An article in the Yale Daily News in which Paris Review editor Lorin Stein bemoans the current state of literature is causing a bit of a fuss online. What does Stein, recently coming off another poetry kerfuffle, have to say about contemporary lit? Here you go:

“Short stories remind me of death, and poems are hard,” Stein said. Of poetry, he added: “I can’t tell where the pressure to not make sense is coming from. God damn it! What is it about? What are you saying?”

Stein said he does not enjoy a lot of the short fiction and poetry that is published in magazines today. When he looks at submissions to his magazine, he said, he is searching for pieces that could be “stuck up on the fridge” — stories and poems that resonate because they are about real life. Young writers do not have enough life experience to tackle the important themes that only fiction can illuminate, Stein said, so they write about writing instead. Exploring topics like sex and family takes a level of detachment that can be achieved in fiction, but not on Facebook, he said, and many aspiring authors don’t know how to approach them.

At Yale, Stein was the editor of the Yale Literary Magazine, but said he was frustrated at the time because he did not feel that other students took literature seriously.

Stein said because good literature is rare, magazines like this are hard to sell today, especially to young people.

“We used to think of [the readership] as a little old lady who lived on the Upper East Side,” Stein said. “[She’s] moved to Florida and now she’s on Facebook, on Skype, with her grandkids.”

Only two people raised their hands when Stein asked who in the room subscribed to The Paris Review, which Stein said was a sign that he isn’t reaching his target audience. As an added incentive, he offered a $10 subscription discount for those who wrote to him with “Trumbull” in the subject line.

Originally Published: November 15th, 2010