I don’t care much for the fiction in The New Yorker, although I often read it to see what the literary elites (a potential audience of mine, perhaps by the 23rd century) prefer.
The fiction editors usually seem more concerned with who wrote the story, rather than its quality. Case in point, a 1936 short story written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, titled “Thank You for the Light,” previously unpublished, found in a recent audit of his papers, and published in the August 6 issue.
I suspect TNY has edited the story, since it fits perfectly onto one page. As far its literary merit, my opinion is that this is approximately a second draft, and that Fitzgerald may have intended to work on it further, or to abandon it. The story has a certain sketchiness to me, as though Fitzgerald wasn’t done tinkering, wasn’t quite sure about the theme.
So what’s it doing in The New Yorker, that pinnacle (or so some writers believe) of short story fame and fortune?
Obviously TNY’s primary goal is to sell magazines, so by publishing stories only by well-established authors whose presence in their pages serves as a form of advertising. They are essentially “brand name” authors who make many readers feel comfortable about the content. A check of recent short stories yields pieces by Alice Munro, Zadie Smith, Junot Diaz, and other best-selling writers.
I’m curious as to others’ opinions of the fiction in The New Yorker. Are you wowed by their stories, or find them safe and unchallenging? Which publication, if not TNY, do you turn to when you want to read a great short story?