Leafing Through Old Lit Magazines

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Sometimes you read a story published almost a hundred years ago in a magazine and you ask yourself, “Would this stand a chance of getting published today?”

These sentences are long, tangential and laden with disruptive conjunctions. This narrator is all over the place with his emotions and his memories. It almost feels like he feels too much. The arc is muddled. And I feel maybe he used a few too many adverbs. You know, like Nabokov and Bellow did, writers who, I fear, might get reamed in a contemporary writer’s workshop.

San Francisco poet William Taylor Jr, at his blog, shares his recent revelation of looking through a 1934 issue of Story magazine and coming upon an amazing story by William Saroyan, one that he feels could never be published today:

“I just know that much of contemporary writing feels to me at best competent and staidly clever, but often lacking what I would consider a soul. It doesn’t have the ring of honesty. Many writers seem more in love with their words and their selves than the doors they have the power to open and the people they have the power to move.”


Michael Berger is a barely-published writer and book-seller living in San Francisco. He is one of the founding Corsairs of the Iron Garters Bike Club and is currently pursuing a degree in applied pataphysics. He sometimes eats oatmeal for dinner. More from this author →