Thursday, July 26, 2012

Story Book

Yet another title in the "Best American series" is The Best American Short Stories 2011, series editor: Heidi Pitlor.  I could wax on about some of my favorite stories of 2011--and I'm still reading this book--but Geraldine Brooks's wonderful introduction produced a dozen "amens".

In essence, what Ms. Geraldine rightly points out is that so much of American fiction (mainstream or literary especially) continues to revisit common themes:  among them the horrible childhood, the horrible marriage, and the horrible existence . . . almost always couched in the seemingly inexhaustible extrapolation of American dissatisfaction and apathy.  In short, few stories elicit any laughter, and there seem to be few writers who can write humor anymore, so deep is their pain and frustration.

Toward that end, I hope some editors out there will be watching for my insanity when it arrives in their slush piles.  I may not write in pain, but I hope to elicit a laugh once in a while and produce a side-splitting discomfort.  Where's the fun in reading a story if you can't stand the characters who inhabit them?

In truth, about half of the stories I read these days in literary magazines are of the Oprah Book Club variety. (Oprah always selects books dealing with painful domestic issues, horrible situations, or monstrous people who are as unhappy and psychologically disturbed as mud pies.  Don't think this is true?  See the full Oprah list!)

So . . . writers.  Ms. Brooks does have a point.  Let's bring back some humor.  It's time to laugh a little (especially at ourselves). 

I'm not sure how many newly published stories I will have stuffed into my quiver by year's end, but I hope that many of the stories I place (whether science fiction, mystery or mainstream) will have a touch of humor at their centers.  I like writing in this vein anyway, and whenever I tuck myself into bed in the wee hours of the morning after a long foray at the keyboard, it's always easier to fall asleep with a smile.    

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