Who Reads New Yorker Fiction?

Not me. Or at least not as often as I probably should. But luckily there are bloggers to do that for us. (Pretty soon bloggers, twitterers and Facebook friends will do all our thinking for us.)

Over at The Millions, Max Magee comments on every story that ran in the magazine throughout the year. After reading them all at once, he muses:

In revisiting all of the stories, one major over-arching theme emerged for me, the conflict between stories that center on what I call "suburban malaise" (born out of "The Swimmer" and "What We Talk about When We Talk about Love" among many others) and those that don't. The former are what I think of as the base condition for New Yorker (and indeed all of contemporary American and UK short fiction) and the latter are the departures from that. The departure can be one of character, theme, setting, or style. The distinction is, of course, imprecise, and there are many riveting, impeccable examples of the "suburban malaise" story on offer from the New Yorker. The departures, meanwhile, can serve as a breath of fresh air and when done well, expand the boundaries of short fiction for the reader.

And at Perpetual Folly, Clifford Garstang also read every story, but also had a contest to choose the best one. Congratulations, Joshua Ferris, on winning the virtual prize, beating out such New Yorker elders as John Updike and Alice Munro.

By Rachel Hartigan Shea |  January 12, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Rachel Hartigan Shea
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C. Max Magee did a wonderful job indeed with The New Yorker stories, but the magazine’s current fiction is only a small part of the fun. On behalf of Emdashes, a New Yorker fansite, I read the magazine’s fiction as it comes out, but comment much more frequently on fiction culled from its vast archives – usually “lost” gems. If you’re interested, check out this post, in which I summarized and linked to all of last year’s posts on the magazine’s fiction.

Posted by: BenjaminChambers | January 12, 2009 4:40 PM

I think Max Magee's "suburban malaise" and "all others" is a useful distinction (something that had been running around loosely in mind with no articulation).

I still love the Cheever/Carver paradigm, but we do need new reading horizons and experiences. In recent years, I've enjoyed stories that have appeared by Edward P. Jones and William Trevor (usually good examples of the "other"). On the other hand, just last night I read and liked in the current issue Joyce Carol Oates's "Pumpkin Head." It fits more in the former category.

Who knows, Ms. Shea. Maybe we're all just getting older.

Posted by: lheffelkcrrcom | January 14, 2009 1:00 PM

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