From Our Staff | September 27, 2010
Nobody's Fooling The Editor
The newest additions to the Best American series – Best American Short Stories, Best American Poetry, Best American (fill in the blank here) – hit bookstores tomorrow. Richard Russo is this year’s editor for BASS. In 2006, David Foster Wallace was the guest editor for BAE (um: Best American Essays, but, you knew that already …) and emphasized in his introduction that he was the Decider, not an editor, as Robert Atwan, the series editor, actually forward David all the essays he could select. It was a fascinating essay – what essays by Wallace aren’t? – in part because Wallace figured that most people don’t read the introductions at all, and if they do, they read the introduction after they’ve read some, if not all, of the anthologized work.
This puzzled me. My first thought was “Really? Doesn’t everyone read the introduction first? Isn’t that why it’s called an “introduction” and appears before all the collected stuff?” I tend to think in a linear fashion about these things, much to the amusement, delight, and teasing of my friends. But when I was an undergraduate and first introduced to the Best American series, still struggling with the idea of what makes literature “good”, the introduction was insight into what was chosen, why it was chosen, and what the anthology, on the whole, aimed to achieve. I still find the introductions to be a fascinating look into what engages the guest editor, often a writer I admire, and one that has achieved great success over many years of hard work.
Here’s hoping Russo’s introduction is as delightful as his novels.
In the back of the Best Ams’, you’ll find each writer’s comments on her/his story (except for William Trevor, who never comments), a list of magazines that submitted work to Best American for consideration, and a list of the 100 Distinguished or Notable pieces in each given anthology. From The Missouri Review:
Andrew Cohen, “Television Days,” Vol 32.4 (essay)
Cheryl Strayed, “Munro County,” Vol 32.4 (essay)
Deborah Thompson, “What’s the Matter with Houdini,” Vol 32.1 (essay)
Elise Juska, “The Way I Saw The World Then,” Vol 32.4 (story)
Eleanor Lerman, “Persistent Views of the Unknown,” Vol 32.3 (story)
All wonderful pieces you should read (re-read?). And, of course, a big thanks to these wonderful authors for giving us the opportunity to publish their work. We were delighted to do so! Also, friend of TMR and weekly blogger, Michael Kardos, was also shortlisted for his terrific story “Metamorphosis”, which originally appeared in Prairie Schooner. Congrats!
Michael Nye is the managing editor of The Missouri Review
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