Sunday, August 25, 2013

Entry # 170 - "Where's The Fiction?"

Great Photo of "Once-in-a-Blue Moon" last week from Alex Dunn
Once again The New York Times Book Review has sparse Fiction Review offerings. It seems to be a growing trend that I’ve watched all year and all summer as fewer novel reviews are printed. In fact today, August 25, 2013, the editors have (once again) lumped three Fiction & Poetry Reviews together. David Orr’s book, On Poetry, is napping quietly between two novel reviews:  A Marker To Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik and Crime by Marilyn Stasio. In fact it is only 'once in a blue moon' that The Times covers more than three fiction reviews. 
Fiction has not always been treated so badly and I am left to ponder why this trend is growing. I am fairly sure that people are still reading novels and short story collections. In fact fiction readership has increased with e-books and print copies selling well.

I am aware that it is much easier to get nonfiction published than to get a novel published.  And of course, getting a story collection published is difficult, to say the least. So the market for nonfiction is robust, and yet today’s Nonfiction Review section consists of eight, (yes – count them) books. I suppose my ‘inquiring mind’ wants to know why?  I can understand devoting pages 11-20 to more than nine Children’s Books. School is about to begin and perhaps parents are scrambling around for fresh recreational reading materials to load into their children’s electronic book lists.
Another - "Once-in-A-Blue-Moon" by Jim Wilson from Florida

While the big publishing giants are publishing more nonfiction, many smaller publishers, as well as university publishers are putting out quality novels and story collections.  Over the last few years many excellent story collections have been published, and yet few readers know how interesting and well written these are because reviews are sparse.  
K. L. Cook’s Love Songs for the Quarantined, Sheldon Lee Compton’s The Same Terrible Storm, Pinckney Benedict’s Miracle Boy and Other Stories, and Daniel Mueller’s newly published collection, Nights I Dreamed Of Hubert Humphrey are only a few examples of work that deserves attention.  And a list of fine (but ignored) novels would be too long to post here.   

But those smaller publishers’ offerings don’t get the same kind of ‘review love’ that the large publishing houses get. I suppose there is no mystery there, since following the dollar tends to reveal so much about how the world works, but I do notice that the playing field for writers is uneven. Maybe that’s where sites like GoodReads can help.

About Jan Bowman

Jan Bowman’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others. Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers. Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, her stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, a Pen/O’Henry award and a recent story was a finalist in the 2013 Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at or

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