Saturday, July 23, 2005

Atlantic Monthly Fiction Issue

The Atlantic Monthly has put out its inaugural Fiction Issue (available on newstands, and for subscribers, online), a product of having axed all short stories from its regular issues. If you want the fiction issue to last I recommend sending the publishers a message via your own $4.95. Personally I wish the fiction issue would come out every month and the regular magazine only once a year.

The Fiction Issue contains 8 short stories (so yes, the Atlantic is publishing fewer short stories in a year then it used to), a handful of fiction-related essays, a handful of poems, and snippets from the archives, which largely remind readers of how much more literary the magazine used to be. The first piece is an anti-workshop essay by Rick Moody which got to me only minimally as I spent all of my month's allotment of anger on Lynn Freed's hateful, anti-workshop essay published in this month's Harper's. Interestingly enough Moody has some useful thoughts on improving workshops yet does not teach, while Freed, who seems to have no positive thoughts about teaching whatsoever, does. The naive element of the Moody essay, though, is that he implies all workshops are the same. He describes some pretty good experiences as a student at Brown and some pretty terrible experiences while a student at Columbia, yet he seems to assume that all workshops now fit under the Columbia model (of his era) in which professors appear to have been both cruel and indifferent and students competitive and combative. His main point--that workshops generally praise conventional stories more than unconventional ones--is, however, quite valid. I think though that good workshop leaders recognive how a draft of a conventional story will often look prettier than a draft of an unconventional story (in which it's often hard to imagine how this wacky idea will ever work) and take more control of the class conversation, perhaps allowing the writer to explain her/his intentions more. Certainly here at FAU we teach plenty of published work that is experimental and so our students, I hope, feel encouraged to break boundaries just as quickly as they learn what those boundaries are.


Mark Pritchard said...

You might be amused by The Secret Diary of a Prisoner in the Creative Writing Gulag.

Anonymous said...

trying to climb to success on the backs of her students.
that article!

Christopher Willard said...

I've added my own reviews of the stories here:

It's always great to compare opinions on things as fluid as short stories.

Christopher Willard