When good things happen to good writers
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Edith has published hundreds of works of fiction and nonfiction in literary journals, national magazines, and online publications. Her short stories have been anthologized (“Best American Short Stories”) and have won O. Henry, Pushcart, and other prestigious prizes. So why has the tone of the praise been along the lines of “why haven’t I heard of Edith Pearlman before?” More importantly, why are people hearing about her now?
Edith herself credits a few people--her agent, Jill Kneerim; Patchett, who has admired her work for years; and Benjamin George, the editor of Lookout Books, the brand new literary imprint beginning its life with “Binocular Vision.” What happened was that George, who had published Edith’s stories in the magazine he edits, “Ecotone,” simply liked her work enough to want to help it find a larger audience. Maybe “simply” isn’t quite the operative word here, with all the complications of publishing and promoting a book, getting it into the hands of reviewers, and then the hands of readers. But the short version of what happened is this: Someone. Paid. Attention. Someone noticed that these stories were, indeed, very fine, worthy of much praise and wide readership.
I am extraordinarily happy for Edith (to whom I am eternally indebted for introducing me to Dr. D!). And her experience, I think, has something to teach us all. For writers the message is to stay true to what you do. For readers--and that includes the writers--honor the work that has been offered to you. Read it with open hearts and let it touch you: pay attention.
Edith will be reading from “Binocular Vision” this Tuesday at 7 at Brookline Booksmith. See you there.