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Review of The Short Story and Its Writers (edited by Ann Charters)

Review of The Short Story and Its Writers (edited by Ann Charters)

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Published by W.B. Keckler
This is a review of an influential short fiction anthology. Check it out!
This is a review of an influential short fiction anthology. Check it out!

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Published by: W.B. Keckler on Sep 14, 2007
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06/16/2009

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The Short Story and Its Writer (anthology edited by Ann Charters, 2003) I was reading some short fiction in the above anthology put out by Bedford/St.Martin's and trying to get a feel for what the anthology valorized/foregrounded,and it felt pretty desultory. Obviously, it's aiming to be comprehensive, a surveycollection (1800 pages) so it's going to be all over the place. It seems prettymainstream though, with writers' bios tending to focus on what mags they made itinto and at what age...such as "at 24, she had her first story accepted in the NewYorker" yadda yadda.Experimental literature is rather poorly represented. Charters does include "MissFur and Miss Skeene"....but why won't someone anthologize that great littleHemingway mockery from the Yale Gertrude Stein...I believe it's called "MenDrinking?" Or is it just called "Men?" I never fail to fall under that one's spelland I would classify that as short fiction. I guess in the seventies it was hip toinclude something by Russell Edson...no Edson here. But I could list 100 writerswho write experimental short fiction off the top of my zine-y head, any of whomcould be in here and would add a different slant altogether. But this is clearlythe monolithic culture thing. The thing that doesn't really exist but does becauseit holds the purse strings. I don't know much about Ms. Charters...was she or isshe married to the rather cool Samuel Charters who wrote a great little black bookof criticism on a handful of poets that included Larry Eigner and Robert Creeley?I loved that book. And wasn't Samuel somehow invested in the rock world back inthe days when it came out on vinyl? I could have Googled all these things but it'sa cool grey day and I'm too relaxed. Maybe someone will tell me. Magic 8-Ball?The inner organization is alphabetical. I think it was Kostelanetz who said whenyou see that form of organization it means someone was lazy. I have to agreetotally with that...and you end up getting a flow of stories that goes likethis..."Grace Paley....Octavio Paz...Edgar Allan Poe...Katherine Anne Porter..."UGH! This is not organization or any sort of interesting flow.I read this HORRIBLE award-winning story by Woody Allen (did he really need to bein here...do you think of Woody Allen when you think great short fictionwriters??) titled "The Kugelmass Episode." It was cutesy and horrible...clearly anidea that would have been better realized as a short 30 min. sci-fi script for arevival of the Twilight Zone or something. It was gimmicky, but not the good kindof gimmicky. It almost ruined watching the U.S. Open while I read it, but didn'tquite manage it.Then I read a short story by Ann Beattie, "Find and Replace," and it was more ofthe self-conscious bourgeoise writer sticks pins in herself-type story. It wasreadable but that's about all I can say for it. I've read emails from non-writerrelatives about family traumas that were as engaging and had as many memorablelines as this. So no great shakes.I read Sherman Alexie's "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" and it wasthe least objectionable of the three but still was another of these storieswearing its identity politics on its sleeve. His eye for detail was more engaging,but I don't read short fiction for an eye towards detail. I can look at detailsmyself. I have eyes. I don't necessarily need an epiphany (would be great if ithappened anyway) but I usually need some form of novel perception or restructuringof the perceptual schemata. Anyone can show us in how many ways (and how often)life sucks. I can turn on the news.Paging through here, I was happy to see dozens of short stories I've enjoyed foralmost two decades now...Ray Carver, Poe, Cheever (I don't read Cheever the wayeveryone seems to, as yet another in THAT lineage), Flaubert, Hawthorne (why are

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