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My personal opinion on The Paris Review incident 28 July 2010

Posted by The Inimitable M in Books, Reviews and Writing.
Tags: , , ,

While the Wylie/Random House trumped-up “crisis” has hit publishing news all over the place, no one talks about the news that is really the bigger ethical issue:

The Paris Review changes poetry editors and de-accepts/un-accepts poetry that was previously accepted in writing.

Daniel Nester writes about this at length in what is – so far – a 7-part series.

Professionally, I think this is tacky, unethical and completely unprofessional.  Unfortunately, because not a one of the accepted-now-unaccepted submissions is accompanied by a signed contract, there’s nothing illegal about it.

The Paris Review needs a pretty severe knock-back for what they’ve done, but at the same time, caveat scriptor.  Until you have signed the contract, don’t believe for a minute that you have ever been “accepted”. 

Do I now take a dim view of The Paris Review?  Not any more than I do all literary journals.  How many are in the US these days?  Hundreds, and this right here is just a partial list.  Everybody thinks they’re a critic, and everyone else seems to want to be picked by these critics.  And if people don’t like the choices for the journals to which they’ve submitted, why, they just start their own. 

Personally – and this is my personal blog, remember – I think there is a massive amount of subjectivity in the world of literary journals, which is why there are so bloody many of them in the first place.  Submitting to a literary journal ends up in rejection letters for most writers.  It ends up a handy little write-up on the CVs of others.  Maybe there might be a little financial compensation with the better known rags, but all I see is that it makes the back of their possibly-published novel/ compendium/ anthology seem more impressive.  I don’t happen to buy books that way, however.   I buy them on their own merit, not on the merit given to them by others.

Yes, winning awards or having been in a literary journal sells, particularly to a reading public who relies heavily on the opinions of others, rather than their own.  It truly doesn’t make the inside of the book on which this information appears any more digestible than it was at the outset.  The award isn’t validation of the book.  Readers are fickle.  Writers are just as fickle.   One has to remain consistent.  It doesn’t always work.

I have never submitted any of my work to a literary journal.  I write because I feel like writing, and maybe I think I have a story to tell.  Are any of them award-winning stories or “worthy” of submission to a literary journal?  When I see some of the garbage that wins awards and goes into print in journals, I breathe a thankful sigh of relief that they are not.

To submit for an award or to be included in a literary journal is a competition – always a competition.  I’ll push for others who want to compete, but I’m always in a supporting role because I like it that way.  It’s why I do what I do.



1. Lanie - 28 July 2010

Not that it matters what the fool thinks about this situation. But I totally agree with you and I am sure I am not the only one<3

2. One of those weeks. | M - 28 July 2010

[…] is about half an hour, then I’m down again.  That’s better than yesterday.  I had a singular spurt of coherence this morning, and that was […]

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