The Development of the American Short Story: An Historical Survey

By Fred Lewis Pattee | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
THE JOURNALIZATION OF THE SHORT STORY

I

By the later 'nineties the short story had become so established an article of merchandise that the production of it became a recognized industry with numberless workers. The coming of the fifteen-cent magazine and the Sunday supplement stimulated greatly the quantity of the output. By 1900 the short-story stream had become a flood and syndicates had been established to handle it. Each magazine and paper had its own definition of short-story excellence and to get what it wanted paid often unheard-of prices. The New York World paid O. Henry one hundred dollars a week for his story contribution, whatever it might be, to the Sunday issue, and later the Saturday Evening Post paid for each of its short stories more than many of the great English novelists a generation before received for complete novels that have become classics.

Magazine and newspaper offices now became schools for shortstory writing. Young reporters and copy readers and editors, stimulated by the success of Kipling and other popular writers, grown adept in the rules of the game, became themselves producers. The new generation of writers came largely from this journalistic training school. One needs cite but the names of Richard Harding Davis, Lafcadio Hearn, Stephen Crane, Harold Frederic, George Ade, William Allen White, Thomas Janvier, John R. Spears, Alfred Lewis, and such modern instances as Theodore Dreiser, Willa Cather, James Branch Cabell, Edna Ferber, Irvin Cobb, Freeman Tilden, Zona Gale, Sinclair Lewis--it is needless to extend the roll.

Frank Norris in his "Salt and Sincerity" papers in The Critic of 1902 caught the literary pitch of the new century. The writer of fiction, he believed, must be like the writer of news for the morning journal, in closest touch with the great democratic mass called "the American people" He should make it his constant

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