I’ve been on the search the past few days for literary magazines to apply with. As it turns out, there is still a large number of them out there. This makes me very happy; the lit mag seems to be the last stronghold of the short story and novella formats. My one gripe is this: why, when I look under the submissions guideline, do they tell me, “We are looking for works of the highest literary quality”?
This will never cease to infuriate me; short stories—like all stories—should first and foremost be accessible and entertaining. Would Oliver Twist have been any more important if Dickens decided to forego character development in favor of—what?—format experimentation? sending a message beyond what was an natural occurrence in the plot.
And what do they mean by quality? Are they looking for perfect syntax, because then Mrs. Dalloway would then be considered a pile of tripe. Is it message? Write off The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
It seems to me that lit mags are, in many ways, becoming like jazz music: insulate to the point of being unapproachable. And that is not to say that it is bad, but—let’s face it—it isn’t easy listening to modern jazz, which has essentially thrown out its swing and big band roots. It is, likewise, prudent that magazines remember that entertainment should always be number one. Sherlock Holmes was published in a magazine once, and I don’t think that anyone would put him on a pedestal with Heart of Darkness