Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Salon des Refusés

The new issue of CNQ--paired with an issue of The New Quarterly, challenging the Jane Urquhart edited Penguin Anthology of Short Stories--has certainly been garnering a great deal of attention. I heard Adrian Michael Kelly talking about the raging debate on CBC's Q today. The interview's been podcast, and it's well worth a listen if you missed it. The answer to Jian Gomeschi's question about the subjectivity of excellence is that Urquhart herself has said that excellence wasn't necessarily the defining criterion for the choices--both inclusions and exclusions--that she made. It has been widely noted that almost none of the authors in the Penguin book publish with small presses (Carol Windley, a past Giller nominee, being a notable exception). So it might reasonably be posited that a chief criterion for Urquhart was name-brand recognition, particularly considering--as Kelly and others have observed--that Michael Ondaatje, not a noted short-story writer, has two pieces (excerpts of a book-length memoir) in the Penguin book.

I'm still waiting for my copies of the magazines. I'm looking forward to it. I have to admit that the short story is a form I often neglect as a reader. Not because I don't like the form as such; I just seem to have a hard time fitting story collections into my schedule, which involves reading a lot of poetry and non-fiction along with the odd novel. A lame argument, considering that most short stories can be read in a sitting. Whenever I do pick up a book of stories by a terrific writer like Kafka or Borges--or Rooke or Jarman--I think I should read more. Maybe once I figure out how to live without a dayjob...

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