“Required New Yorker Short Story Format”

I just got a rejection slip for this story in the mail today (the second rejection for this particular manuscript), but rather than send it out yet again, I’ll share it here.

I got the idea for this piece last Autumn when I read the quote used below to introduce it.  As I drafted the story, I intended it to be a rollicking, silly but of fun.  Looking back on it a bit later, it’s much more serious than I first thought…but still makes a good point.


“Required New Yorker Short Story Format”


“In too many cases, that audience happens to consist of other writers and would-be writers who are reading the various literary magazines (and The New Yorker, of course; the holy grail of the young fiction writer)…. These stories felt show-offy rather than entertaining, self-important rather than interesting, guarded and self-conscious rather than gloriously open…” –Stephen King, The Best American Short Stories 2007


“Dialogue that, without context, is intended to create an in media res effect, but only confuses the reader, though precocious readers are used to this and look forward to the background being fleshed out at some later point in the narrative, giving introductory sentence an appropriate air of contemplative gravitas.”

“Terse interrogative?”

Bombastic reply!”

Deceptively meandering description of the weather this time of year (and its implied resonant mood), and several nearby slice-of-life scenes, each more triumphantly obscure than the one before.

Allusions to John Stuart Mill, Too Much Coffee Man, and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Superfluous obscenity.

Bleak interaction between protagonist and colorful minor character. Random childhood memory. Under-punctuated transitions between several paragraphs of sparse prose juxtaposing minute observations of contemporary urban life with a condensed panorama of life’s essential absurdity.

Abortive burst of action; interior monologue meditates on frustration of even simple attempts to connect meaningfully with one’s ostensible community. Casual mention of socially deviant behavior and a scene concerning exotic food.

[insert dramatic line break here]


Character foil accosts protagonist and proceeds to launch a verbal fusillade rife with multi-syllabic sesquipedalianisms unlikely to actually be employed by someone who has just been established, via a dismal wardrobe metaphor, to be a suburban zombie. Stale middle-class existence tangentially judged and ironically criticized.

“Breezy dismissal of foil’s argument by means of muttering colloquial slang, possibly ‘whatever’ or even ‘OMG’,” said protagonist, with whom readers are meant to increasingly identify their own neuroses.

Fragment approximates postmodern stream-of-consciousness glimpse into protagonist’s soul. A word whose prefix creates a double-“o” is punctuated with an umlaut.


A series of narrative sketches advances plot to philosophical extremes, noticeably including the words “surreal,” “remonstrate,” and “ebulliently recondite.”

Auspicious reference to childhood memory from paragraph six. Sudden conclusion sans closure leaves reader successfully denying an emerging sense of self-imposed psychic constipation, and satisfied with a comfortable emptiness. Reader shivers upon turning page, looking for cartoons.

One comment on ““Required New Yorker Short Story Format”

  1. Gushingly and overly verbose praise. Declaration of brilliance, tempered by snarky comment. Reference to “Garbage Pail Kids”. Obligatory pat on the back.

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