue that will include half a dozen short stories and — obligatory for all American magazines, for every single issue — an essay from the ubiquitous Joyce Carol Oates.

Here's an excerpt from the full note in the April issue:

"But as longtime, generously loyal readers know, for the past five years we have published fiction once a year in a special newstand issue, rather than in any of our 10 subscriber issues. During what has been widely noted to be a 'challenging' (read: harrowing) business environment for publishing, this has been a necessary compromise. But none of us has been particularly happy with it, and we have been searching for ways to once again place great fiction in front of all our readers."

The vote of confidence is encouraging. As they say later on in the editor's note: "We are seeing renewed interest in the short story."

Strangely, editor James Bennet doesn't mention what will happen with the Kindle model, which sells e-stories for $3.99. Will they continue with supplements, the Kindle model AND a summer fiction issue? It seems like they're experimenting with all forms of distribution and will stick to whatever works.

I actually respect this — it seems forward thinking. Even if the Atlantic editors don't know the course, they're willing to try out a few roads to find a viable model.

Atlantic Monthly on The Art of Blogging

For the November Atlantic Monthly, Andrew Sullivan writes a lengthy article — “Why I Blog” — musing on the nature of blogs. Most of what he says is well phrased and crafted and shows a prolonged thoughtfulness about the function and nature of blogs, although much of it, upon further analysis, seems rather familiar. But at least to blog detractors, this functions as a introduction to the blog format as a legitimate medium, and for the ignorant, shows how blogs contribute to the journalistic conversation.

Some of his definitions of the essence of a blog seemed to be rather restricting. On one level, it reminded me of how people tried to define the novel, and most everyone except Bakhtin failed to carve out a large enough space, because the novel is such a malleable and shape-shifting form. And that’s after hundreds of years of the novel’s existence. So granted, it’s very difficult to have a bird’s eye view and definition so early into a medium’s creation — we’re what, seven years in to blogging? — and it seems quite likely that as blogging evolves it will quite easily break whatever boundaries have been erected by the too-eager definers and categorizers. But Sullivan manages to capture the functioning of many blogs, at least, in this present moment.

But I’m afraid I’ve given too many comments about the dangers of the article and not enough of Sullivan. So here are some choice excerpts:

Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.

As soon as I began writing this way, I realized that the online form rewarded a colloquial, unfinished tone. In one of my early Kindsley-guided experiments, he urged me not to think too hard before writing. […] But blogging requires an embrace of hazards, a willingness to fall off the trapeze rather than fail to make the leap.

The blog remained a superficial medium, of course. By superficial, I mean simply that blogging rewards brevity and immediacy. No one wants to read a 9,000-word treatise online.

A writer full aware of and at ease with the provisionality of his own work is nothing new. For centuries, writers have experimented with forms that suggest the imperfection of human thought, the inconstancy of human affairs, and the humbling, chastening passage of time.

People have a voice for radio and a face for television. For blogging, they have a sensibility.

There are times, in fact, when a blogger feels less like a writer than an online disc jockey, mixing samples of tunes and generating new melodies through mashups while also making his own music. He is both artist and producer — and the beat always goes on.

Fiction Issue Cagematch: The New Yorker VS Atlantic Monthly

So I’ve been reading The New Yorker summer fiction edition and also checking out the authors slated for publication in the Atlantic fiction issue, and am struck by the differences. The New Yorker has an all-star line-up of writers, of which I recognized every one: Vladimir Nabokov, Annie Proulx, Mary Gaitskill. Then also some nonfiction pieces by Edwidge Danticat, George Saunders, Tobias Wolff, and Haruki Murakami. Only three stories, but still, a great issue, also containing one-pager bits filed under “Faith and Belief.”

Now, the Atlantic. Despite the fact that their fiction has been demoted from regular monthly inclusion to a newsstand-only fiction issue, I have to admire what they’re doing with the issue, coming out July 15. They’re not spotlighting the established writers, but offering work from the up-and-comers. Yes, they have Wendell Berry as frontliner, and also Julie Schumacher, but on the whole, many of the authors are “emerging,” as they say.

  • Aryn Kyle: Has one novel out, “The God of Animals.” University of Montana MFA.
  • Cristina Henriquez: One short story collection out, “Come Together, Fall Apart.” Iowa graduate, Virginia Quarterly Review “Fiction’s New Luminaries.
  • Mark Fabiano: Has a blog that hasn’t been updated for nine months, but which contains an excerpt from the forthcoming Atlantic story. As far as I know, no books out yet.
  • Jess Row: I really enjoyed his collection “The Train to Lo Wu,” so much so that I interviewed him on this blog. He was also named by Granta a “Best Young American Novelist.”
  • Jessica Murphy: Staff writer at the Atlantic (yes, we will give them a pass on one seemingly nepotistic choice). Also Milton Center fellow, a position at Image, a lit mag which I particularly admire.
  • Carter Benton: ??? Perhaps a graduate of University of Montana MFA program. I’ve emailed the Atlantic folks to ask more.

So who wins this cagematch? For name recognition, The New Yorker wins out. But I’m more excited to see how the Atlantic has created their issue, and what these relative newcomers have to bring to the table. Bonus: From the advertisement, at least, it seems the Atlantic will have more pages actually devoted to fiction.