Sunday, March 29, 2009

Quick, Google Alert me!

We suggest that rather than read this blog entry you may want to visit with us for a view at the real time ant cam.

A friend, a fantastic writer, relates that she does not understand the stories in The New Yorker. She wonders, as I wonder, how they can be so finely written and yet so boring to read. She ends off to say that her curiosity is piqued by the idea that people pretend to enjoy the stories in The New Yorker and that this thought makes her giggle. I like that.

Another friend, another skilled writer, relates that they regularly critique stores from The New Yorker in their blog, and with that practice they admit that they do not particularly get the stories either, though they try to say good things (that is where craft comes to the surface) -- they suspect that the mentioned authors may be making anonymous comments in return to the often well measured critique.

Then there was a comment, an inquiry as to a comment one writer made in their blog about the poor show of a specific author (not one to do with The New Yorker, whose name I will not mention here for reasons to become shortly apparent) who suddenly found his backwater blog comments being questioned in a semi-stalker manner by the so specifically named author.

Seems as writers we can all Google Alert, particularly if we have a unique name, to see who does not like our product. To which, the incessant reading of obscure reviews and paying attention to answer to every one of them no matter how incurably trivial I wonder if there is not a certain latent obsessive compulsive psychosis on the horizon.

So that got me to think how I do not relate at all very well to the stories or poems in The New Yorker, and my thoughts about how I as a happily obscure writer do relate to the venerable publication more through the people that I have known associated to it than ever to the merit of any of the literate material.

When I first came across The New Yorker it was at the home of a world expert on ants, his son was my best friend in High School.

When you meet a world expert in most anything there is a certain cache to the experience that bleeds over to wonder what culture there is to the renowned. Their ancestry was 1st generation American from Australia, and that lent a sense of the exotic, for me at least, to the renowned ant expert. Within the northern most reach of the Appalachians, Tompkins County, NY they had come from outside the small circle of our hick farming and university burb. They landed on the university side of the Ag situation, as ants and etymology in general have a lot to do with things like growing three-hundred acres of beans.

She is the first woman that I know who was involved with the League of Women Voters. As an aside, she had two daughters who quite tragically died each of rare and quickly terminal diseases in the prime of their young adulthood.

On his hearing that I wanted to be a poet the word I got back from the world expert on ants was that poetry is a good start for a novelist. It has been one of those tenants that has stuck with me as a guiding light and when I am able to sustain an entertaining narrative past a few thousand words it may yet prove true. I do not know if that maxim to me came in full cloth from the ant expert from the bowels of The New Yorker, or not. You can never quite know where an influence originates.

The world expert on ants took up cultivation of orchids when he retired. He had a room built onto his modest home in order to accommodate this agrarian hobby. The very last word I heard from the ant expert was to all us younger ones to not waste our money to drink cheap beer. He advised us to pay a good price for a good beer. Then he died of complications of diabetes.

It was my friend's mother, who read The New Yorker, while us younger savored the cartoons, and so I have always associated the style of the stories as appealing to my friend's mother. In short I suppose I see a reader of The New Yorker as the spouse of a world expert on ants, and folks who drank a whole lot of beer. God knows what they were actually reading.

At one time The New Yorker was one of a few paying markets for short stories and in part I sense that as with many print media, or old established companies, they are feeding off the weight of the baggage of their legacy. What I mean is that they created through their promotion and publishing a type of literature and in doing so they also created their own ideas about what they were doing in creating a type of literature and that their support of the stories, and poems that they feature now has everything to do with what they think that they are doing. And what they think they are doing has to do with what they did before, and very little, as I see it, to do with the risk of doing something entirely different in the future. In short I suspect that they publish what they publish because they feel it is safe... as long as they do not spike down their subscription base that may, or may not, actually be reading the magazine if not laughing at the cartoons and wondering about the class oriented advertisements.

Though I am not a world expert on anything, not even myself, my wife likes to read The New Yorker and when she finds something that she thinks will interest me she passes it over. Otherwise I tend to keep my distance. We have ants in this approach to Spring season that crawl around our bathroom sink. I like to watch them.

In the work side of my life I have a friend, an architect and not a writer, who is, or was, it has been a while since I was told this story, a friend of the poetry editor at The New Yorker. My friend related how a cadre of younger poets was complaining that the magazine was catering to a clique of specific older writers. The poetry editor got it worked out to include these complaining poets. Then another group of poets came along and complained that they were being excluded. Then I consider that I can't remember ever reading a poem in The New Yorker that I liked and/or had any clue what it was about. I kept my mouth shut on that one when my friend brought it up.

Sometimes a smile is the best answer.


  1. you're not going to believe this, but my old best friend's father was the world's expert on bee's and their communication (dancing? why do i think this?) and I believe his finding made their way the New Yorker at the time.

  2. hmmm... i do believe you. how many dancing ants have you ever heard of?