(Not) The Best Christian Short Stories: Bret Lott, Editor

I kind of liked some aspects of Bret Lott’s Jewel (the lyrical voice, the emotional connection to the characters), so when I saw he had edited a collection, I decided to give it a try. The title made me wonder if anyone was creating good literary works that dealt with transcendent themes, but Lott terrible selections responded with a resounding no. What he promises, in the introduction, is literary fiction. What we get is half-craft moralistic fluff. Why is it that so many religious authors resort to the moralistic fable? Why is it that they refuse to make characters actually do something evil? (unless they are roundly punished in the end) What can’t they curse like real human beings? (saying that a character said a word beginning with “D” and ending with “it”, is not, as one of these authors assumes, transgressive) Where are the Flannery O’Connors of today?

In fact, Lott picked such horrible selections (on some of these, the prose sounds like something straight from a young adult series) that it made me wonder whether the publisher wanted only to capture the evangelical market, rather than anyone who is near literate. The answer did lie in the publisher: WestBow is a publisher for “Christian” novels, which means they did want him to select goodie-goodie stories free of any nasty elements that might ruffle conservative feathers. Westbow even sponsored the contest that one of the included stories won, for which they promised a book contract. The question then is why Lott would agree to put his name on a collection like this – perhaps his taste is not quite as good as it seems. In the end, I guess to get a real anthology of Christian stories, you need a secular publisher to publish it.

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2 Responses to (Not) The Best Christian Short Stories: Bret Lott, Editor

  1. JohnFox says:

    I think you’re right – Lott, from what I know of him, does have good writing skills, and yes, as an editor of Southern Review, generally has good taste. So I’ll blame this one on the publisher. Thanks for checking out the site!

  2. Brent says:

    I forgot to add that Lott edits the Southern Review…

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