Pushcart XL: Off to the (tortoise) races

Feel free to skip this introduction. I skip most introductions. I’d rather read the book, then come back to the introduction to see what I have missed. But I might ask that you stay put for a bit before proceeding in the brilliance that awaits you – 69 poems, stories, essays, and memoirs from 52 presses.

~~ Bill Henderson, Introduction

Pushcart has my least favorite introductions of the three American short story prize volumes. This introduction is no different from others: another historical look at the origins of the Pushcart Prize, a few digs at online literature, a mourning for the good old Days of the Giants.

But, happily, Pushcart has historically had my favorite material, and because of that, I’m happy to forgive the introduction.

For someone who is nearly phobic about anything not printed on actual paper, Mr. Henderson tends, it seems to me, more towards the outskirts of the mainstream. Not cutting-edge; I’m not sure anything cutting-edge has ever been given recognition in its time. But I usually find several pieces that take me a little out of business as usual, show me a little more of what’s possible when talented people thoughtfully follow their own rules.

And, of course, I appreciate the different genres. Though I’ve been reading a great deal of literary fiction in the past decade, my natural habitat is nonfiction: both informational books, and essays of various sorts. Pushcart nonfiction tends to expand my knowledge of the world, and shows me interesting ways of conveying information or examining a subject, a life, maybe something I didn’t even know existed. Poetry has never been my strength, and I seem to be very bad at picking out a book of poems to read. That’s why I like the variety herein: if some individual poem doesn’t appeal to me, it isn’t like I have to read a whole volume of similar poetry to see if it was a fluke. Yes, it’s a snapshot rather than in-depth study, but at my level, it’s a good approach, to see the breadth of what’s out there.

This will be a slow journey – or at least, a slow start: I’m quite immersed in three killer MOOCs that entail, as these courses sometimes do, a great deal of work (I’d thought one of them ended this week, but instead I see it continues for another month and a half!). So please be patient if I seem to be poking along. This is not a race; in a world that loves winners, the most, the fastest, the best, I’d rather just relax into a more experiential exercise here, and if that means a week between entries, that’s what it means.

But if I wait until I have more time, I may never start. So here goes.

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