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The Place of Fiction in Today’s Magazines

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Much has been made of the “death” of fiction and how the major magazines are reducing, or even eliminating, their short fiction programs. There is an interesting article by Rachel Donadio The New York Times that questions whether fiction is withering away because the public isn’t interested, or if it’s being starved by lack of attention from editors and magazines. “”We’re in a dark cultural moment. I think people seem to feel more comfortable with nonfiction,” said Adrienne Miller, literary editor of Esquire. ”The tragic theme here is that literary fiction has very limited cultural currency now. Fewer and fewer people seem to believe fiction is still essential for our emotional and intellectual survival,” Miller told the newspaper.

Donadio makes an interesting point when she talks about how it is hard to argue with the belief that Americans’ desire for fiction has dwindled. But she points out that “while it’s admirable that The Atlantic hasn’t stopped publishing fiction altogether, its current fiction issue seems to offer more evidence of fiction’s marginalization. By ghettoizing it in one issue, The Atlantic is sending the message that fiction today is somehow removed from the eschatological urgency and ”morally charged” subjects of its nonfiction reportage.” I was thinking the same thing, albeit maybe a little less eloquently when I thumbed through the magazine this past weekend. By saying, “we’re going to group all the fiction you need for a year, and present it in one issue,” then fiction does undoubtedly lose it’s urgency as Donadio states. Add in the fact that the special fiction issue is published in the summer, when folks are at the beach and the livin’s easy, and it becomes even more obvious that fiction is viewed as a luxury, as something for vacation, as something for when you have some time, as something for non-everyday consumption.

It’s an interesting article. I believe The New York Times website requires you to register, but it’s free and this essay alone with worth the hassle of handing over your email address. Read the article here.