Pushcart XXXV (2011): Final Thoughts

I was awed by this anthology. And chagrined that I’ve never read a Pushcart volume before. I’ve got 2012 ready and waiting for me at my fiercely independent local bookseller.

I skipped over the non-fiction and poetry, since I wanted to finish the anthology before the end of the year (making this a fitting post for New Year’s Eve). I’ll go back and pick it up, based on the strength of the fiction.

Stories I found to be amazingly wonderful:
Deb Olin Unferth, “Pet
Jess Row, “Sheep May Safely Graze
Anthony Marra, “Chechnya
Elliot Holt, “Fem Care
Seth Fried, “Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre

To be honest, I could fit many more stories into this category (“The Cousins” by Charles Baxter, “Two Midnights in a Jug” by Marc Watkins, “Final Dispositions” by Linda McCullough Moore, “Three Buddhist Tales” by Marilyn Chin), but I had to draw a line somewhere.

Stories that made me shake my head and wonder why they were included
Tony Earley, “Mr. Tall“. There’s always one. There has to be, to keep me honest.

Authors I’ve read more of since reading their stories here:
Seth Fried (“Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre”); I read his collection, The Great Frustration and loved it. He also had a flash on the Tin House Flash Fridays blog.
Caitlin Horrocks (“Stealing Small”); I read “The Sleep” in BASS 2011, and “Sun City” in The New Yorker, very much liked them. For some reason I have no desire to read her collection, though.
Elliot Holt (“Fem Care”); I read an online short story, “The Norwegians” which didn’t do much for me. I’d like to read more by her.
Anthony Marra (“Chechnya”); I read one of the online short stories (“Typhoon”) he has on Narrative; it didn’t work for me at all, a combination of my distaste for stories and sentences beginning with “The girl” or “the man” and possibly reading online with his picture (very very young; very very nerdy) gazing at me; I’m going to print it off and see if it works better for me.
Deb Olin Unferth (“Pet”); her flashes “Minor Robberies” and “Passport” are on AGNI Online are pretty strange and wonderful; I need time to absorb them.

Authors I plan to read more of:
Linda McCullough Moore (“Final Dispositions”); I’d like to read the collection This Road Will Take Us Closer To the Moon
Jess Row (“Sheep May Safely Graze”) has a story in BASS 2011 I’m looking forward to, and I’m very interested in his collections.
Anthony Marra (“Chechnya”) has some online stories at Narrative I have bookmarked. I’ll print them off before I read, and try not to picture him as a 12-year-old.
Joe Meno (“Children Are The Only Ones Who Blush”) has a couple of collections I have on my read list, from having read “An Apple Could Make You Laugh” during Zin’s Second Person Study.
Deb Olin Unferth (“Pet”) though I’m nervous, since she’s kind of over my head, like Charles Baxter and Steven Millhauser. And Minor Robberies, her story collection, was published by McSweeneys, with whom I have an uneven history. But I will gird up my loins, and attempt to rise to the occasion.

I’m not using as many categories as I did for the BASS 2010 and PEN/O.Henry 2011 summaries, but in general, I found these stories to be less traditional. There were more risks, more unusual structures, characters, settings, and approaches. I like that. But if someone’s firmly wed to traditional realism, it might not be the right volume to read; the others would be preferable.

The Introduction by Bill Henderson created quite a stir on the Zoe workshop main discussion board. Apparently he doesn’t care for online venues. I believe he called them “fake literature.” That’s odd, since at least two of my favorites is available online only, and several more in the collection is available online. I think we’re still in a period of transition, and print is still seen as superior by many of the veterans of literature. And the Pushcart volume, remember, was aimed at championing the small print magazine, the “small presses.” Not everyone considers the Internet itself to be a “small press.” And to be honest, there’s a lot of junk out there. Come on, I could start an online litmag tomorrow, and nominate three of my own stories (or those of my friends) for a Pushcart. There is reason for caution. Calling online fiction “fake literature” is, I think, going too far.

I’m looking forward to the 2012 volume.

2 responses to “Pushcart XXXV (2011): Final Thoughts

  1. I want a Pushcart, Karen. Can you please start a litmag and nominate me? Even if my story is fake?

    And I love Longfellow’s. Stop there almost every visit to Portland.

    • We could both start one and publish and nominate each other’s stories. 😉 Except, gee, I haven’t written anything in a long time. And I already have a Pushcart nomination, which shows you how much that’s worth.

      How did you know I was talking about Longfellow’s? The “fiercely independent” thing? I love they call themselves that. I try to buy newer paperback editions there. I figure it’s the least I can do. Older stuff, I can usually find online for crazy low prices, and I’m not going to be a fanatic about buying local.

      We have to get together. I’ll take you to Shay’s, where I stop for a cheeseburger and fries about once a month after photocopying New Yorker stories in the library. 😉

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