Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Introduction

I’m on my third reading of the introduction.  I have started reading the stories, and am about ½ way through the collection, but as you can see, I have yet to comment on any of them. 

I suppose some of this is to a desire to comment on the introduction. 

I intended to completely trash the introduction -  really lay into the guy and pronounce him full of himself.  Once again, delaying writing anything about the actual book, I decided to see what I could find about Ted.

 Much to my surprise, the first entry that pops up on Google is his obit in the NYT. 

So, there we are.  The NYT did a nice job in summing up his life (as they usually do), and with that they also created the need in me to discover a bit more about my search subject. 

Printed out 3 articles, made it through two and started on the 3rd reading of the introduction feeling that I should give Ted one more shot...since he is dead now.  I owe that to him at least. 

Looking over the notes along the margins of the book that I have scribbled, I can see that I am not being too harsh.  I still hold fast to the thought that I think he is a bit long. Perhaps I am not accustomed to the writing of 1977-78.  These were lazy days.  People read.  There was no competition for our attention- TV-radio-movies-drugs, maybe.

It seems that there was some money spent on this book though.  Nice thick paper, sewn pages and Ted writing for pages and pages.



So, here we go. 


The introduction



BASS 1978 is the first year that a guest editor was brought in to edit the volume.  Knowing now, what this has done to the series, one can only praise the individual who had this idea stumble into their head. 


In 1978, there is a short introduction by the publisher (H M Co,) explaining the shift to this guest editor format.  There is also the revelation that the guest editor will be guided, in a way, by a series editor Shannon Ravenel (series editor 1978-1990).  It will be Shannon’s job to read hundreds...many hundreds of short stories (the luck and the discipline of this woman is astounding!), and whittle those down to a manageable pile to present to Ted who in turn will make his selection form those to include in the BASS.  Ted also is able to make selections from stories he happens upon himself.  He is not totally restricted to Shannon’s filter.  I found it wonderfully interesting, and perhaps a little slight was made at Shannon, for the position he was in, that he had to select from what she provided. 


Ted opens his introduction with a report on the state of the American (North American) short story.  Ted informs us that he intends to present to us what he defines to be a short story strictly in that sense.  No deviation of what most would consider a typical “short story” no “experimental or really innovative presentations of prose. 

I think this is fine. 

He states the he wants to present to us “the waif of the magazine and publishing industry”.


Ted then, in what seems an effort to fill pages, starts to list off several stories that he decided not to include in the collection. 


Dude, stop wasting my time.


 It is not until the 5th page of writing that  we get to the real meat of the introduction.  Previous pages were taken up by Ted writing looooong about his process and how many stories he had to read and how he was bummed that he didn’t include certain stories. 


Ted introduces the stories he chose, and gives reason to why he chose those particular stories.  I feel that this is a bit unnecessary because he can just let the stories speak for themselves without him lending his voice to them.  I think it is difficult to read the stories once you get to them without hearing Ted in the background whispering into your ear

 “See, wasn’t I a smart guy for picking this?”


“Remember I told you exactly why I choose it?” 


Pages 13-30 make up the introduction.  Honestly...is it really necessary?  You are the editor you are not one of the authors.  Let them have their place, and let the reader admire you for the fact that you chose this story. 


I think that I wrote at the beginning of this entry that I would be a bit more forgiving to Ted since he is dead.  Well, after slogging through the introduction...struggling through the introduction, and actually getting pissed off every page that I turned finding that there was more introduction to be read, I could no longer help myself from lashing out at the guy. 

He wrote to hear his voice. 

He killed the intro.

It’s like eating a crappy appetizer at a wonderful restaurant that ruins your entire meal.


I want a collection with stories, not pages from an editor grinding me down attempting to prove his intellect. 

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