Friday, July 25, 2008

But What Does It Mean?

Matt Bell's story, "Alex Trebek Never Eats Fried Chicken," is the most notable online story of 2007.  Is it better than yours?  Read it here.  Anyway, congratulations, Matt.


Anonymous said...

"Most notable" according to Jason Sanford of storysouth. Which ain't saying much.
Thye story was an easy read -- short and written in a simple, smooth style.
It gave us a slice of life, and it wasn't done badly, it wasn't phony. But it didn't add up to anything significant. I didn't care about anybody.
Alex Trebek served merely to provide a catchy title. Used to be editors just wanted a catchy first sentence. Now it's the damn title.
Matt Bell has his website, where he talks about his life and promotes his writing. A fledgling career.

JohnFox said...

I think Alex Trebec was used as a symbol of someone who cannot reverse what they are. The protagonist can't imagine Alex Trebec doing anything other than hosting Jeopardy, just as the girl who has already had two abortions, continues in her ways with a third despite her Christianity.

So yes, it is catchy, but I thought it did having a deeper meaning and wasn't superfluous.

Anonymous said...

Oh, that's the deeper meaning, is it.
It's basically a vapid story, so who cares.
What did you think of it, w,r? You seldom (ever?) give your opinion. I mean, did you ever weigh in on "The 13th Egg"?

R.J. Keller said...

It wasn't vapid, anonychicken.

"Our uniforms are shapeless masses meant to fit a wide cross-section of people. We all float inside them, buoyant but never really going anywhere."

God, I've been there. Well done.

Anonymous said...

This is what I don't understand. Why do you all these writers submit story to magazines that can't do anything for them? From looking at Bell's site, I can see that he's published quite a bit, but the venues are pointless. Why???

Why not sending some of these stories to big print mags where something big can possibly happen? I see this all the time now, and I just dont't get it. It seems that people want to get published anywhere.

R.J. Keller said...

Maybe the point isn't the Almighty Publishing Credit. Maybe some writers want their stories to be read.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 1:30pm:

You're suggesting that people DON'T want to be published in The New Yorker, Playboy, or the Paris Review because their resumes don't feature those titles?

The venues on the resume of a young writer are the ones that he can break into, the places that will give his work a chance.

The big print mags where something big can possibly happen are chock full of every scribble Joyce Carol Oates makes and Denis Johnson serials (although, I gotta admit I do love me some DJ).

"It seems that people want to get published anywhere," you write. But that's what you have to do. That's like saying "It seems that people want to get a job anywhere" just because they're not working for the top two or three firms in a particular industry.

Folks gots to do the best they can.

Anonymous said...

Well, then they should just blog.

But from the looks of Bell's site, he's trying to make a career out of this. He has all his publications up, etc.

Anonymous said...

R.J. -- Why you felt moved to call me "anonychicken," I don't know. I just expressed my opinion.
Anonymity is at the heart of this site. w,r is anonymous!
Not that your little name bothered me. Just pointing something out.
And another thing to point out. What's with all these people who have their own blogs? I guess they think their thoughts matter to the world. Some are promoting themselves (links to their work, interviews with great writers like Kelly Link and Jess Row). Of course, they use their name (rather than anonymous) so the reader of their comment can click over to their site and drink in their words.
As for the story in question, I'll say, in closing: People who read a steady diet of contemporaries wind up thinking vapid is meaningful.

Elizabeth said...

An observation: Matt's story is written in first person present, a perspective that apparently chaps the ass of SUBTROPICS editor David Leavitt. From the submissions guidelines:

"A preponderance of the stories coming our way are written in first-person present tense; we are starting to grow weary of this perspective. Please keep this in mind."
(Sorry, I can't make the link thing.)

He's not the only editor I've seen/heard assert that this POV+tense is cliche and passe, though I've seen no other journal include an admonition in its guidelines.

I imagine this will spark a round of MFA bashing, which I deem cliche and passe.

R.J. Keller said...

Throwing around words like 'vapid' anonymously is, I think, cowardly. Hence the 'chicken.' Plus it's more fun than identifying anonymice by posting time, like I did up yonder.

To the best of my knowledge no one has followed my linked name to my blog. I don't expect anyone to do so in the future. But at least I can be held accountable for what I say. I do click on other's links, though, so I can drink it their words.

Anonymous said...

This guy is just one of these internet writers who publish one another. You know, always publishing in mags like Hobart and Smokewhatever it's called. Just people trying to create a niche since they can't/don't want to publish in journals that can be possibly do something for their careers. It's all very strange to me, how they think this can make them credible literary writers, constantly blowing smoke up each others...

Tanya said...

Writers should (and I stress the word should here) submit to journals that they like and enjoy reading, regardless if the medium is print or online. They should submit to places that they would feel proud to see their work in. Yes, we all want as much exposure as possible and to be published in the annual fiction issue of The New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly would be nice, but odds are that's not going to happen.
I do think it's a kind of ignorance to believe that publishing online or in a smaller journal is pointless. Matt Bell's story won him 300 bucks and his story was recently reprinted in a print anthology in bookstores. If one of the goals of a writer is to gain exposure than I think Bell on some level has reached that. That and he got some money to boot.
Personally, I've also submitted to Storyglossia, not because I wanted to be published anywhere but because I *gasp!* like the journal. I've submitted to and been published in well-known journals as well new ones, and it has all managed to help my however fledgeling career.
I can see I'm in the minority when I say I happened to enjoy Matt Bell's story. It's not for me to say whether or not I believe he should have won the award since I didn't judge the contest and the thing is over anyway so there's not much of a point (I don't cry much over spilled milk). I try not to spend too much of time tearing down other writers who are struggling to do the very same thing I am. I will say though, that if you're going to criticize a work, do so properly by saying specifically how the piece failed. Calling a work vapid is not only a matter of opinion but it gets us nowhere. How about explaining what you thought was wrong and being constructive about it? I know it takes more work to do such a thing, but still.
Sadly, I do not have a blog so there will be no drinking up of my words elsewhere. I don't have time for blogs. Reading this one alone takes up precious time when I could be doing other things (like writing, submitting my work, reading an actual novel instead of these bitter ramblings) so this will be my one and only post.

Elizabeth said...

Yeah, you know, hell. I refrained from saying I liked Matt's story because last time I said I liked a story here ("The 13th Egg") I got lambasted by anonymice for failing to say specifically what I liked about it. When I did, they "accused" me (they think it's the ultimate insult) of having an MFA-trained, Pavlovian response, as though an MFA is tantamount to a chip implanted in the brain; end of free thought.

Fuck 'em. I like Matt's story a lot. As a writer I admire the craft; as a reader, I like the layers, the metaphors, the pace, the characters, and the story itself.

Would I like a different story better? Maybe. But like Tanya, I didn't read all the stories that were nominated for this particular award.

Anonymous said...

I guess all the many anonymice who write something critical are cowards. According to r.j.'s "logic."
Maybe, w,r, you should outlaw anonymity on this blog (which would mean that you would have to reveal your identity). Or make a rule that only positve statements are allowed by anonymice. If you write something critical, be a man (or woman) and identify yourself.
I still don't get it, w,r -- why you don't give your opinion of stories. If you run an interview with this Bell guy, I've got the answer.
The reason I didn't work on the story, Tanya, was that it would take too much time and effort, and I didn't think it was worth it. But I read it, and w,r asked for opinions, so I gave mine.
I did give a detailed critique of "The 13th Egg" in a previous post. But there was more substance to that story. And I guess I'm growing weary.
"Egg" and "Chicken" -- now we know: the egg comes first.

Cy U Bormee said...

The fact that anonymous is still harping on "The 13th Egg" proves how little he's got going in his life. It's SO TIRESOME. Who are you, anyway, and in what venues are you publishing that Matt Bell isn't? But, oh what: there's a conspiracy afoot, isn't there, and you're not part of the cabal? You don't know the secret handshake that they teach you in MFA programs. That's right. Sorry. I forgot. You write that you're growing wearing. Well, I'm growing weary of you. All you are is an opinion machine, and a predictable one at that.

Cy U Bormee said...

The fact that anonymous is still harping on "The 13th Egg" proves how little he's got going in his life. It's SO TIRESOME. Who are you, anyway, and in what venues are you publishing that Matt Bell isn't? But, oh what: there's a conspiracy afoot, isn't there, and you're not part of the cabal? You don't know the secret handshake that they teach you in MFA programs. That's right. Sorry. I forgot. You write that you're growing wearing. Well, I'm growing weary of you. All you are is an opinion machine, and a predictable one at that.

Cy U Bormee said...


And it's 'growing weary,' not 'wearing.'

Anonymous said...

Who are you, bormee? Do you know the secret handshake? Are you an MFA student or grad?
The strident, overheated tone of your comment (you were so excited you made the mistakes you had to correct) indicates that you are not bored by me, but exasperated and highly offended. That's why I'm asking you the personal questions. I'm trying to find the source of your anguish.
Again, sorry that I have opinions. Please, w,r, don't ask your readers for opinions anymore. Some people can't take a point of view other than theirs. They get their panty hose all twisted up.
Now THAT'S predictable.

Writer, Rejected said...

My opinion: The story is like having coffee with someone who talks *at* you the whole time. No entry in. The kid seems to have talent, but it's not my kind of story. Too much telling, not enough breathing. Not a bad story. Just NFM.

cy u bormee said...


"Again, sorry that I have opinions," he says, like a whiney child who's not getting his way. But here's the deal: Others on this site have opinions, too, and they don't irritate me because, by and large, they state their opinion and move on. You, on the other hand, feel compelled to insult everyone who has an opinion and demean anyone who's alive and publishing. I haven't read Matt's work, but I say, Kudos to him! At least he's not on here whining and insulting other writers, which seem to be your two favorite pastimes.

I love that you want to know about me. What about you, anonymous? Who are you? You flaunt what you consider your astute critical acumen and then berate those who aren't as analytical as you like to think you are...but, please, quit fooling yourself. What you desperately try to pass off as deep critical thought is actually thinly-veiled ad hominem attacks born, I suspect, of jealousy. And, yes, you do bore me. The reason I made a spelling error last time was because I was yawning.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, w,r. Glad you came forward and stated your opinion of the story. I hope you don't get attacked for doing so.
Bormee would be simply laughable (read his words above, jam-packed with false statements, generic insults, wild exaggerations, etc.) except that he displays a mentality that is closed and vindictive. I call it a knee-jerk mentality, and, in his case, that particularly applies: he couldn't even take the time to read the story before doing his attack dog imitation!
Bormee is a liar; he claims he made the errors in his first letter because he was yawning. No, the apoplectic tone of your comments, bormee, give you away. You're very involved, emotionally.
No original thought comes out of your mind. I'm not ignoring you, though, and that's because you display the mentality I mentioned above. One I find despicable and dangerous. It's common not only in the literary world, but in the political world too. (There's even a breed of political commentator -- often referred to as "attack dogs" -- who display the same mentality you do.)

Writer, Rejected said...


I did not come forward with my opinion at your beckoning. I did not express myself because you demanded it. In fact, I was away for the weekend and not really paying attention.

You seem to have a very grand view of your power because you can goad a few people into arguing with you on petty points (me included once before), and, frankly, I'm not thrilled with the way you conduct yourself around here, and would be pleased if you toned it down (if that's possible for you). Just keep tabs on the overstatement about other bloggers so called "display of mentality" that you call "despicable and dangerous." I don't think anyone else sees it that way: you're really on your own plane, there. Also, don't call people names on my blog. Bormee is hardly a liar. The reasoning there is just absurd.

If you can bring it down a notch to a more reasonable level that reflects what's going on here, that would be good.

Oh, and, honey, on more thing: if anyone operates like an attack dog, that would be you. I'd prefer we all keep the leashes on....

Anonymous said...

I responded in kind.
Look at my first comment. I gave my opinion of the story, and then I was attacked for doing so. I was called a coward, a whiner, jealous. Did that bother you - the tone?
Your first paragraph is baseless. I never "demanded" that you give your opinion on the story. I asked you to, and then wrote that I was glad when you did.
What you're actually not thrilled about is my criticism of you.
I won't "tone it down" (translate: say what w,r finds acceptable). Instead I'll just meander off down the road.
And I'm definitely not your "honey." Who uses language like that?

Writer, Rejected said...

Apparently I do.

Cy U Boorme said...


Here's the problem: You leave your opinion, and then someone else leaves theirs. Your reply?: "Oh, that's the deeper meaning, is it." You see, you think you're smarter, and it comes out in an I-know-more-than-you-do tone. And then you continue to ratchet up the vitriol: "This guy is just one of these internet writers who publish one another. You know, always publishing in mags like Hobart and Smokewhatever it's called." And then, well, your rhetoric just keeps getting uglier and uglier, which is why people here find you annoying. And you call me "close-minded and vindictive," which is, I'm sure you know, a kind of serious neuroses in which you call everyone else the very thing that you yourself are. You also call me a liar (you fail to grasp sarcasm) and dangerous (you haven't looked in the mirror lately, I gather). You've threatened to leave this blog before. No one's holding their breath.

Anonymous said...

Like I said, I'm going to meander off into the sunset.
But, boorme, you're confusing me with other anonymouses. I never wrote the comment about "always publishing in mags like Hobart and Smokewhatever it's called." That was written by somebody else.
I also never "threatened" before that I was going to leave this blog. Once, a while back, I wondered if there were better things we all could be doing.
But now I have said that I will. I'll stick around for a few days, to see what comments might appear, and then this blog will no longer occupy a moment of my time or thoughts.

scott snyder said...

i just saw this! say it ain't so anonymous. you're really... gone?