Thursday, August 17, 2006

We hate it when our friends become successful

Fresh out of college, back when I was an editorial assistant at William Morrow, I became friendly with another one of the assistants.

He was an aspiring writer, and around the time I left the company, his boss, a successful editor (he was the first to publish Michael Chabon, who later went on to win a well-deserved Pulitzer), bought a collection of this fellow's short stories for Morrow. It was quite a coup, really, though as a book of stories by an unknown writer, I doubt it sold more than a handful of copies. And, honestly, I kinda didn't like his writing very much. I mean, the book was OK ... but that was about it. It tried too hard, if you know what I mean. Even the title of the collection (which I'll leave out here, in case he Googles himself) worked too hard to sound serious.

As "work friends" often do, we didn't keep in touch after leaving the company, and I didn't really think of him again until a few years ago, when The New Yorker (yes, The New Yorker*) published a new story of his.

I found it completely unreadable--and I tried to get through it twice. Pretentious as hell, artsy-fartsy (heavy on the fartsy), everything I don't like about New Yorker fiction. (I love the mag's nonfiction, and read as much of it as I have time for.)

And, boy, was I jealous. I mean, he's in The New Yorker, for Christ's sake!

And now he has a short story in the new issue, too.

And, no, I don't like it.

Why? Well, among other things, he doesn't put quoted dialogue within quotation marks. Sorry, I find that unpardonable. (I know some very popular, critically aclaimed books, including All the Pretty Horses and, I think, Cold Mountain, do the same thing. That's why I refuse to read them.)

Still, color me green.

*And, yes, I use this dumb gag every time I mention The New Yorker, which might amuse the one person who remembers the magazine's ubiquitous-in-New-York TV ad campaign from the early '80s.


God Is My Codependent said...

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Rokzane said...

Oh, how I HATE unquoted dialogue. Text like that just gives me a headache.

There is another current "trend" that I despise--writing that looks like this: I. Really. Hate. That.

Please tell me what the hell THAT is about? Hmm?

Jim Donahue said...

Rokzane: YES!!!