Sunday, January 10, 2010

Electric Literature is Enjoyable to Read, or So I Say

It'll be near impossible for anyone to convince me that there was a short story last year exceeding "Your Fate Hurtles Down at You" by Jim Shepard. I hate to be so unwavering on something like this, a subjective topic which I customarily allow a fair amount of wiggle room for debate. Not this time, I'm afraid. Your welcome to try but I think it'd be hard to find another short story (from last year) that would impress me as much. I hate to sound so fawning but it's just the brimming-with-honesty truth. "Your Fate" was for me one of those stories that keeps you thinking about it days afterward, trying to connect meaning to its enigmatic passages and just being awed by how nicely cohesive the damn thing feels. I don't want to imply cohesion is necessary for a story to achieve this sort of resonance with me, but there is something weirdly cleansing and crisp about it -- like a really seamlessly put together piece of machinery that's also aesthetically pleasing, no superfluous parts and looking polished. As in, maybe a car like this.

And Shepard's short story was only part of what amounted to an excellent lineup featured in the inaugural issue of Electric Literature, which came out this past summer. I suppose I'm a little late hopping on their bandwagon, but I am not ashamed to be. And nothing against Electric Literature but I debate long and hard about buying and subscribing to literary magazines, good as they may appear. Ultimately, I caved and got the first issue, and I now plan to become a subscriber. They deliver a good product, much the same as the nicely hewn short story a la Shepard, and it's appealing to see authors I know I'll at least find interesting, as was the case with well-knowns like Shepard and Michael Cunningham, coupled with others I was less familiar with but whose writing I found topnotch as well: T Cooper, Diana Wagman and Lydia Millet. And isn't that at least part of what a good literary magazine does anyway -- publishes some authors you may not yet know but who are no less good?

I'll summarize the stories in brief: "Your Fate Hurtles Down at You" is about avalanches (to sell it very short), "Three-Legged Dog" by Diana Wagman is about a woman with one breast cause of cancer and the man who claims to love her (but does he???), "The Time Machine" by T. Cooper isn't hardly about a time machine but rather is about a man and his jealousy towards another man because of that man's previous marriage to the-man-who-is-jealous's girlfriend-cum-likely future wife (it's funny, probably the funniest of the bunch), "Olympia" -- apparently part of a novel in progress -- by Michael Cunningham is about family and all that jazz, very gripping and well-conceived and I look forward to it novel form, and lastly but not leastly "Sir Henry" by Lydia Willet, a story which makes professional dog walking about as heart rending as I think is within the boundaries of the human language, although that might be slightly hyperbolic. A really excellent collection of short stories, and I'm not just saying that because I really would talk about how much one or more sucked if I indeed thought they did. But I don't because they aren't.

Take a look at Electric Literature yourself today! And they also have a blog, which I equally enjoy.

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