I admit it: when I ran across this article in Salon, I giggled a little at the title: “Most Contemporary Literary Fiction Is Terrible”. In it, J. Robert Lennon refutes a column by another writer who suggests that young literary fiction writers should be reading the stories that are getting published in their genre, and familiarizing themselves with the best anthologies of short fiction, the literary magazines, and so on.
I giggled because I am a reformed literary fiction writer, a proud graduate of a master’s program in fiction writing where literary fiction was touted as the only really, truly decent fiction to be writing. When I was in grad school, I read a bunch of these publications on a fairly regular basis – sometimes for class, sometimes on my own. And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how some of the stories had gotten published. Maybe the writing was pretty good, but the ending didn’t make sense – things would sort of wind down in a burst of lyricism without resolving any part of the plot. Or, more often than not, the writing wasn’t any better than the stuff we were turning out in class – yet these writers had gotten published while we were collecting rejection slips. Continue reading “If You’re Going to Steal…”