Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Best American Reading

Friday Tyrant recently took down the series of Best American Reading. This piece was funny and accurately covered the assumptions some people have about the series.
My complaint would be the assumption that readers of Friday Tyrant aren't already aware of the problematic nature of the Best American Reading series. Most literary people are well-read enough to know that there are a myriad of literary magazines out there, in part because almost all of them worked for one or another at some time. (Myself? The Red Cedar Review and The Offbeat.) They get that bigger magazines are not necessarily better, even though they may get a certain amount of media attention. And they know all about McSweeney's and its death grip on lit nerd's imagination.
I like that this article took down the entire institution, since I took a class where the teacher had us read selections from one of these anthologies to get a sense of where literary publishing was today. He was right to make us read it since it was an overview of the best known literary magazines out there, however, the magazine famously lacks lots of great literary magazines. I often felt that the poetry in my beloved Red Cedar Review frequently rivaled and sometimes out-did the poetry I have seen published in those anthologies. (Last year's "Lepidoptery" by Lia Greenwell was a phenomenal piece, but just about no one knows it.) Forklift, Ohio, one of the best literary magazines out there, is never featured in this series, and yet they regularly publish both Dean Young and Bob Hicok.
Best American Reading is an institution, and like all institutions, they're imperfect. That's the nature of institutions.

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