Fiction Fix: Cheever (plus bonus short story links)


The Fiction Fix is your weekly dose of short story. If that’s not your drug of choice, too bad: consider it medicine. Every week, we’ll scour the literary magazines you don’t have time to read, online and in print, and let you know where to find one story worth reading.

This week, your Fiction Fix is a long out-of-print short story by John Cheever, serialized on Five Chapters (note: start with Monday). The story is set in a charming post-WWI Boston, and follows the love affair between a young insurance agent and an exotic girl who lives across the river in Cambridge, and functions as a trailer for a few Cheever-related volumes out this spring. On her blog, Maud Newton uses Cheever to remind everyone that publishing, particularly of the short story, has suffered seriously before.

The short story, maligned, neglected, recently defended, may be heading into a renaissance. HarperPerennial has declared this summer “the Summer of the Short Story” in an effort to promote the genre, and its 12 forthcoming collections (six new books and six reissues or greatest hits collections from classic authors). Summer may be months away, but HarperPerennial has already launched its campaign: Fifty-Two Stories, a blog publishing a story a week, chosen by editorial director Cal Morgan. The stories will include new work in forthcoming collections, classics from the publisher’s backlist, and they’re even accepting submissions. Featured stories include work by Louise Erdrich, Willa Cather, Dennis Cooper, and Mary Gaitskill. Perhaps Morgan is taking a cue from Narrative Magazine, which introduced its Story of the Week feature last fall.

In the UK, eight writers have been commissioned to produce short stories set in the royal parks. The project was conceived to “celebrate” the parks and the short story; but it no doubt also helps keep writers afloat in what is, “perhaps, the worst time in history to be starting out as a writer” since John Cheever started out in 1935.