Thursday, January 27, 2005

Lit Journal Report: How Not to Write Fiction

Philadelphia Stories, Winter 2004-2005 Issue.

The New York Times recently pointed out there are now over 1,000 small literary publications in the U.S. The Times didn't mention that the overwhelming majority of them completely suck. Their purveyors follow the conformist specified university production-line rules. That there are so many lit-mags, so much competition, should tell the individual writer or publisher two things. 1.) Find a way to stand out. 2.) You can't make it alone.
The ULA answers both points.

On the other hand we have Philadelphia Stories, a free literary journal backed by local rich people. Its purpose is for these patrons to list their names in the back as supporters of arts and literature. The contents are extra-- stale frosting covering the true reason-for-being.

This issue contains truly horrendous poetry (poor prose broken up into separate lines) along with lukewarm stories. The stories are overwritten. They take forever just to get going, because, first, the writer has to demonstrate he can "write" in a literary way. I'd guess 95% of the free copies end in a trash bin before the reader gets past the first page.

I'm not advocating Ray Carver literary minimalism. (Which doesn't look so bad anymore; bring back Amy Hempel and Susan Minot!) I merely suggest chopping out the extraneous added garbage-- about 70% of each story. Slow paced? The stories are glacially paced. This doesn't any longer work. I'm not sure it ever did.

(Knowledge of the world and people clearly expressed through observation can hold a reader through stage setting. Few writers today qualify.)

(More info for PS is at

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