Looks Like We Should All Look Into n+1
The current issue of Poets & Writers has a one-pager titled “The Journals Agents Are Reading” (pg. 82)—an enticing bit of headline-writing for writers with better submission habits than my own. (Definitely something I need to work on.) Predictably, the agents interviewed, for the most part, demurred at choosing actual “favorites,” but exceptions to that rule produced a clear winner: Three of ten agents actually did choose a favorite, and it was the relatively new journal n+1.
Said Chris Parris-Lamb of the Gernet Company: “That would be n+1. There are other places I turn to first for short fiction, but n+1 is the only magazine I read from cover to cover.”Of course, there are a lot of other great recommendations and insights in the article, but I think it’s safe to say that if you’re as out of it as I am and haven’t yet had a gander at n+1, now might be the time to do so.
And Jim Rutman of Sterling Lord Literistic: “I think I will risk minor ridicule for pretension and go with the still young upstart n+1.
And finally, Anna Stein of Aitken Alexander: “I have to say, for now, n+1. They came on the scene only a few years ago, but they’ve introduced the kinds of writers that no one else would go near, and I’m talking about important literary writers who push the envelope (and whom we see six months later in the New Yorker…)
R. T. Smith Serves Up “Straight Shots”
One of my favorite litmags—one of the few I subscribe to and read cover to cover on a regular basis—is The Missouri Review. The current issue features a short piece from a writer I’d never read before, though I expect many of you will know him well: R. T. Smith has been published in Best American and the Pushcart Anthology, and has a number of story collections in print. But it appears his recent works—including this wonderful story, “First Meeting,” in The Missouri Review—have been short monologues from sometimes hateful, sometimes lovable, but always troubled characters. In “First Meeting,” we hear a despicable alcoholic’s lengthy monologue at his first AA meeting:
“Only a fool tries to get between a man and his story. Listen up, I am in constant search for His will on the questions of my future behavior and all other matters. I go down to the Maury’s snake turn, where the old dam left a spillway, and there I stare at the pure white water tumbling and parley with the Man Himself, as I understand Him, and He listens and gives me signs. It was not for nothing He let me be hauled back from the flames of Hell on three occasions, and I can tell by your scoffing looks and righteous sounds that you believe yourselves better than me, more in tune with rescue and the Higher Power, maybe based on some quota of meetings or agreement to forgive each other, though not a one of you has ever put a heel on the other’s neck.”Smith compares these short pieces to traditional “stories” (even questioning whether they are “stories” at all), and concludes that, if a story is “a full pitcher of plantation punch meant to be savored gradually,” these short pieces are “more akin to straight shots, undiluted, brooking little restraint, down the hatch with full burn.” I would agree with that assessment, and would add that Smith has, with this one at least, achieved the story writer’s ultimate goal of packing a boxcar full of tense intimacy and emotion into an easy flow of words that can easily be consumed in 20 minutes time.