FOR many years The Atlantic Monthly made a point of publicizing what were known as Atlantic "Firsts": short stories in our pages that happened to be the authors' first published works. We gave up the designation a long while ago, worried that the existence of the category implicitly (and wrongly) suggested a sort of second-class status. The fact remains that once or twice a year a work of fiction in The Atlantic's pages represents a writer's breakthrough story.
"Unraveled," by Liza Ward, in this issue, is such a story. We call attention to the fact with particular pleasure because Ward was until recently a junior member of the magazine's staff, serving as an intern last winter and spring. Ward grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from Middlebury College in 1998 with a degree in English; her undergraduate thesis took the form of short stories. Ward came to her Atlantic internship a year later, after stints in the editorial department of J. Crew and at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference (which she described in an autobiographical statement as "an extremely rewarding but very odd experience, like a two-week-long awkward dinner party"). Ward's story, with its dark whimsy and cut-glass prose, captivated the staff's fiction readers.
New voices have always been one of this magazine's important components. The rest of the September issue points up others -- from the literary-biographical essay (see Geoffrey Wheatcroft's elegant assessment of Kingsley and Martin Amis) to exceptional foreign reporting (Robert D. Kaplan's dispatch from the fissuring region that, for the sake of convenience, remains widely known as Pakistan) to the reconsideration of a public issue that may have been smothered in news coverage without having been covered properly (Charles C. Mann's exploration of Internet piracy and the music industry). And, finally, there is the sort of article this magazine has always taken special delight in: a piece of writing that, in its honesty and clarity, opens an unexpected window onto something we didn't even know we wanted to learn about -- as is the case with Stephen Zanichkowsky's memoir of growing up, almost anonymously, one of fourteen children.
As for Liza Ward, she is currently enrolled in the creative-writing program at the University of Montana, in Missoula, and is at work on a collection of stories.
-- THE EDITORS
Photograph by Brendan Faulkner.
The Atlantic Monthly; September 2000; 77 North Washington Street - 00.09; Volume 286, No. 3; page 4.