Hi, my name is Howard, and I’m an editor.
It’s not easy giving it up.
[Tell it, Howard.]
I don’t know how I got started. I know it wasn’t on purpose. I guess it was the way everybody starts: I started noticing tipos.
I didn’t do it every day. I didn’t feel I had to do it. It didn’t interfere with my life. I didn’t think it would lead anywhere. I just felt words should be spelled right. Proper punctuation. Apt word choice.
But before long…I wasn’t just correcting people’s conversations, I was running a litmag. Wallowing in the slush pile.
For a while, I thought joining the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses might help, but they’re enablers—feeble enablers, but nonetheless.
Now I am ready to accept the higher power of Web 2.0.
I sincerely believe there are no editors, we are all creative writers.
I ask for your help and your prayers.
One word at a time. 4/12/07
At first, Death seemed unfair, stealing my loved ones.
Then, there was a stretch of immortality.
Then, the epidemic.
Then, believe it or not, more immortality.
In my old age, Death has become less standoffish.
Its henchman, Cancer, surrounds me: my college roomie fell last year; my friend Bob from fifth grade is battling; so is Joe from prep school; and a classmate of my brother’s I hadn’t seen in 40 years but looked up in NYC because I had run across him on Facebook; my BFF (and her husband); a former Board president; my chess friend; a long-ago girlfriend in L.A.; and two women on our block….
I don’t know exactly how this script plays out, but I have an idea. There will be some twists, some messy business, then the curtain falls. 4/15/08
I may be something of a loose cannon myself, but I’ve never been troubled by that epithet.
But then I read Victor Hugo’s account of a loose cannon in Ninety-three, his novel of the French Revolution:
One of the carronades of the battery, a 24-pounder, had got loose. This is perhaps the most formidable of ocean accidents. Nothing more terrible can happen to a vessel in open sea and under full sail. It is a machine which transforms itself into a monster. This mass turns upon its wheels, has the rapid movement of a billiard ball; rolls with the rolling, pitches with the pitching; goes, comes, pauses, seems to meditate; resumes its course, rushes along the ship from end to end like an arrow, circles about, springs aside, evades, rears, breaks, kills, exterminates. It is a battering-ram which assaults a wall at its own caprice….
Hugo goes on for eight pages as the gunner whose fault it was that the moorings of the cannon broke loose tries to tame the beast. 7/14/09
I just bought a drabble.
It was part of an omnibus submission of less-than-long stories that included: a nanofiction, a microfiction, a flash fiction, and a sudden fiction.
A drabble has exactly one hundred words.
I counted them using Check Spelling.
The others have specific lengths of their own—55, 250, 250-750, und so weiter.
I think Harold Brodkey would have been not amused by drabbles. I’ve been reading this largely forgotten eccentric lately. See also his very very long 1973 short story “Innocence,” which has not worn well, but is still a tour de force regarding a Harvard boy’s relentless effort to make [sic] an incredible Radcliffe girl have orgasm.
In his 1990 Afterword to a collection of Stanley Elkin’s stories, Brodkey dilates on “meaning and length” in short fiction:
The matter of length is probably the most important element in the genre technically, and in such important other ways as the length of time it takes to read it and the length of time it takes to write it and then the amount of actual time it purports to represent.…
I am delighted to have a cameo role in Tracy Daugherty’s Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme.
It occurs on p. 369, in a graph that begins as Barthelme “continued his affair with Karen Kennerly,” who later became executive director of PEN, and goes on to describe his cute meet (in a grocery store) with Marion Knox, who became his fourth (and last) wife:
She worked as a researcher-reporter for TIME magazine…that afternoon, she had popped into the market after playing softball in Central Park. Howard Junker, who worked at Newsweek (and who would later found the West Coast literary journal ZYZZYVA), had challenged his friend Jose Ferrer at TIME to put together a team. Marion says she was a “very expendable pitcher but the teams had to have some women.”
I had met Joe Ferrer at Canterbury. He became my only life-long friend from those years. He went on to edit the Princetonian…and then joined TIME, where he eventually became executive editor.
Along the way, he took some time away from TIME to found two magazines, Politics Today, based at a liberal think tank in Santa Barbara, and Nuestro, a savvy but premature attempt to serve the Hispanic market (he doesn’t speak Spanish, but apparently the publisher loved his name, Jose Maria Ferrer, III).
Oh, and in 1968, Joe got a journalism fellowship at Stanford; when he came back, he suggested I try for it myself. I did, got it, had a wonderful time, and found a job in San Francisco….
PS: While we were at Canterbury, Joe’s uncle Mel was married to Audrey Hepburn. 1/12/10
Dear Mr. President,
We regret to inform you that your older daughter has been killed in action, defending the dusty city of K—, which few fellow Americans can locate on the map.
She had dismounted from her rusty pickup and was aiming an RPG at a Taliban drone when she stumbled and set off a weapon of mass destruction.
Her body was so incinerated that there was nothing left worth putting into a body bag.
Please accept instead this folded-up U.S. flag.
We hope that this war, which we elected you to withdraw from, is ended before your younger daughter is deployed.
If necessary to end this war, we urge you to conquer the entire Muslim world.
And please accept our belated congratulations on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. 12/3/09