Monday, November 7, 2011

The Best American Short Stories 1987 - Introduction


I have yet to decide on a reason that would seem satisfactory even for me as to why it has been so long since I have updated. I will admit a certain level of intimidation when it comes to addressing this volume's guest editor Ann Beattie. In past postings I have spent a considerable amount of time devoted to an introduction the editor, but for some reason, I cannot wrap my head around laying out a piece that would be fair to her. Perhaps I should just skip over her as a person and author and just jump into her introduction to the volume. There is nothing that dictates that I have to follow form. I can make my own right?

I read the intro more than a month ago as well as the first two stories. I’ve just been sitting on my hands. It’s time to push through. I need to get over the thought that not spending much time on Ann Beattie is a disservice…I just think that once I get past this post, I can carry on.

One of the new features in this volume is addressed in the Publisher’s Note at the beginning of the volume. “Each of the authors of the twenty stories selected by the guest editor has been invited to describe briefly how his or her story came to be written. Most have accepted what is clearly a challenging assignment, and their short story essays appear at the back of the volume in the “Contributor’s Notes” section.”

Now rather than going into the life and writing life of Beattie, I’ll just pull a few sentences and paragraphs from her introduction…doing this will erase just a bit of the guilt I have for not giving her the same treatment as the other authors.

Beattie takes the route of choosing the story order rather than defaulting to the alphabetical author list of placement. Again, as with the other guest editors, I suppose she has done this to have the first stories in the collection read by the most eyes – assuming that some readers wouldn’t make it through the whole collection.

“It’s often been said that short stories are so popular now because they are an ideal for for our time. That is said in the same spirit, it seems to me, as announcing that finger food that can be eaten in one bite is preferable at cocktail parties. Similarly, a large group of people seem to believe Andy Warhol’s proclamation that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” My own feeling is that in the future, still only a chosen few will be noticed, and then-if they’re lucky – for fifteen minutes. I do believe that television has altered our ideas about concentration, yet at the same time we must have wanted that: the beast in the jungle has been replaced by the Betamax in the bedroom.”

“Much of the rest of the noise has to do with the current belief that everything and everyone needs discussion.”

“As I see it, writers are willing to take a chance; they like to tempt fate a little. Few writers- even those with outlines and copious notes-sit down to doggedly prove anything. Rather, they like to see if they can shake themselves up, if there are questions that can be raised, narrow roads that may widen.”

“To some extent, when we read fiction, we’re sleuthing to get the facts, and we have to have good instincts so that we don’t get thrown off. I think that with most stories-this group at least- we’re not meant to anticipate what we’re moving toward. The stories are mysteries to which we will be exposed.”

“One of the conclusions I have reached is that people want order, but some part of them craves anarchy, and writers are seen to embody both elements: in a sane, reasonable way, writers will present a situation, but the components of that situation, and the implications, can be dynamite.”

‘In the stories I selected, I found questions that disturbed me, implications I had not thought of, and observed living humans illuminated by art. I picked the stories, I suppose, for the same reason I have picked people and places (when I have been the one to choose). I picked them because they surprised me.

I enjoyed these little insights by Beattie. I hope to learn a little more about her through her choices.

Other truths be told as to why I haven’t been reading and writing. Simply, I’m adjusting to life as a father. At this time in my life, I am working at balancing what I once was with who I am now. Certain things must fall to the side, and reading and writing now will not win out over the boy. Work has really ramped up and I find myself pretty tired at the end of the day, and lunch breaks no longer are used for a quick posting of a pre written post. I will continue the project though at a much slower pace I’m afraid…but one that I am happy to accept.

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