We’ve established the rules for the game, the teams have been decided, and the managers have been locked away in their Fantasy Blog Draft War Rooms for the past two weeks, chain smoking and debating whether or not to hire Gordon Lish or Ezra Pound. And now: welcome to Round One! Today the teams will be selecting the Editors that will lead their Fantasy Blog Teams into competition.
We’ll make them sweat it out a few more minutes while we go over some of the best reader puns from last week. Two readers submitted some excellent work:
Hal Ungar: “Oh the Places Beecher Stowe” and “Toni Toni Toni Morrison”
Kiki Whang: “Henry David Thoreau The Ball” and “Roald Dahlla Billz”
We’re glad to see reader interest and participation at high levels. Keep up the strong work! The attention has dialed up the pressure on the Fantasy Blog Managers. As commissioner, I have every confidence that the managers will rise to the occasion.
And we have the envelope for the first pick!
With the first pick in the Ploughshares Fantasy Blog Draft, Leave it to Cheever selects Robert Silvers of The New York Review of Books:
Manager Justin Alvarez on the team’s decision:
A team leader isn’t always the loudest or the flashiest, but they are the one willing to put in the most hours “on the court” after everyone else has left for home. The fact that The New York Review of Books still exists is a testament to the editorship of Robert Silvers, who founded the Review fifty years ago with the late Barbara Epstein. Gracious yet a perfectionist, polymathic yet a great listener, filled with a curiosity typically seen in children, Silvers is everything an editor should be.
Despite landing the first pick in the draft, Leave it to Cheever stands by its draft strategy and leaves top talent on the draft board to secure Silvers and his willingness to make a stand—notably with criticism of the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Silvers will not let Leave it to Cheever’s dissent be muffled.
With the second pick, What the Chuckin’ Buk?! selects John Martin of Black Sparrow Press:
Manager Jordan Kushins:
There is not one single person on this earth of ours better equipped to edit my site than John Martin, a man who’s proved utterly fearless in supporting those voices he believed should be shared with the world. In 1966, Martin sold his own collection of D.H Lawrence first editions to fund and establish the now-legendary Black Sparrow Press, and the roster of writers whose words have since appeared between the iconic, beautifully designed matte covers of his publishing house is truly remarkable: John Fante (side note: if you haven’t read Ask the Dust, you should read Ask the Dust)! Paul Bowles! Wyndham Lewis! Joyce Carol Oates! And, of course, Charles Bukowski, whom Martin famously promised to float $100 a month for life (from his own salary! c’mon!) so long as the then all-but-unknown post office worker promised to quit his job and commit to his true calling full-time. Martin is a man whose incomparable vision is matched by a deep, pure admiration and respect for both his writers and readers. He is willing to go to bat for talent he believes in; he has proved that he knows precisely how to build an unparalleled venue for the most remarkable voices of the day; he will lead my team to greatness.
A man who puts his money where his mouth is. Bukowski Netizens are torn on Martin, but part of their complaints stem from possible changes in material—a reality that all writers learn to deal with, especially if the editor is footing the bill!
With the third pick, Vonnegut to the Chopper! selects Maxwell Perkins of Charles Scribner’s Sons:
Manager Brenna Dixon explains:
A great team leader knows how to pick the players—recognizes talent and fosters it. Max Perkins went to bat for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel This Side of Paradise when no one else at Scribner’s believed in it. He saw talent in Hemingway when other editors saw only profanity. Team leaders are dedicated to their players, and what’s more dedicated than being Fitzgerald’s financial benefactor for life? Perkins believed in these men before they were literary giants. He saw the literary world shifting. Faith and foresight make for a successful team leader, and Perkins had both in spades.
Perkins falls to third! This is the man who saved the world from Trimalchio in West Egg; Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; Under the Red, White, and Blue; Gold-Hatted Gatsby; and The High-Bouncing Lover: Fitzgerald’s possible alternate titles for The Great Gatsby! For that one decision alone, the man deserves every bit of praise he gets. Tremendous value this low in the draft.
With the fourth pick, Buckle Your Corn Belts selects Toni Morrison.
Managers Joumana Khatib and Marty Kezon from the Kenyon Review explain:
Born and raised in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison is nothing less than a precious Buckeye gem, yet through her work she has become a striking national and international figure. Her early work with Random House changed the landscape of black literature by bringing writers like Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara, and Gayl Jones into the mainstream of American writing. It’s our belief that the blogosphere would allow her to continue sourcing and promoting new challenging and relevant voices. She understands the publishing world from both sides and is known for her literary and critical work, so her scope is wide. Morrison has never played it safe, and we think it would be fascinating to see what she would accomplish with the blog form, releasing new material daily. She’s wise. She’s still quick. She would rock it.
Huuuuge pick. The most recent American Nobel laureate in literature, who pursued a career in editing before going on to pick up that prestigious award. A writer who, in the words of the Nobel Foundation, “in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” She has also admitted that she knows “how important, how critical” editors are in her interview with The Paris Review.
With the fifth pick, The Mighty Duck Palahniuks select George Plimpton of The Paris Review:
As we all know, a good editor is much more than a gatekeeper, more than a puddle of red ink staining the dreams of literary hopefuls. And Plimpton was so much more than an editor that he became almost more than a man. The commander-in-chief of The Paris Review, Plimpton didn’t just launch the careers of some of the most important writers of our time, he jettisoned them into the stratosphere, where they could join up with the constellations and the mythical figures where Plimpton himself belongs. Awful hyperbole aside, Plimpton was an athlete, an ambassador, and even wrestled Robert Kennedy’s assassin to the ground. You don’t just want an editor, you want Plimpton.
Another contemporary legend is taken. The man who helped publish the first stories of Philip Roth, V. S. Naipaul, T.C. Boyle, Edward P. Jones and Rick Moody in addition to many others. He was also a pop culture icon who hawked video games and refused a hockey mask when defending against Bobby Orr. If The Paris Review’s web presence is any measure, then Plimpton would take to blogs handily.
With the sixth pick, The Holden Caulbabies select Dave Eggers:
Manager Michael Nye explains:
For a challenge like this, a diverse and successful writer like Dave Eggers is perfect. Eggers has worked on a wide range of magazine publications: Salon.com editor, Might magazine founder, SF Weekly comic strip writer, and ESPN the Magazine contributor, before founding McSweeney’s, the independent publishing house of a diverse range of wonderful books and the quarterly literary journal McSweeney’s Quarterly, The Believer magazine, and the terrific McSweeney’s website. He’s edited The O’Henry Prize Stories and the Best American Nonrequired Reading series. Oh, and, of course, he’s written a dozen award-winning books that tackle contemporary issues (Hurricane Katrina, the Sudanese Civil War) and created the 826 National, a national nonprofit organization that focuses on writing and tutoring.
The editorial scope and responsibilities that he’s tackled in just fifteen years is staggering. He’s energetic, charming, connected, and deeply concerned about the writing world. He’s worked with a range of authors, embracing styles that are idiosyncratic and diverse. He’s worked in the publishing industry, from top to bottom, through a two-decade period with some of the most amazing changes since the creation of the Gutenberg printing press. The work that he’s overseen is challenging, engaging, and accessible. I couldn’t think of a better editor to lead The Holden Caulbabies.
By far the youngest editor taken in the draft. This could be a very good selection for The Holden Caulbabies, as Eggers is clearly a friend of writing and publishing in the digital world. Although, if paired with too many old folks from previous centuries, he might go crazy trying to explain, repeatedly, to Charles Dickens that you have to press the Ins key to prevent yourself from overwriting letters!
Our team managers chose well, but as always, there were folks left out. These are the top editors left on the draft board according to the Ploughshares Statistics Bureau:
5. Gordon Lish – His vicious cuts are now an old joke, but he did help reinvigorate the short story. He’d probably work well on the net, where attention spans last 200 words or so.
4. Gertrude Stein – She put together a legendary salon in Paris, one that probably hasn’t been equaled since.
3. George Orwell – A man with a steady editorial vision across genres, his diaries translated amazingly well into blog form.
2. Arianna Huffington – Her news aggregator site The Huffington Post attracts over a million comments a month. You think she couldn’t do literature if she wanted to?
1. Bill Simmons – He started as a columnist for AOL.com and is now the Editor-in-Chief of Grantland, which has redefined blogging and sportswriting.
Who got left out? Are there any editors (from this century or any of the previous) you’d love to see working on a blog? Let us know below in the comments, and come back in two weeks to see who the managers select for their fiction writers.
Dave Eggers photograph taken by David Shankbone.