Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tacky?

Or maybe that's too nice a word? In the past, I've heard criticism of anthology editors who include their own work in the books they've been asked to put together. There's an unwritten notion that this just "isn't done." When it DOES happen, eyebrows are raised.

And what about literary magazines? It's not uncommon for a magazine editor to include an "Editor's Note." Often the note is long and self-focused, and not terribly relevant to the issue at hand, which is the issue in hand, but still such a note isn't considered inappropriate.

But, yesterday, the latest issue of The Paris Review arrived in the mail. TPR has for a few years been edited by Philip Gourevitch. The current issue, No. 188, includes a piece of fiction by Philip Gourevitch. It's the same Philip Gourevitch. (The issue also includes a full-page advertisement for a Penguin Books book: The Ballad of Abu Ghraib, by Philip Gourevitch, which raises a different question about what the advertisers expectations of TPR readers might be.) I don't recall seeing an issue of a magazine that included fiction by the editor of that magazine. I suppose it has happened, but I'm sure not often. I've asked some friends, and it doesn't sit well with them, either.

So, I ask you, what was Gourevitch thinking? It's not a long story, just five pages. Maybe he found that he had a few pages to fill at the last minute and so rather than dipping into the slush pile he just took one of his own? Or rather than call on one of the established fiction writers to provide a short piece he just decided to save everyone the trouble and come up with something himself? Or maybe it's a cost-cutting move? Did he save the magazine a few bucks by foregoing compensation for the story?

I'm interested in opinions, and also of other examples where an editor printed his or her own work.

2 comments:

beebe said...

I think you'll have to straight to the horse's mouth and ask him......now, is that tacky? (to ask). Why not ask him? I guess one would want to leave the door open and unspoiled for entry to the Paris Review....Beebe

bevjackson said...

well, as a former editor and former founder and owner of a literary magazine, (one not nearly as esteemed as TPR) I find it truly inappropriate and the mark of poor judgment or ignorance--which is most unbecoming for a venue of their stature. t-a-c-k-y. I see
no excuse for it, myself. Better to leave five blank pages, or fill it with graphics or quotes or anything else.