After ages and ages away, I’m going to ease back into this blogging business with a few good links.
• Are you reading Patrick Kurp’s literary blog Anecdotal Evidence every day? Patrick is a widely traveled and discerning reader whose posts I’ve begun to regard as almost a fourth daily meal: I leave them feeling not only delighted but somehow substantially fed. Here he is on the evolution of literary taste with age, on Chekhov and oysters, and on our newest poet laureate. Essential.
• An editor friend sends along Brian Doyle’s Kenyon Review essay on the art of saying no–and yes–to writers. Doyle is the editor of one of the most distinctive university magazines in the country, Portland Magazine from the University of Portland. Here’s a bit from Doyle’s essay:
Many magazines lean on a form letter, a printed note, a card, and I study them happily. The New Yorker, under the gentle and peculiar William Shawn, sent a gentle yellow slip of paper with the magazine’s logo and a couple of gentle sentences saying, gently, no. Under the brisker Robert Gottlieb, the magazine sent a similar note, this one courteously mentioning the “evident quality” of your submission even as the submission is declined. Harper’s and the Atlantic lean on the traditional Thank You But; Grand Street, among other sniffy literary quarterlies, icily declines to read your submission if it has not been solicited; the Sun responds some months later with a long friendly note from the editor in which he mentions that he is not accepting your piece even as he vigorously commends the writing of it; the Nation thanks you for thinking of the Nation; and the Virginia Quarterly Review sends, or used to send, a lovely engraved card, which is worth the price of rejection. The only rejection notice I keep in plain view is that one, for the clean lines of its limbs and the grace with which it delivers its blow to the groin.
In addition to its tales of rejection and acceptance–experienced from both sides of the editor’s desk–the essay is notable for containing this account of the author’s proposal to his wife:
She did say yeah, or I thought she said yeah, the wind was really blowing, and then she slapped her forehead and went off on a long monologue about how she couldn’t believe she said yeah when she wanted to say yes, her mom had always warned her that if she kept saying yeah instead of yes there would come a day when she would say yeah instead of yes and really regret it, and indeed this very day had come to pass, one of those rare moments when your mom was exactly right and prescient, which I often think my mom was when she said to me darkly many years ago I hope you have kids exactly like you, the ancient Irish curse.