About Me

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I am a writer, poet, and free-lance editor. Author of Lawmen of the Old West: The Good Guys and Lawmen of the Old West: The Bad Guys. I've had poems and stories in di*verse*city, Blood and Thunder, West View, The Enigmatist, and others. I love poetry but enjoy all forms of writing and editing. I'm the author of two books of poetry, Songs on the Prairie Wind dealing with the people, land and history of the rural Southwest and Voices of Christmas, the traditional Christmas story in free verse persona poems. I do contract editing of other writer's manuscripts. I'm the worst guitar player in the Common Folk band at Trinity Episcopal Church. I'm an imperfect husband to the perfect wife (she might read this sometime), father (great grown kids) and grandfather (they're great kids, too)

Monday, May 03, 2010

What I'd Like To Tell New Yorker Magazine

I recently returned a rather nastily worded bill threatening my credit rating if I did not pay up immediately for my subscription to the New Yorker. I sent it back asking for an accounting to date to that I could pay for any issues mailed since the old subscription expired. I admit, I had forgotten that when I took it out two years ago the fine print said it would be automatically renewed and then I guess I just ignored the notice that said it had been. I will pay my bill but I don't want the magazine anymore.

I considered telling them why was cancelling but decided that they wouldn't care, probably wouldn't even understand what I was saying. Instead of telling them, I'm going to tell you. Of course, I don't even know if there's a "you" out there but I'll feel better, anyway.

Here's the deal. I subscribed to the New Yorker without having read an issue for many years. I did it because I thought I would enjoy the stories and poetry. I didn't much. What I discovered is that they have bought into the whole "academic" idea of writing that says if you are enjoying reading something it can't really be good. It's like my father used to say about medicine, "The worse it tastes, the better it is for you." Well, I have news for them. I don't read fiction or poetry with a view to what's good for me, I do it because I enjoy what I read. I prefer fiction with characters who engage my interest, elicit my sympathy, and go somewhere by the end of the story. I prefer poetry that says something to me on the first read and like it best when I find layers of thought that come out with subsequent study. I'm not going to make a value judgment here. I'm very aware that different things appeal to different people. It's just that I'm afraid that a fair number of readers are reading stuff (or saying they read stuff in coffee shop conversations) that bored them but were afraid to admit it.

The thing that amazes me is that we can be convinced that the literature that appealed to us as kids is not worthy of our attention anymore. They may have been adventure stories but they made us care about the protagonists, get involved in their worlds, and hope for their final victory. I'm not talking about the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys, here, I'm thinking of Dumas, Twain, Scott, yes, and Heinlein and Clark and many others. In fact, I believe that much of the best fiction writing happening today is being written for the YA (young adult) audience. It used to be for everyone. (Maybe it still is, how many of you grownups have read and enjoyed Rowling, Riordan, Clement Moore and other "YA" authors?) Ok, yes, I'm sorry, I tried to read Twilight and only made it a few chapters. I thought the writing was awful. (However, my grown children, having more determination than I do, tell me that I quit too soon and it picked up in the final two thirds. I've never been willing to give a writer that much slack.) Outside of the academically abhorred genre fiction I find very little literature that appeals to readers, that make them care about the story and the characters. I read and care about, Percy Jackson, Precious Ramotswe, Mary Russell, Maggie Quinn, and every character A. Lee Martinez has every created from the depths of a really strange mind. I can't care about the people that live in much of the "literary" fiction of today.

Backing off of the rant, those are the things I would tell the New Yorker if I had a chance to sit down in a coffee shop and could get it to listen. However, it's a corporate entity and those have a terrible track record for listening to individuals. Besides, maybe I'm wrong and all of you love those stories of dreary people who go through a dreary day and are just the same (or dead) at the end. Maybe you like poems that string words together with no apparent attempt at meaning so that, if there is one, you have to spend hours thinking it out to decide what it meant. Not, me, I think I'll read some more Billy Collins then start a new A. Lee Martinez tonight, I haven't read Divine Misfortune yet.

2 comments:

Sue L said...

Excellent Rant, Del. I couldn't agree more!

michelle said...

My mother raised me to be a free thinking individual. Going against the establishment builds character she told me during some tough days when I thought I never survive unless I conformed to what others thought I should be, do and say. Let 'em have it Del, tell it like it is.