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We may not be perfect, but God knows we aren't smart.
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Reading: ABOUT TOWN by Ben Yagoda
Music: UTOPIA: KSAN Bootleg series

I came across this in the book I'm currently reading, ABOUT TOWN by Ben Yagoda--a history of the _New Yorker_ magazine. After a few years of success, they were apparently feeling their oats and this letter appeared in the "Our Captious Readers" section, March 13, 1926:

"The New Yorker

Very seldomly, let me assure you, am I goaded into the undignified position of writing to a magazine. On the other hand, it is even seldomlier that a magazine takes the trouble to attack me personally but when it does so, I fight.
Granted that you have the right to be pleased with yourselves, you nevertheless have taken and are still taking an unwarranted step in your nauseating advertising campaign, particularly in the threatre programs. That smart New Yorkers read your confounded paper may be true. But why imply that a decent people would become smart if they read it? Dammit, I read it. And I am a bootlegger. And practically all bootleggers and others with a sense of humor read it.
Accept my sincerest expressions of disgust. _The New Yorker_ is not smart. Please have the decency to cease from accusing the honest people who support your senseless waggery with their good cash of vices they don't possess. We may not be perfect, but God knows we aren't smart.

So there,

The supposed indignation arises from the dual meanings of "smart" as "fashionable, elegant, especially in a very high degree"--implying that smart people were of a certain societal level--as opposed to the secondary meaning (for the period) with smart referring to intelligence.

In any case, I love the last line of the letter.

But to edge into the topic of writing and submitting stories, I offer this piece from the same book on page 55 in the footnote which describes a response in 1933 for Writer's Digest request for fiction guidelines:

"It goes without saying that no one on the _New Yorker_ sent a reply directly to the _Writer's Digest_. Three years later, this Newsbreak appeared in the _New Yorker_:

_The New Yorker_, 25 West 45th Street, New York. Read by persons who consider themselves superior to the riffraff. -- _Writer's Digest_

It is worth nothing that Gibb's negative definition of the _New Yorker_'s requirements was shared by one of its prolific contributors. John O'Hara's brother, Tom, was an aspiring writer, and in 1932 O'Hara gave him some advice on how to break into the _New Yorker_:
"Don't bother sending them anything that mentions the name of a celebrity, like F.P.A.; don't send them anything pertaining to journalism or advertising, no Greenwich Village stuff, nothing with a trick ending... Be careful not to send them anything too long, and don't send them too many pieces. Writer every day, if you can, and send _The New Yorker_ your best. (I'm a swell one to talk, who just got back two pieces.)""

I've only sent them poetry which was, unsurprisingly, rejected. When I sent a submission to them, their request was that I limit myself to one submission per year. I assume this stricture applied to relatively new writers as myself. Nowadays I hear they're no longer accepting "over the transom" submission, and will only consider submissions sent to them by credible literary agents.

A pity--and their loss. _The Atlantic_ and _Harper's_ can now have the honor of rejecting my work. No more submissions to the _New Yorker_. No, not even if they got down on both knees and begged me... no, not even then.

Well... maybe. Granted, I don't write a lot that's aimed at the _New Yorker_, but still--it hurts to see a magazine close itself up like that. Bad enough that _Playboy_ got rid of its fiction editor.

In other news, I'm working on a short story--only about two thousand words--certainly no more than three. This will be something on the order of an experiment as it's aimed at a specific themed anthology--but I think the work will be worth submitting to some more top-tier markets first. As I pointed out in a previous post, I seem to have better luck when I write to a specific market--_and_ I prefer to send to top-tier markets first. So now we'll see what happens when I write for a specific market, and send it to a different market entirely.

We'll see.


--John Teehan

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