The US short story Forget the American novel; it’s the American short story that really shows up British literary culture. Why? One answer is magazines. Not only are US writers, readers and publishers more interested in the form, they have a varied crop of classy generalist journals in which the story thrives. So it comes as a bit of a surprise to find that the Atlantic Monthly, the oldest of the great American magazines, has just decided to drop its short stories. Instead, it will publish an extra issue a year dedicated entirely to fiction. “We don’t want to lose a connection with this art form,” explains editor Cullen Murphy, “but we do need to be realistic about why more and more people are buying our magazine.” And why is that? There seems to be increased appetite in America for in-depth, long-form, narrative journalism (another species, frankly, that’s bred better in the US), and Murphy needs the space for non-fiction as his newsstand sales have more than doubled in the last four years. He concedes that shifting fiction sideways means losing an element of “having many forms jostling with one another within one magazine,” but emphatically does not see it as indicative of a falling away of US interest in short fiction. “The short story remains a vital form in America—perhaps not to the degree it was 50 years ago, but still robust.” Of course, this is an indirect way of reminding readers that Prospect’s appetite for fiction is only growing (see Rose Tremain in this issue). The Atlantic, being our big, monthly American cousin, was an early inspiration when we were deciding to carry regular fiction—the truth is, we’re sorry to see its regular stories go. But it’ll be a good reason to pick up the Atlantic in July, by which time Prospect will itself be launching new initiatives on the British short story. Watch this space.
Liam Gillick liberates the home office Former Turner prize nominee Liam Gillick has been much praised for his contribution to architect Terry Farrell’s new home office building on Marsham Street in Westminster. The artist has designed a multicoloured canopy of coloured glass over the entrance. It may be a step up for Gillick—aesthetically as well as politically. He usually works in perspex, developing a “post-utopian critique of modernism.” The idea is to liberate modernist architecture from the oppressive social and political controls which lie behind its apparently functionalist designs. As Gillick moves from perspex to glass, however, one wonders what kind of social controls his art is liberating us from. The home office’s new anti-terrorism legislation?
The Emirates biennale Can art zoom in to places in the Arab world where liberal democracy and free market economics lag behind? The United Arab Emirates, the first country in the world with a seven-star hotel, recently opened its seventh art biennale—in Sharjah. Arabian art lovers, dressed in traditional white robes and kaffiyehs, drifted incongruously (at least to a western observer) around a could-be-anywhere exhibition—video screens, photography, site-specific work. There was only one sign of cultural specificity. The curators welcomed a work by Santiago Sierra which exhibited the pages of a phone directory segregating Arabs in Israel, but they refused to show Sierra’s counterpart work—a reading of the names of the victims of the Madrid bombing. Otherwise, the event would have been familiar to anyone in the contemporary art jet set. There was even a roundtable discussion which coined a word to describe the phenomenon of this most globalised species of art show: “biennialicity.”
John Malkovich’s wardrobe John Malkovich has turned fashion designer. He sells some of his clothes at the Royal Court Theatre on 30th April in the John Malkovich Trunk Show, with a percentage of proceeds going to the theatre. His collection, named Uncle Kimono, is, he says, “a menswear collection which has resonance of late 1950 Californian beach boys, some Palm Springs Rat Pack, a touch of lounge lizards, and a recollection of a Swiss banker who’s been let go.”