Editor's Letter: The Strange Case of the Turning Point 


I don’t set out to create theme issues of The Literarian. I tried that once, long ago, with the dog issue, and I hope someone will bite me if I ever suggest doing that again. (Though I loved the stories, keeping everything on-theme became frustratingly confining.) That said, when each issue comes together, I invariably find some interesting connective tissue. The five original short stories in this issue all involve, directly or implicitly, a moment when a life is irreversibly changed, even if that moment is visible only in hindsight. Emma Törsz, in “Pooside,” turns a laser-sharp eye on the birth of desire and the beginning of taboo. Dan Simon, in “Ancient Greek,” mines the subtle implications of a woman’s long-ago summer of “falling back to earth” and studying ancient tongues. Alake Pilgrim, our Literarian/Summer Literary Seminars contest winner, reveals an extraordinary story of catch-and-release in “Blue Crabs,” while Robert Lopez’s chilling and darkly funny “I Want to Kiss Myself, God Good,” circles in on an irretrievable loss. Christie Hinrich’s shattering “Snag” engages not only a new marriage but also the natural world and heads to a point of no return. Lately there has been debate over whether fiction must have “sympathetic” characters. For me, that is simply the wrong question. The real question is, do I want to spend time with this narrative voice? In the case of these five stories, the answer is a resounding yes.

Also in this issue, we’re delighted to present Roxana Robinson’s perceptive and thought-provoking five-pack of books about war, Sam Lipsyte’s moving—and somewhat surprising—“The Book that Made Me a Reader,” plus an interview with the legendary James Salter. Our featured international journal is Island, from Tasmania; our featured video is of Fiction Fellow Manuel Martinez reading at the center.

Finally, we asked a few of the authors who appeared at the Center for Fiction during our 2012-2013 season to fill us in on what they’ll be reading this summer. They’ve got their work cut out for them. Like a few of these authors, I like to use summer for re-reading—for finding something new in an old book I’ve loved. Don’t know where my literary wanderings will take me this summer, but I’ve started with a third read of Norman Maclean’s hauntingly beautiful A River Runs Through It. The thing about a great book is that its turning points turn over and over in the mind and heart of the reader—and it’s the reader, every time, who is transformed.


Now start reading.



P.S. Check us out in print. Our paper-and-ink version includes visual art curated by Aliza Kelly Faragher, with arresting work by Beata ChrzanowskaTimothy Dollard, and Janine Polak.



Photo by Claire Holt


Dawn Raffel's most recent book is an illustrated memoir, The Secret Life of Objects. She is also the author of two story collections,  Further Adventures in the Restless Universe and In the Year of Long Division, and a novel, Carrying the Body. Her fiction has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, BOMB, Conjunctions, Black Book, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, The Quarterly, NOON and numerous other periodicals and anthologies. She has taught in the MFA program at Columbia University, and at Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia; Montreal; and Vilnius, Lithuania.