Remembering Ted Solotaroff
In 1969, Ted Solotaroff published the first short story of mine that had ever seen print, in New American Review #6. This was two years after my first novel, A Hall of Mirrors, came out, and I had never attempted a short story before and was not even certain that I ever would. I was in absolute awe of the short story. Like all writers then and now I was raised on the great modern short stories. In my reading and studies I had been floored by the stories of the great masters, the immortal ones—Chekhov, Hemingway, D. H. Lawrence, Katherine Anne Porter, the O’Connors Flannery and Frank, Bernard Malamud, Cheever, and so many other virtuosi of the form. When I wrote my goofy fantasia of hippie life in Mexico I don’t think it even made sense to most American readers. But Ted was publishing the New American Review series in which, through his selections, he was fashioning a new sense. In the preface to it he wrote—“One of the positive effects of our recent history has been to shake up our minds, to turn the answers of the last decade into the questions of this one.”
He took my virgin, cannabis-happy tale about the sort of people I had been hanging with in California and Mexico and made it part of New American Review. In my youthful excess I used not one but two epigraphs. Ted very usefully suggested one would do. He edited and got me to drop a diffident opening to the story and loosed it on the world. So I had broken my own silence and become a story writer as well.
I may remain far short of the classic moderns I went to school to but Ted’s bringing the story out—along with Coover’s and Gass’s, in the company of great poets like Denise Levertov and Anthony Hecht—encouraged me beyond measure. And I was very happy indeed to find my way into New American Review #22 and #26 years later. I will always honor Ted and his New American Review series as one of the most important and refreshing events of the years since Vietnam, for myself personally and for the country.