Thanksgiving, the day of thanks and copious amounts of wondrous food is almost upon us. So with that in mind I'd like to give my thanks to Stephen King. Yes, I know, not the normal statement one would hear while gathered around the table looking upon a roasted bird. But all references to food aside, I would like to give thanks to Mr. King for his sense of humor while searching for great short stories during his editorship of The Best American Short Stories 2007. And I am especially thankful that during his search he brings to light the difficulty in finding literary journals in a bookstore when he writes:
I walk past the best sellers, past trade paperbacks with titles like “Who Stole My Chicken?,” “The Get-Rich Secret” and “Be a Big Cheese Now,” past the mysteries, past the auto-repair manuals, past the remaindered coffee-table books (looking sad and thumbed-through with their red discount stickers). I arrive at the Wall of Magazines, which is next door to the children’s section, where story time is in full swing. I stare at the racks of magazines, and the magazines stare eagerly back. Celebrities in gowns and tuxes, models in low-rise jeans, luxury stereo equipment, talk-show hosts with can’t-miss diet plans — they all scream Buy me, buy me! Take me home and I’ll change your life!
I can grab The New Yorker and Harper’s while I’m still standing up, without going to my knees like a school janitor trying to scrape a particularly stubborn wad of gum off the gym floor. For the rest, I must assume exactly that position. I hope the young woman browsing Modern Bride won’t think I’m trying to look up her skirt. I hope the young man trying to decide between Starlog and Fangoria won’t step on me. I crawl along the lowest shelf, where neatness alone suggests few ever go. And here I find fresh treasure: not just Zoetrope and Tin House, but also Five Points and The Kenyon Review. No Glimmer Train, but there’s American Short Fiction, The Iowa Review, even an Alaska Quarterly Review. I stagger to my feet and limp toward the checkout. The total cost of my six magazines runs to over $80. There are no discounts in the magazine section.
How many of us have done such things in search of short stories? I have. So let's all give thanks for the types of short stories that give the reader, as Mr. King says, "something that comes at me full-bore, like a big, hot meteor screaming down from the Kansas sky. I want the ancient pleasure that probably goes back to the cave: to be blown clean out of myself for a while, as violently as a fighter pilot who pushes the eject button in his F-111."
So before you sit down to enjoy the holiday, read Mr. King's article then pick up your favorite collection or journal and enjoy being taken to parts unknown with characters as real as your Great Aunt Beatrice, who brings the sweet potato pie to Thanksgiving, along with her annoying yappy little dog, Chester.