New Yorker short fiction 2008
January 5, 2009 7:38 AM   Subscribe

New Yorker fiction 2008. Annotated list of short fiction from the past year. "As perhaps the most high-profile venue for short fiction in the world, taking stock of the New Yorker's year in fiction is a worthwhile exercise for writers and readers alike."
posted by stbalbach (24 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Recommended - "A Spoiled Man" by Daniyal Mueenuddin. This story is part of his upcoming book In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (Feb 2009) (I was an early reviewer). It is IMO one of the best 2 or 3 stories in the book. Homeless old man in Pakistan who lives a Robinson Crusoe existence in the back lot of a rich mans estate.
posted by stbalbach at 7:44 AM on January 5, 2009


Worth mentioning here: The New Yorker fiction podcast.

I just listened to Tobias Wolff’s short story “Bullet in the Brain.” last night. Great readings, surrounded by interesting discussion of the piece. They are available as mp3 downloads too.
posted by JBennett at 7:44 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great post. I was a New Yorker reader for years and never noticed that so many authors appeared two or even three times per year. It's not clear to me this is a good allocation of the extremely sparse resource of New Yorker fiction pages.
posted by escabeche at 7:57 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's an interesting exercise to read that list now -- I leaf through almost every issue of the New Yorker, and of all the stuff they published, I realize now that the only stories that left an impression on me were the ones by Munro (the champagne & Kool-Aid picnic story is just breathtaking), the one by Frame about the Marx bros film at the mental institution, the ones by Oz and Antrim (who is in my opinion a very underrated genius). The Nabokov one I remembered, but it had disappointed me -- probably because I always expect so much from him.

All in all, despite the many clunkers -- the usual Updike story he's been writing for the last 60 years, the reliably horrible Oates, then Doyle, Barnes, Whitehead -- they had a good year.

Mostly thanks to Munro, I have to say; in a way she spoils it for the other authors in the magazine, she makes almost everyone else look so amateurish. She's magic.

It's like, The New Yorker's 2008: They published Alice Munro.
posted by matteo at 8:16 AM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's true that they are the gold standard. I'd like to know if, with all those gold standard editors, they have ever discovered a writer in the slush pile.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:16 AM on January 5, 2009


That Antrim story was great all the way through but I didn't like the last line (I forgot what it was, I just remember not liking it) and it gave the whole thing a bad taste for me, in retrospect.
posted by escabeche at 8:22 AM on January 5, 2009


These boys like lotsa malaise with their mayonnaise.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:39 AM on January 5, 2009


Oh goody, another horrifyingly depressing T.C. Boyle story!
posted by The Whelk at 8:49 AM on January 5, 2009


How many of these are about an academic and/or drunkard sort of wandering about thinking about things a bit?
posted by Artw at 8:50 AM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


As a writer, dangling modifiers are really annoying.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:19 AM on January 5, 2009


How many of these are about an academic and/or drunkard sort of wandering about thinking about things a bit?

Oh, those are the ones originally written in English. The ones translated to English from another language are actually about middle-aged women living in poverty in (insert country) who are . . . sort of wandering about thinking about things a bit.
posted by billysumday at 9:20 AM on January 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey, don't forget the pomo/next-wave ones. Which are about young men sitting or lying completely motionless, who are . . . sort of wandering about (in their minds) thinking about things a bit.
posted by gompa at 9:31 AM on January 5, 2009


From The Millions Blog: As perhaps the most high-profile venue for short fiction in the world, taking stock of the New Yorker's year in fiction is a worthwhile exercise for writers and readers alike.

I don't think this is true. Outside of the U. S. few people care about The New Yorker or even have more than a vague idea what it is. The New Yorker is not an international magazine. I don't know if any single publication, in any language, could reasonably be named "the most high-profile venue for short fiction" mostly because there are none that are read the world over. Short stories are very parochial in their distribution.

As for me, a foreigner living in the US who reads the occasional New Yorker... well, I rarely enjoy the short stories. I do listen to their fiction podcast though, I do like that a lot, but they draw from their huge archive for that.
posted by Kattullus at 10:30 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd like to know if, with all those gold standard editors, they have ever discovered a writer in the slush pile.

Karen Russell didn't make an appearance in the New Yorker this year, but as I remember it, she had like, one story in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and then went directly to having three stories in the New Yorker. Really. It was crazy. Maybe not quite slushpile, but her stuff was more "speculative" than most stuff, and I thought it stood out when I read it in the magazine.
posted by redsparkler at 10:46 AM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I leaf through almost every issue of the New Yorker, and of all the stuff they published, I realize now that the only stories that left an impression on me were the ones by Munro

My thoughts exactly. It's not often that one writer will stand out enough that I'll bother to remember their name, but Munro was definitely it this year. But, they always have a trend of publishing a bunch of stories by a couple authors every year, I guess because those authors have just put out short story collections or something. So this year, it was a lot of Munro and T.C. Boyle (between the New Yorker and Harper's, I think I've read Boyle's entire book). In years past, there's been a lot of Haruki Murakami, and then it seems they always throw in a couple Roddy Doyles into the mix, which I also tend to enjoy.
posted by LionIndex at 11:13 AM on January 5, 2009


I don't think this is true. Outside of the U. S. few people care about The New Yorker or even have more than a vague idea what it is.

If your hobby or business is in the literary world, you will (or should) know what the New Yorker is no matter where you live. Either that or your not very tuned in, New Yorker has been around a very long time and something of an institution. It was one of the first Modernist periodicals and has been very influential. Like it or not, the US publishes more literature than any other country (I think, perhaps the UK is first USA second), and more literature is published in the English language than any other language.

Ever since that guy from the Noble Prize (who has since stepped down) said the US was out of touch it's now become vogue and trendy and cool to emphasis US literature as being provincial and not at the center - but that's an ephemeral trend because it's not really true. So yeah, 2009 will be the year of bashing US literature and coddling literature in translation, but it will pass because there is a tremendous amount of good literature produced in the US, and New Yorker is the showcase for some of it.

for me, a foreigner living in the US who reads the occasional New Yorker... well, I rarely enjoy the short stories.

*shurg* A lot of its written by non-Americans about non-Americans (or Americans outside the mainstream such as minorities). If you read the FPP he says New Yorker fiction can be grouped into "suburbia malaise" fiction, and everything else. I personally find "suburbia malaise" to be boring, so I look for the "everything else" category, which this list is very helpful in finding. I'm not sure why ones country of origin would dictate if one enjoys the stories or not. I'm from the US and living in the US I also don't enjoy many of the stories ("suburban malaise") but that is personal taste and nothing to do with country of origin. So anyway, be careful of slipping into a nationalism mode of thought, even if it is currently trendy.
posted by stbalbach at 11:15 AM on January 5, 2009


stbalbach: If your hobby or business is in the literary world, you will (or should) know what the New Yorker is no matter where you live. Either that or your not very tuned in, New Yorker has been around a very long time and something of an institution. It was one of the first Modernist periodicals and has been very influential. Like it or not, the US publishes more literature than any other country (I think, perhaps the UK is first USA second), and more literature is published in the English language than any other language.

Like it or not, Europe publishes more literature than any other region in the world ;)

Okay, to be less cheeky, there's a lot of literature published all over the world and as a rule most people focus on the literature of their own society. I grew up among academics and literary types in Iceland and no one ever read or referenced The New Yorker here. I can't speak for every nation but I doubt that it's all that different (perhaps in other Anglophone countries, what with the language and all, but I others will have to speak on that). For better or for worse literary periodicals don't tend to travel very well. While you find Time and Vogue the world over you'll be hard pressed to find The New Yorker.

The New Yorker is an important institution in American letters but that doesn't mean that it's an important institution of world literature. In fact, I can't really think of a single periodical that could reasonably stake that claim.

I'm from the US and living in the US I also don't enjoy many of the stories ("suburban malaise") but that is personal taste and nothing to do with country of origin. So anyway, be careful of slipping into a nationalism mode of thought, even if it is currently trendy.

Uh... I don't quite know what you're talking about. I referenced my foreignness to say that The New Yorker is something I was introduced rather late in life (unfortunately I first came across it in the winter of 2002-3, when it didn't exactly endear itself to me with its endorsement of the Iraq War). I only pick up the occasional issue (maybe one a month) and I guess I've been unlucky in that I find a lot of suburban malaise fiction. Though, that said, I'll always be thankful to The New Yorker for introducing me to Roberto Bolaño.

Because I live in the US I read more American literature than that of any other nation, though it is by no means the majority of what I read. I like American literature and have no complaints against it.
posted by Kattullus at 11:48 AM on January 5, 2009


I'm curious how "International" the New Yorker is. Here is 2008's breakdown by author:

John Updike (USA) x2
E.L. Doctorow (USA)
T. Coraghessan Boyle (USA) x3
Louise Erdrich (Native American) x2
Tessa Hadley (British)
Alice Munro (Canadian)
Salman Rushdie (British Indian)
Richard Ford (USA)
Hari Kunzru (British)
John Burnside (Scottish)
Rivka Galchen (Canadian-American)
Jeffrey Eugenides (USA)
Ha Jin (Chinese-American)
Sana Krasikov (Ukraine-American)
Roddy Doyle (Irish) x2
Annie Proulx (USA)
Yiyun Li (Chinese-American) x2
Julian Barnes (English)
Janet Frame (New Zealand) x2
Vladimir Nabokov (Russian-American)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigerian)
Alice Munro (Canadian) x3
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum (USA?)
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (German/India/USA)
Roberto Bolaño (Chilean) x2
Joshua Ferris (USA)
Tobias Wolff (USA)
Daniyal Mueenuddin (Pakistan-American) x2
Aleksandar Hemon (Bosnian-Herzegovinian)
Andrea Lee (American/Russian/Italian)
Daniel Alarcon (Peruvian-American)
J.M.G. Le Clezio (French)
Wells Tower (USA?)
Jonathan Lethem (USA)
Edwidge Danticat (Haitian-American)
Amos Oz (Israeli)
William Trevor (Irish)
Donald Antrim (USA)
Colson Whitehead (USA)

(Pheww!). Ok so what's this tell us?

1. New Yorker is not a US-centric magazine. The world's top authors publish in it.

2. Many of the authors are "Third Culture Kids". They write about other cultures where they may be from, but in the native language and literary traditions and intended audience is first world native English speakers (ie. these are generally not authors who rise up from an organic literary movement within their own culture). For example, many of the authors go to the Iowa Writing School (see Wikipedia page). In fact its become a tried and true path to success for writers from other countries: born in native country, move to the US when younger, a degree from Iowa, move back to native country and write about it, publish in New Yorker, publish a book collection of short stories.. career is launched. This is a problem IMO because we are not really seeing "native" literature, but sort of an interpretation by 3CK's giving the appearance of native, but really it's a "third culture".
posted by stbalbach at 12:07 PM on January 5, 2009


Kattullus, I should say, the worlds top "Anglophone" writers publish in the New Yorker. Yes there is most surely a divide between English and the rest of the world. I think the US had about 350 books in translation published last year - probably a handful (or less) from Iceland, certainly an "imbalance of trade" between the two countries, Iceland translates many more English works to Icelandic.
posted by stbalbach at 12:13 PM on January 5, 2009


Alternatively it could be telling you that the die-off of the short fiction market in those countries is further along, and the authors have had to look further afield.
posted by Artw at 12:13 PM on January 5, 2009


I'm talking about parochial in terms of distribution. New Yorker publishes a quite a few foreign authors (though I note that 22 out of 38 authors you listed were American, though quite a few of these were also from of other cultures, but that's true of a lot of Americans in general) but in my experience it's not read by many foreign people.

As to a translation trade imbalance between the US and Iceland... well, yes, but that's true of the US and everywhere (though more than we'd like to think is translations of Danielle Steel, John Grisham et al).
posted by Kattullus at 12:22 PM on January 5, 2009


This is a great index and reading it I thought back to the stories (I've read the majority of them) and mostly agreed with his opinions. What was curious was that my impression of the stories often did not jibe with his and so at times I was not sure what he was talking about until I read the first few sentences or so. That the stories are linked is very nice indeed.

Here in Germany, almost no one who is not either from the US or has spent years there has any idea of what the New Yorker is: which, to my precious little heart is a touch hard to take. I might have read every single issue from the time I was 13 until I was 18 and I've had a subscription for maybe the past 25 years. It has certainly gone up and down and the years when Mr.Shawn was editor in chief were certainly better than most subsequent (though I think, Iraq business aside, Remnick has been a very good editor - I was really rooting for Bill Buford when he retired from Granta and moved to NYC: "Granta" under his editorship was one of the most vibrant, readable, interesting and surprising journals in the English language - that and "the Paris Review" really shaped my ideas about writing for the better part of the nineties. Now, I think it might be "The Seeker" and affiliated "McSweeney's" originating publications that are most consistently good. I never appreciated how hard it must be to edit a magazine/journal until Buford left "Granta," Plimpton died and both really suffered.

But my original point was, I don't think the New Yorker casts much of a literary shadow, certainly not anymore. Not that they don't publish good writing, they do; but I don't think they are as good as they once were, though the bar is very very high.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:26 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


McSweeney's is possibly the more widely known for short fiction in the UK, now you mention it.
posted by Artw at 1:16 PM on January 5, 2009


"The New Yorker knows nothing about writing. Nothing. Writing an article there is like posting a letter in a Venezuelan postbox; nobody will read it."
- V.S. Naipaul

I remember liking the Kunzru story. Pretty slight but very entertaining.
posted by otio at 2:01 PM on January 5, 2009


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