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New Yorker Fiction from 2003-2007: An Analysis

By posted at 5:11 am on January 7, 2008 4

Recently I got a very interesting email from a reader. Frank Kovarik writes and teaches English in St. Louis. For the last five years, he has also been keeping meticulous track of the fiction that appears in the New Yorker. Not just the titles and authors, but things like gender, country of origin, and frequency of appearance.

Frank has generously offered to make his spreadsheet available to download in Excel format. If you’re interested, you can get it here.

Having this data allows us to dig deeper into the proclivities of New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman and whoever else has a hand in what fiction appears in the magazine’s hallowed pages.

Gender: From the database we learn that, of the 257 stories in the New Yorker from 2003 through 2007, 96 or 37.4% were penned by women.

Nationality: Americans account for a fairly substantial portion of the stories that appear in the New Yorker, 134 of them, or 52% (and this leaves off several writers who could be conceivably classified as both American and a native of another country). Coming in tied for second are the Brits and the Irish at 18 stories apiece.

Frequency: Much of that Irish total comes from master of the short story form, William Trevor, who readers were most likely to find if they flipped through an issue these last five years. Trevor was there on nine occasions. Including, an issue that included three separate but linked stories, Canada’s Alice Munro comes in second with eight stories. 12 other writers have appeared at least five times over the last five years, meaning that 14 writers have accounted for 32% of the fiction in the magazine during that period.

9 stories:

  • William Trevor

8 stories:

  • Alice Munro

7 stories:

  • Tessa Hadley
  • Haruki Murakami

6 stories:

  • Thomas McGuane

5 stories:

  • T. Coraghessan Boyle
  • Roddy Doyle
  • Louise Erdrich
  • Lara Vapnyar
  • John Updike
  • George Saunders
  • Edward P. Jones
  • Charles D’Ambrosio
  • Antonya Nelson

If anybody else draws interesting conclusions from the spreadsheet, we’d love to hear about them.





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4 Responses to “New Yorker Fiction from 2003-2007: An Analysis”

  1. Edan
    at 10:01 am on January 7, 2008

    Wow, that's interesting, and I'm impressed with this research/record keeping! I find the repetition of authors in the New Yorker fiction one of the most annoying aspects of the magazine, although, I admit, the practice makes sense and is easy to defend (these are good writers, with a big fanbase). But, Alice Munro is one of my favorite authors, and I don't read her stories in the New Yorker because I want to wait and read them in a published collection, all at once. I wonder if other readers keep this practice.

    It's distressing that there aren't more women being published in the magazine. The disparity surprises me, although, maybe it shouldn't since, overall, the New Yorker's writing staff is pretty male, isn't it?

    Another thing I've noticed: In recent years, it seems like a lot of the magazine's debut fiction writers are writers in translation, or are writing about the immigrant experience in America. I wonder if there are numbers on this.

  2. Anonymous
    at 12:26 pm on January 7, 2008

    This is quite comprehensive and very well done. At a quick glance, I'm most impressed with the entries from TC Boyle. I believe he's an underated author. Would you agree or disagree?

    Btw, this blog is absolutely awesome. I joined just 2 weeks ago and can't get enough of this. Keep up the great work.

  3. Bud Parr
    at 7:52 pm on January 7, 2008

    Hi Max – you may already be aware of this, but a student at Princeton did this back on '04, a bit more quantitatively. I remember reading about it in the Times, so query there if you're interested.

    best,
    Bud

  4. Poornima
    at 8:57 pm on January 11, 2008

    This is quite fascinating.

    I'd be quite curious to see what their rate of rejection is for various authors. For example, do they always accept works by some authors? I could swear that every time Jhumpa Lahiri breathes a new story to life, it's in the New Yorker. Not to say that I have a problem with that but only that I wonder if they have ever rejected work from some of their favorites.

    On a completely side note, a plug for Secret Ingredients, the New Yorker compilation of food and foodie-related articles. It's delicious!

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