I’ve started reading…

I've started reading again, for pleasure. It's lovely, to read things that one doesn't have to read. I read Crowley's collection of three novels, Otherwhere, a few days ago; I particularly enjoyed the third, Engine Summer. Then I read Lisa Goldstein's The Dream Years -- not her best, but interesting and a good read. She's one of those authors who, when they're good, they're very very good, and when they're bad...well, they're still just fine. And now I've just finished Salman Rushdie's East, West, a collection of stories, many of them previously published in The New Yorker, Granta, Atlantic Monthly, etc. And...I just don't know. They were good, truly, but did they blow me away? No. Do I like them better than some of my own stories? I don't think so. And sometimes I wonder if I just totally lack perspective, if these stories they're publishing are much better than mine, and I just can't tell, somehow.

Maybe I'm lacking the ability to apply critical distance to my own work. It's possible -- I remember, ten years ago, thinking what I was writing then was pretty fabulous. Am I similarly blindered now? I find myself desiring an objective judge -- not an editor, constrained by who knows what other market forces, and not a friend, who will be inclined to be kind to my stories -- just someone of exceedingly good taste, well read and familiar with these magazines I'd like to sell to, someone who can read my stories and then just tell me if they're good enough, if they're on the same level with the ones they're publishing. If so, then I can keep submitting, keep trying for one of their few empty slots. If not, I'd rather know now, so I can step down a level or two in trying to publish these stories, and then work harder on making the next ones better. Which, of course, I should be doing anyway.

I don't mind rejections -- it's just that I want them in reasonable proportions. One acceptance for every ten stories I send out -- that would be nice. One in twenty, I could live with. One in thirty -- sigh, okay, but better if I know those are the odds I'm living with. And if it's much worse than that -- well, tell me now, so I can brace myself properly. That's all I'm saying.

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