Commonweal regularly published fiction from the 1920s into the 1950s, including work by Graham Greene and an entire novella by Evelyn Waugh, “Love among the Ruins” (July 31, 1953). Waugh’s own delicate line-drawings were even used to illustrate the text. Why the magazine more or less stopped publishing short stories is not entirely clear, but presumably the decision had something to do with the quality of material available. Today it is much remarked on that space for fiction in general-interest magazines has diminished or disappeared altogether. Commonweal hopes to make a small contribution to correcting that problem by occasionally publishing short fiction again. Our principal reason for doing so is that the magazine is lucky enough to count as contributors and friends a number of remarkably accomplished fiction writers. We will inaugurate our fiction feature with a short story by National Book Award-winner Alice McDermott in our July issue. Stories by Valerie Sayers, the author of five novels and a professor of English at Notre Dame, and Commonweal film critic Rand Richards Cooper will appear in later issues.
How often we publish fiction will depend on our ability to attract writers of the highest caliber. It is our conviction that the reading, writing, and study of fiction remain crucial to the broader intellectual and religious identity of Commonweal. As the novelist Marilynne Robinson writes, “Reading, above the level of the simplest information, is an act of great inwardness and subjectivity, and this is why and how it had such a profound meaning while it did—the soul encountered itself in response to the text, first Genesis or Matthew and then Paradise Lost or Leaves of Grass. Great respect for the text and great respect for, and pleasure in, the reader’s subjectivity flourished together.”
We hope that respect will continue to flourish in these pages.