Monday, February 22, 2010

Ice – Elizabeth Tallent



Elizabeth Tallent – August 8, 1954

In the introduction to The BASS 1981, Calisher takes the reader aside and discusses what she feels is the typical New Yorker story. She does so right after mentioning that she requested “Ice” be placed into the collection - it was not a story that had been included by Ravenel.

I have no problem at all with the editor of the volume taking some liberties in the selection (Stephen King did so when he was editor), and I think that it can add a bit more substance to the collection. I’m not knocking Ravenel – she does a wonderful job in her selections as the series editor for the volume editor.

Calisher, in her description of the typical New Yorker story states that “Ice” is not a typical “New Yorker” story.

I’d have to disagree with her.

What I mean with mu disagreement is that in 1981, she placed a New Yorker story in The BASS that would fit perfectly in the New Yorker magazine today.

In the 1970s, New York City was still holding on pretty tight to the lead spot for all things lit in America.

Publishing, criticism, the talent – all there.

I can’t help but wonder if the blood of NYC lit is still tainted with what was established and driven into the souls of writers, editors, publishers and the critics of the 70s and 80s.

-As I read “Ice” I saw NYC and “The New Yorker” all over it.

A story from the 80’s that tastes of today.

Now, after thinking about all of the above and re-reading passages of “Ice” once again, and coming to the final line –

“You know, don’t you, that you are not yourself?”

This last line was written long before Tallent had any clue where it was going to be published.

I think that what I felt about this story could be best attributed to what Stephen King wrote about in the NYT Sunday Book Review back in 2007:

"What’s not so good is that writers write for whatever audience is left. In too many cases, that audience happens to consist of other writers and would-be writers who are reading the various literary magazines (and The New Yorker, of course, the holy grail of the young fiction writer) not to be entertained but to get an idea of what sells there. And this kind of reading isn’t real reading, the kind where you just can’t wait to find out what happens next "

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