Thursday, January 29, 2009

Russell Smith's Reading List...

... can be found here. On it, the Salon des Refuses, of which he says:

The "Salon des Refusés" joint issue of The New Quarterly and Canadian Notes and Queries. These two Canadian literary magazines published a joint alternative to the massive Penguin Book of Canadian Short Stories, which they saw as inadequately reflecting the best of this genre.

The litmags' choices tend to be rather artsier; the Penguin book is more of a survey of the writers who have been deemed important or popular in the genre. The Penguin criteria seem more aesthetically neutral. I would recommend reading the two magazines (they are still available in many bookstores, or you could go to their respective websites) not as an alternative to the Penguin book, which is historically interesting and has a few gems in it (Munro, Gowdy, Johnston, Lyon, Coady, Lee) but as a complement.

The journals' stories reflect the aesthetic of the small presses: dense, complex prose, oblique or otherwise unusual points of view. Where the Penguin anthology does feel good for you from time to time, earnestly plodding through important Canadian themes, the Salon des Refusés is sheer intellectual and sensual fun. Furthermore, there are very short commentaries on each story, either by the author or by another writer, that give insight into how writers' minds work - both how they construct stories and how they read them.

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