Tuesday, 19 August 2008


Salman Rushdie is the editor for this year’s Best American Short Stories. Salman had a collection of stories East West published in 1994. I wonder if he writes stories all the time, or anymore? I wonder that about a lot of writers who mainly publish novels and then, suddenly, a short fiction collection comes out. I’m thinking Colm Tóibín, for example with Mothers and Sons. Maybe their publishers are more comfortable with them producing novels, as most publishers are?

Anyway, The Best American Short Stories 2008 will be out next month and series editor Heidi Pitlor talks sensibly, in a Q&A, about what she looks for in the thousands of stories she reads in lit mags each year:

‘I look for solid writing, an ease with language. I want to be engaged with the characters and story lines, the settings or the language or ideas. When reading, I want to forget that I have to clean the kitchen or pay the bills. I also like to be surprised and moved in some way.’

Featured writers include A. M. Homes, Steven Millhauser, Karen Brown and Jonathan Lethem.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

Thanks for the reminder, N. My 'Bible' (apart from Faber's new Irish Short Stores series) is the Best American Short Stories of the Century, ed; J Updike.

It was also a great affirmation of 'why we do this stuff called short story writing', when the main shortlister at Bridport last year told me what he asks his readers to pass to him for consideration.

'Only those stories that make you forget you are reading'

seems to cut through all the BS** doesnt it!!

Women Rule Writer said...

Hello V,
Re.: 'Only those stories that make you forget you are reading'.

Hear! Hear! It's the ones that make you read on and on and on, despite the fact that you haven't the time, as you are supposed to be elsewhere. They are the goodies!

Frances said...

But why only those stories? Often I don't want to forget I'm reading - I love to admire the writer's skill and artifice - when reading P.G. Wodehouse, for instance!

Women Rule Writer said...

Hi Frances
I guess what I mean by that is that I am taken in and carried along, by a combi of beautiful language and good story and great character.

Reading for the SOF, it was the ones that kept me reading on and on, despite a million other deadlines, that went on the 'Yes' and 'Maybe' piles. They were the ones that made me forget that this was a task that needed to be completed, that is the reading of all of the (eventually over 700) stories. So the good ones were the ones I enjoyed just as stories I might read anywhere.

Frances said...

Can't argue with that, Nuala! I still do have an issue with the Bridport shortlister's comment, though. How about brilliant experimental writing? Of the sort that delights while leaving you very aware that you're reading? It seems to me tragic that this guy is the main shortlister at Bridport.

Women Rule Writer said...

Yes, I think maybe he might have worded it better. It's just shorthand for a lot more, I guess.
But perhaps Vanessa could let us know what else he said to her when she was one of his chosen winners. He was surely blown away by her language and characters most of all.

dewitthenry said...

For tomorrow's best stories today, see www.pshares.org (free)