Report from the Trenches

Barry Donaldson left a comment on Episode 7 on this very site asking if we have ever shared our thoughts with the magazines that publish the works we analyze on the podcast.  Yes, Barry, we do.  As promised, here is the latest letter I've sent to The New Yorker:


Dear TNY,

We talk throughout the year.  I’m that pesky writer that submits work and tells you how you’re doing with literary fiction.  You have responded:

We’re glad you liked “Tiny Man.” Thank you for sending “Animal Park" to us. We appreciate the opportunity to consider your work. We're sorry to say that this manuscript is not right for us, but know that we admire your writing and hope to see more of your fiction soon.

I really appreciate the kind words.  Thank you.  I’m not here for that this time, though.  I’d like to talk about your slogan:  The Best Writing Anywhere, Everywhere. 

All of the following comments have to do with your fiction and not your journalism.  It’s an important distinction.

You are tasked with publishing “The Best Writing.”  You aren’t.  But I get it.  You have deadlines.  You have approximately 52 issues a year to fill and you have a free submission portal.  I understand that you are drowning in the worst possible fiction that America (and the rest of the world) has to offer.  Why do I know this?  Because I am part of a podcast that recently extended our charter to publish a literary magazine.  I feel that we can both commiserate in the dumbing down of human existence; this fact is particularly unfortunate considering the absolute necessity of empathy in times like these (excuse the cliché).  What I’m trying to say is that I’ve dipped my toe in the waters of slushpiling.  I don’t like it.  You don’t like it.  You have a magazine to run.  So do I.  But I’m not you and I don’t have such a readership to keep up nor do I have the reputation to support.  You do.

This is why I’m writing.  I want in.  And I want to prove that I want in for Art's sake.  I could give two shits about prestige.  When discussing the heady pursuit of elevating and preserving Art to ensure that the feeling of the human condition continues into the future, one had best bring some fucking passion.  I am.  Here’s what I am proposing.  Send me 50 slushpile entries and I will return one great one.  I don’t care the quality.  I will Gordon Lish the motherfucker into shape.  Human existence, from a species standpoint, is important to document.  Journalism alone will not encompass this endeavor.  Fiction is the gateway into both breaking down people’s barriers (as everything not real is easy to not invest oneself in, initially) as well as delivering the idea of human existence.  The best way to approach maneuvering the wordless idea of something into someone’s consciousness is roundabout, by not mentioning the idea at all, but by allowing him or her to build the idea on his or her own.  Literary fiction is the fucking vehicle.

Furthermore, I think TNY should take a higher stance with regard to literary fiction.  If you don’t have work that you support, regardless of whom it was written by, then just print one single page per issue.  It should state something like this:

Dear Readers,

The state of literary fiction is thus that we cannot, in good conscience, submit to you, the reader, under the auspices of our vision (The Best Writing Anywhere, Everywhere), any fiction this week.  Take note, dear reader, that we need capital A Art.  We will no longer take party in the reduction of quality in short stories because we require your subscription fees.  Literary fiction is published in the pursuit of capturing and displaying the very undefined feeling of human consciousness and existence.  No stories met that criteria for this issue. 

We are unabashedly committed to servicing the recording of humanity by existing as a medium to uphold worthy Art for your consumption.  We do apologize for this message instead of such Art.  But we are not backing down on quality because of it.

Thank you for your continued readership and we hope that this rattles the cages of you, the bold, to break our fucking hearts with your next submission.


Do you not see how telling the truth will only cement your slogan instead of undermining it?  I’m on your side.  I want you to achieve what you purport to do.  Desperately.  But you have to stop pissing on us and telling us it’s rain.  Hold.  Hold like you have never held before.  I love what you could do.  Let’s get to a place where everybody loves what you have done (specifically to literary fiction today).

Back to the ask.  50 stories.  I’ll produce one.  I’ll do this free of charge.  I believe in the Art, not in some bullshit prestige (all as stated above).  No one is awesome.  We are all useless conscious meat.  This isn’t about ego.  This is about holding the idea of what it is to be in this time and this place in such a manner that it can be imported and unpacked by a wet-computer on the opposite end.  This is a matter of the heart.

As always, imploring that something changes on your end,