Anthologies are tough work, but editors can do themselves a favour simply by limiting the type of submissions by theme or solicitation. Dzanc and series editor Matt Bell have done the exact opposite, publishing this ambitious annual collection of the best work published online. Hey, it’s only the internet and its 1.2 billion literary magazines.
As perhaps proof that the web is as egalitarian a publishing platform as we’ve seen, Best of the Web brings established and new writers into the same room. Take, for example, Charles Lennox’s short short, ‘Touching the Spine’, a classic example of the kind of story the web has brought to prominence. In fewer than 500 words, Lennox expresses the frustration of young brotherhood when the narrator punches his brother hundreds of times in the stomach before doing damage. The immediate follower is ‘What Happened to Sheila’ by Dan Chaon, whose novels are perennial ‘best of’ inhabitants – here he offers an essay about the death of his wife, Sheila Schwartz. It’s a beautiful and, as you could imagine, heartbreaking recounting of her battle with cancer and Chaon’s connection with her through her writing.
Of course, we all know the internet is home to just about anything our brains can Google. But what Best of the Web does – aside from doing the work of finding great writing so we don’t have to – is make a case for it as an ideal literary medium.