Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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Benjamin Chambers writes:

C. Max Magee at The Millions just did my job for me and provided capsule reviews of all the short stories The New Yorker published in 2008, as well as links to others who wrote about them, including Emdashes. My story picks would differ some from his, but who am I to quibble? First one in the pool gets to say how nice the water is.

But I read and posted about a lot of TNY fiction in 2008 that didn’t appear in the magazine last year, so I thought a brief summary of my ‘08 posts would be appreciated, especially now that all the old stuff is easily accessible through the TNY Digital Edition.

Read on for my tips on the best TNY story I read all year (from 1959); the funniest (from 1958); the most mysterious (from 1966); and which episode of this year’s fiction podcast was most enjoyable.

Feb 8th—Temporary Outages: Updike, Doctorow, and Boyle—my first post for Emdashes, in which I was disappointed by the first three TNY stories of the year.

Feb 19th—I praised Jean Stafford’s superb 1953 story, “In the Zoo,” and compared it with three other stories of hers that appeared in TNY, including 1948’s “Children are Bored on Sundays.”

Feb 25th—Ever wonder who’s published the most short stories in TNY? Now you can find out the answer.

Feb 28—The great Canadian short story writer, Mavis Gallant (who was Alice Munro before Alice was Munro), is interviewed; and Adam Gopnik, too.

March 11th—Louise Erdrich wins a demolition derby, in which I compare four stories that share the keyword “demolition” in the Complete New Yorker index. Besides a 2006 story by Erdrich, I also covered a 1959 story by Thomas Meehan, a William Gaddis story from 1987, and a Haruki Murakami story from 1991.

March 26th—Certainly the funniest New Yorker story I read all year: Michael J. Arlen’s 1958 casual on losing the novel race to the Soviets.

April 10th—Translations from the British rounds up Britishisms that slipped into the otherwise very American New Yorker in 2008 stories by Ha Jin, Tessa Hadley, John Burnside, Hari Kunzru, and Roddy Doyle.

April 16th—Best TNY podcast of the year? Louise Erdrich reading Lorrie Moore’s 1993 story, “Dance in America.” (Rumor has it that Moore has a new novel coming out in September. Cause for celebration.)

April 21st—“In Praise of Shirley Hazzard” examines stories from 1976, 1977, and 1979 that later appeared in her novel, The Transit of Venus. The title of this post says it all.

May 14th—Hilton Als singles out Jean Stafford’s 1948 “Children Are Bored on Sundays” for reading and discussion on the fiction podcast.

May 30th—Louise Erdrich and Lorrie Moore came out with a novel and a “collected stories,” respectively; here, I rounded up reviews.

June 11th—Muriel Spark got a turn, in this post about two stories of hers from 1960 and 1966, including the ineffable and wonderful “The House of the Famous Poet,” which was one of my top favorites of the year.

June 17th—A few excellent retrospectives on Richard Yates’s life and work before he hit the big time late last year, when the movie Revolutionary Road, based on his novel of the same name, came out.

June 26th—In 1999, Daniel Radosh wrote entertainingly about the difficulty of translating Harry Potter from the British for American readers.

July 8th—A quick post about William Styron’s forthcoming (though posthumous) collection of fiction.

July 9th—Unquestionably the best short story I read all year (and maybe in the past several): Mary Lavin’s “The Wave,” from 1959. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. I wrote about it here.

July 16th—Turns out John Cheever’s 1960 short story, “Some People, Places and Things That Will Not Appear in My Novel” is longer than the final version that appears in his Collected Stories. I had a lot of fun looking closely at this knotty piece of metafiction.

Aug. 7th—C’mon, ‘fess up. You always wanted to hear E.B. White read Charlotte’s Web. You can find a recording here, attached to an appreciation of the book that appeared on NPR.

Aug. 14th—In 2008, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala marked her fifty-first year publishing stories in TNY—an anniversary I celebrated by reading her for the first time, looking closely at the first story she published in the magazine, and her latest.

Aug. 15th—If you ever had doubts about the reading public, a column on the Obama cover quoting Shirley Jackson on public reaction (and failure to comprehend) her infamous story, “The Lottery” won’t help any.

Aug. 26th—In which Emdashes said “So long,” to the great Esquire fiction editor and TNY contributor Rust Hills, and “See you tomorrow,” to TNY fiction editor William Maxwell.

September 9th—Check out Donald Barthelme’s syllabus for students, his 1974 story “The School,” and why reading more fiction is good for you.

September 18th—The late, lamented David Foster Wallace’s not-so-serious reading list.

November 3rd—In case you missed it when it came out in 1969, you can now check out this short film of Shirley Jackson’s 1948 story, “The Lottery” online. Then, you can listen to A.M. Homes read it aloud on the TNY fiction podcast.

Nov. 14th—Obama’s win spurred a look through the archives for stories that had presidents in them. That turned up two of my favorite TNY short stories, by Donald Barthelme and Mark Strand (from 1964 and 1979, respectively): both loopy, poetic pieces having to do with the President as a fictional character.

Nov. 20th—My search for presidential fiction turned up a lot of satire, including a piece by Garrison Keillor, in which he skewers the Other Bush.

Dec 13th—Leaping Lepidopterists! It’s Nabokov on YouTube, along with his 1998 (posthumous, natch) review of his own memoir, Speak, Memory.

Dec 25—I closed out the year with a review of all four stories in the 2008 Winter Fiction issue, by Donald Antrim, Roberto Bolaño, Alice Munro, and Colson Whitehead. Maybe it was the season, but I found a lot to like.

Whew! Stay tuned: next, I’ll cover the year’s fiction podcasts!


Oh, wow! What a post!

(And I really mean it—not like Joan Didion saying, “Oh, wow,” here.)

Thanks, Jonathan - I had a blast putting it together. (And I mean that, too.)

@ Jonathan - I’d wondered about that. Thanks for re-sharing the link; it’s hilarious.

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