Quartet: Four New Voices in American Fiction

THE ATLANTIC HAS PUBLISHED FICTION REGULARLY SINCE its founding in 1857, both to reinforce its claim to territory in the world of imagination and to meet what it feels is a cultural obligation to laborers in the literary vineyards. Many Atlantic authors have been writers of proved and durable reputation; Mark Twain, Henry James, and Harriet Beecher Stowe were among the magazine’s earliest contributors. But from the start The Atlantic also committed itself to publishing the work of unknowns, gambling that its judgment would be upheld by the tests of time and the marketplace. Thus the fiction of writers like Peter Matthiessen, Edwin O’Connor, Joseph Heller, James Jones, and, more recently, James Alan McPherson, Ann Beattie, and Louise Erdrich has appeared in print nationwide for the first time in this magazine.

Until the 1970s, when paper became more expensive and we began publishing more reportage, commentary, and criticism than we once had, The Atlantic published two and sometimes three short stories in each issue. In recent years we have been able to accommodate only one per issue. All the more happily, therefore, do we pause—for a month, at least—in order to reassert this magazine’s commitment to expressive writing in the arts.

The four stories in this issue are the work of writers who are more or less at the beginning of their careers—writers who are not yet widely known in the literary world, and whose short fiction has seldom or never been in print.