A mountain of words surrounds us. The source of intimidation used to be towering shelves of slumbering books. Today the volumes that overwhelm the reader are tenfold what they used to be and rise in transparent, odorless spires of air. We know how to tap in, to connect using a plethora of plastic and metal tablets, but once engorged by the flood of information where and how do we start to parse the noise?
Critical Masses is pleased to introduce a new monthly column, The Small Winners. The Small Winners will shine a light on the rare and overlooked writing that I fear will soon be lost forever beneath the ever-expanding, unqualified expanse of data that has overtaken our contemporary world.
My mission: to dive into the unknown regions and tirelessly, ceaselessly seek out the overlooked and unknown potential works of art that are threatened to be forgotten, or worse – missed entirely. When I find such artifacts, I will drag them back here for your inspection – for you to see for yourselves, hold them up to the light, and most importantly, to help us celebrate the good ones.
Now, what would a critical column be without criteria — a simple way to tell good from bad? Well, not much, right? So, here is what I think it takes to be a “Small Winner.” I am looking for rare works of truth, and by truth, I mean fiction. And by fiction, I mean anything where words are used to construct a reality that is more honest, more intelligible, and more integral to the human experience than anything you can read in a newspaper or on a non-fiction shelf. So, yes, I will cover poetry as well as stories and novels. I will flip through those archaic printed books and journals you can see collecting dust at your local library or bookstore; and I will scour the aether for new media: e-journals, blogs, flash fiction, podcasts, and the like. I may even report on live performances when I get the chance. Most importantly, I will bring only works that I feel stun and enthrall the reader. You won’t find a negative word written here about any work – that is my promise. This is a list for the winners. I won’t mention the losers.
I hope you love this column, that you tell your friends and family about it, that you print it out and make piles in your room that fall on you while you sleep and take over your life. Actually, I really hope that just one of you will take a moment and read just one new thing that opens your eyes to something you didn’t know existed, that gives you that feeling that you are not alone in the world, that spawns within you a feeling of hope that life is not just a million people side-by-side playing a never-ending game of solitaire. Every now and then, it’s good to be reminded we can look over each other’s shoulders and see we are all playing the same game.
Enough said. I hope you enjoy reading The Small Winners. I do not offer fame or glory. Instead, I provide a subtle gesture of thanks to each of these works before they dissipate for good into the airy void of too much information and not enough memory.
If you like the column, let me know! If you take a giant leap of faith and take one of my recommendations, please be sure to come back and tell us about what you read and what it meant for you and whether you think it should be lost forever or kept in that spot over the mantle (or lodged in your plastic device). If you have suggestions for works we can review or if you’d like to write a review of your own, email me!