- Byliner Original
By Tyler Cabot
It began with Dashiell Hammett.
His short story “Albert Pastor at Home” (along with short fiction by John Dos Passos) appeared in the first issue Esquire ever published, in October 1933. Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” would debut in the August 1936 issue. Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and D. H. Lawrence would soon join them, as, over the years, would Steinbeck, Nabokov, Mailer, Baldwin, and Updike, right up through Stephen King and David Foster Wallace and Colum McCann.
But then there are the others we’ve published—unknowns, no-names, struggling writers whom we think of today as titans. It’s always more thrilling to discover a new voice than to trot out an old, established one.
Open up the August 1958 issue and you’ll find a story called “Heard Melodies Are Sweeter,” by a twenty-five-year-old, all but anonymous writer named Philip Roth. Thirteen years earlier, J. D. Salinger had published “This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise,” a story whose narrator fears his brother Holden Caulfield has died in the war—this was five years before Catcher in the Rye. Now jump to the early nineties, past some of the first stories ever published by Saul Bellow and Raymond Carver and Denis Johnson, to All the Pretty Horses, by a then largely obscure chronicler of the American West named Cormac McCarthy.
Great stories, by writers known or unknown, are unmistakable. Forget point of view and plot and arc and narrative structure and all that M.F.A. talk; even if it’s pornography, ...