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There's nothing like perfectly engineered writing + prose off between Fleming story and a masterwork from American Short Fiction

More work today on "Why I Hate My Friends." Unclassifiable masterpiece. There's no fiction like this, plain and simple. I should be done in the next day, two, or three. Look at the construction of these paragraphs, these sentences. The parts and the whole. There's an architecture to writing.

Rich is also who other people would automatically call my best friend. We’re thought of as two guys who are tight. I don’t know if he loathes me as much I loathe him, but he likely thinks about it less. He’s said that I’m too weak in the knees to really knock one back into life, but I’ve never been totally sure what he means. Probably that I’m not man enough to hook up with life and breed her, which is also confusing, though you do tend to know when someone thinks you’re what they’d call a pussy.

Down in the basement at a Super Bowl party where it’s us men only—the self-proclaimed boys—Rich can use the term “Cock Gobbler” (as in, “This offensive coordinator is a…”) with sufficient mellifluence that you’d think he was reading Homer aloud to an excited audience of large-gutted sentinels, each of whom played high school sports and makes a point whenever possible—and it doesn’t take much—of reworking this information by way of throwback analogy ostensibly intended as insight into the game we’re watching, but which is really an attempt to conjure the kinds of things that were never as important as many people needed them to be. Still need them to be.

“What the Giants need to do here is come out throwing in the third. I had this coach and at halftime he’d tell us, ‘Look, fellas, you sure shit that bed, but that bed is done with. We got all the shit out of our system. Clean slate, boys, here we go.”

Beds, slates, whatever.

You don’t want me saying “Cock Gobbler.” Not that I would, but if I said it, it’d be as if I was finally coming forward with who I fundamentally was and was all about, and I’d bought a new dress to wear and didn’t want anyone to make a joke, because that would hurt my feelings. It would hurt my feelings, frankly.

That's how you do it right there. When I look at these things these other people write, it's all the same. The very shapes of the language are the same. The cadences are the same. The lengths of everything within a given thing are for the most part the same. Above we have a 109-word sentence, followed by a five-word sentence, and we're not conscious of a dramatic gap in length, because of the flow of the former--it goes downhill and takes the reader with it. But a different part of our brain notes different pieces of different sizes being made to come together. Or not even being made--coming together. That's how how life works. And it's how writing must work if it's to contain life.

Want to extemporize a prose off? Normally we put the work of these people first, but I wasn't planning on doing this, but let's do it anyway? Who should we use? How about something put forward by our discrimination loving editor friends--Rebecca Markovits, Adeena Reitberger, and Nate Brown--over at American Short Fiction.

I'll just pick the most recent thing they've put up, okay? Sound fair? How much you want to bet that there will be a reference to writing or the publishing world and that the tone, the style, the cadence, the rhythm, the voice for lack of a better word, will be straight out of Creative Writing 101?

Heading over now...

Okay, this is from "EOD" by Serena Lin.

The dinosaurs did the same amount of nothing as Sam but were paid twenty times more. Because Bob had signed David Foster Wallace thirty years ago, it didn’t matter that he didn’t know how to work a PDF, and Sam had once spent an excruciating afternoon hovering next to him at his desk, periodically scrolling for him on Adobe Acrobat. After that, she just printed out the manuscripts, trees be damned.

Sam had come to the company to edit books or to bide time until she wrote her own book, but she had never gotten around to moving up or on, and now she was twenty-eight—a dinosaur in assistant years. She used to worry that she would be fired at some point, but the imprint was poorly managed and no one had realized her particular uselessness yet. If some snotty McKinsey consultant came and tried to calculate the financial efficiency of the imprint, their poor Redbull-and-Ritalin-riddled heart would thump itself to death. There was no cost-efficient way to produce poetry books about Japanese birds or dense novels about men walking the length of America. There was no money to be made from them, either.

The company offset its losses via another imprint, which churned out Republican insider tell-alls to the effervescent and profitable delight of liberal book clubs nationwide. Sam figured she had at least two more years of reminding Bob that no one used fax machines anymore and probably even Bret Easton Ellis had email.

One Tuesday, Sam found a surprise waiting for her in her cubicle—a middle-aged woman frowning at the leaking pile of Java Monster Energy cans in her trash bin.

There you go. The writing/publishing stuff with the David Foster Wallace bit and the publisher, and Bret Easton Ellis, and that Bunker Hill Creative Writing 101 style.

Isn't it amazing how much of a given these things are and how much you know these stories are going to suck before you even see them? That posted today. This isn't me doing trickery or hunting. It's every goddamn story from people like this at places like this.

Do I need to do the thing where I say that what you just read in "EOD" is supposed to be better--according to Markovits, Reitberger, and Brown--than anything I've ever written in my life?

Do you think it's that, or do you think we're talking a mind-blowing level of discrimination?

The fiction in American Short Fiction--which is supposed to be one of the best places out there--is as bad and basic as it gets.

You know what else it is? Impossible for anyone to defend as it being otherwise.

And Red Bull is two words. You couldn't even get that right? Serena Lin went to Yale, by the way. Good thing. That could have been a problem if she hadn't. A "not the right kind of person" problem. Phew.


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