There is an insightful interview with C. Michael Curtis of The Atlantic in the current issue (#31) of Meridian. The interview was conducted by Thomas Pierce, at a small German deli in Spartanburg, South Carolina. They both had brat in a bun with a side of potato salad, and iced tea.
Having edited a literary journal (namely this one) for eleven years now, I thought such an accomplishment was noteworthy. But I was quickly humbled to find out, in this interview, that Curtis has been the "predominant arbiter of short stories" at The Atlantic for over fifty years. If I live to the age of ninety-two and keep going, I might be able to match Curtis. But he is still at it. And so it seems any attempt for me to rival his endurance will be met with futility.
Pierce asked Curtis how many stories he might have seen in five decades at the magazine, "...tens of thousands, maybe?" Curtis replied, "I'm afraid it's a lot more than that. We used to get ten thousand a year."
This interview not only gives good glimpses of the man behind the decisions to publish in a major magazine, but also shares some hard and logical views of literary reading and publishing in general. "Writers of literary fiction are probably not going to support themselves by writing," Curtis says, "but that's been true for thousands of years. They're going to have to teach or find some other means of livelihood."
As was stated in the forthcoming book, Paper Dreams, (Atticus Books, reviewed in our Summer 2013 issue), the larger commercial magazines such as The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Harper's, and The Saturday Evening Post used to put out as many as six or seven short stories each issue. Imagine that! To us literature lovers, heaven! Now, as Curtis recalls recent cancellation of the summer fiction issue and great reduction of fiction content annually, the large commercial magazines struggle to justify the inclusion of a single short story per issue.
"Somebody in the financial end has been given the job of getting us into the black," Curtis says. And so again comes the question: At what price, art?
The interview culminates on the topic of what makes for a good story, a story good enough to rise above tens of thousands of others. Curtis had difficulty explaining exactly, but explain exactly he did. "It's not like you can go to the story and say here are the three main reasons... It's a quality or empathy or an interest in how people connect to each other and relate to each other and talk to each other... Either it moves you and you remember it forever, or you don't."
And so we come to this Fall 2013 issue of The Summerset Review. Hop into the taxi shown in cover graphic and see where it takes you.
— J Levens
Theme graphics this issue - "Joyride"
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