CHALLENGE to New York!

empire state

We’re pleased to announce an ongoing Challenge! to any New York City literary journal– but especially to the most prominent New York journals, Paris Review, Electric Literature, and nplusone magazine. We challenge any or all of them to engage with us in a reading contest.

Each side would put forth the best short story of theirs, whether recently published, or accepted and in the pipeline. We’d post both stories online and invite general readers to decide the question: Which is the better story?

(Our likely candidate would be a brand new story by NPL’s own Kathleen Crane.)

This would be more than a contest of Detroit versus New York. It would be a test of styles– pitting status quo “literary” writing against our new “pop lit” model. Obviously, we’re confident that we’ve come up with a better product, and wish to display that. At minimum, the match would be fun, maybe exciting.

The New York publications should have every belief they’d prevail. Odds strongly favor any one of them. After all, their journals are backed by  plutocrats and large publishers. They’re hyped by the enormous Manhattan media machine. They have ready access to the cream of Ivy League writers– elite graduates from the most prestigious universities on the planet outside Oxford and Cambridge. By contrast, we’re lowly upstarts operating out of America’s most beaten-down major city.

We’ve tossed down the gauntlet. Will any of New York’s courageous literary intellectuals take up the challenge? Let’s see!

(This is part of our new “Democracy in Literature” project.)


The Most Privileged Writers in America Are Whining

keith and emily


Why are New York lit-media’s glamor couple, Keith Gessen and Emily Gould– Scott and Zelda without the charisma or talent– always whining?

First we saw Emily Gould in an essay early last year complaining how she spent a $200,000 book advance on a $1,700-a-month Brooklyn apartment and cat expenses.

An inadvertently hilarious tale of arguments with Mom; the health problems of her cat, Ruffles; envy of Lena Dunham; crying at high-priced Broadway plays; and the like. Woe is me!

THIS is the essay which caused lit critic Ed Champion to blow up his mind and career last summer in an 11,000-word rant which called Gould a literary narcissist; prelude to the first of Ed’s two nervous breakdowns.

Or maybe it was Emily Gould’s essay collection, And the Heart Says Whatever.


Now we have Keith Gessen adding to the Insider whine with an essay in the newest issue of his literary journal, n+1. The essay is titled “Brief History of a Small Office.” It chronicles the amazing fact that an intellectual journal written in dense prose and containing a ton of academic jargon per page isn’t swimming in bucks. The attitude is akin to Emily Gould’s: We’re special. Somebody pay for us! (Realities of the market are unacknowledged, because n+1‘s editors are, er, “Marxists.”)

Meanwhile, in just the past few months n+1 magazine has received splashy write-ups in both the New York Times and Washington Post. Merely one of n+1‘s staff of well-bred and well-connected editors, Keith Gessen regularly writes for America’s best-paying magazines. In just the past year, for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and New York magazine, among other outlets. Things couldn’t conceivably be better for these folks.

Keith Gessen and Company are apologists for Big Five publishing as well as recipients of its largesse. Yet it’s not enough! Maybe things aren’t quite as cushy in the posh New York literary world as we’ve been told.