The literary world is not insulated from the world outside. Recently, #metoo was used on Sherman Alexie, an author many of us at The Poetics Project are familiar with; in fact, Melanie Nichole Figueroa once met him at a conference when she was attending publishing school. Conversations around #metoo, Alexie, and harassment in general are difficult – especially for women …
TheNew Yorker is filled with many things, from contemporary news stories to literary criticism. What I want to focus on in this post are the short stories that are often published within the New Yorker which have been free for all to access. That is about to change. The New Yorker is planning on putting up a pay wall so that only people who have subscriptions or pay for web access can read these wonderful pieces of literature.
Personally, being left-leaning and open-source-friendly, I’m not too enthused that these wonderful pieces of literature which have been open for all are going to soon come with a price tag attached, but I do understand that to continue publishing the New Yorker does need to make revenue somehow.
If you’re broke like I am, that revenue won’t be coming from you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy some of the wonderful stories that are to be found before the pay wall goes up. Below are some fantastic stories to be found on the New Yorker for you to check out before the summer is over.
The Cheater’s Guide to Love by Junot Diaz
The first novel I read by Junot Diaz was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Within that story, Diaz was able to create well-rounded, likable, and complex characters that jumped off the page and felt like too familiar to just be fictional beings. He has a great style that mixes family, history, politics, love, and tragedy in the way a conductor leads a full orchestra. The Cheater’s Guide to Love doesn’t fail to live up to Diaz’s talent.
Literature doesn’t just come in giant, dusty tomes. It’s not that I have anything against giant, dusty tomes. Those are actually some of my favorite types of tomes, but not all of my favorite literature is a few hundred pages long. Some of my favorite pieces of literature actually come in the form of short stories.
To get your summer started out right, I thought I’d compile a list of some of my favorite literary short stories. If you want to become more familiar with literature, or you just want some good, short things to read this summer, start here!
What You Pawn I Will Redeem by Sherman Alexie has long been a favorite short story of mine. This story explores the life of a homeless Native American and chronicles his adventures of trying to recover his grandmother’s regalia. I know that sounds like it could be sad or dark, but it’s actually really funny and gives great insight into the perceptions and attitudes of those mainstream society marginalizes.
Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood is a story I use all the time with my students. This not only tells a great story, but teaches readers and writers alike what goes into telling a good story and how the ending, well, you’ll see once you get to the end.
In addition to the panel on unsympathetic characters, I attended several other panels while at AWP 2014. A few of these panels focused on writing Young Adult books, while most of the others dealt with the relationship between an author and editor. I learned different things from each panel.
The YA panels I went to focused a lot on how it’s okay to write about serious topics in YA literature—topics like politics, loss, abuse. These things are no less real for young adults than they are for the rest of us. As one panelist said, “Dying is the end of all of our stories.”
The authors discussed the “absent adults” in many YA novels. It’s a genre trope, but one that allows the author to get the parents out of the way so the young adult protagonist can live their life. At one point, the moderator asked the panelists why they write YA that is arguably dark. If you’re a writer who also tends to write darker pieces, this may be something you even ask yourself. Why are we attracted to sadness? The panelists agreed that young adults are looking for solace in the midst of chaos—to recognize that we are not in control. According to one panelist, they are looking to answer the question, “How do you walk around as if every thing’s normal?”