Thursday, April 03, 2014

Writing is getting better again

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, collections, magazine writing

In past years I've read the O. Henry Awards collections of "best stories", but this year I couldn't find one. I did find The Best American Magazine Writing 2012, edited by Sid Holt, and that will have to do. The volume features 27 pieces by 19 writers from a broad selection of American literary magazines.

Several of the longer pieces are investigative-journalistic in nature. An example is "The Apostate" by Lawrence Wright. Nearly all the articles are, to various degrees, journalism. I was pleased to see that these articles have very little editorial content or tone, compared to much of today's "journalism" (Editors of newspapers and news journals have mostly ceded editorializing to their writers, and very little true journalism is to be found). Only one piece is fictional, "The Hox River Window" by Karen Russell. As all the best fiction does, it puts you into a place and time, in this instance, the sod-hut culture of the homesteading era.

I had a bit of trepidation embarking on this volume. I have been severely put off by literary writing in the past few decades, finding it either boring or shrill. I hardly read literary journals any more. I suspect most of the writing is still the same, but Mr. Holt and his fellows have gathered examples of writing that makes a fellow glad he read them.

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