Critical Mass

Remembering Two Rays


NBCC Sandrof award winner Bill Henderson, founder and editor of the Pushcart Press, invoked the memories of two Rays—Raymond Carver and Ray Smith—as he introduced readings from the Pushcart Prize anthologies last night in the “Selected Shorts” series at Symphony Space. “In 1974 a small publication called Spectrum published a short story called ‘So Much Water So Close to Home’ by a new writer named Raymond Carver,” he said.“That story was in the first Pushcart Prize anthology…and some thirty years later it became a movie starring Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne.”

Henderson dedicated the reading to Ray Smith, long-time editor of the Ontario Review, who died last month. Two of the Pushcart award winning three stories in the reading—Andrew Porter’s “Departure” and Stuart Dybek’s “Blowing Shades”—first appeared in the Ontario Review, which has frequently been included in the Pushcart anthologies. (The Pushcart Prize Best of the Small Presses anthology was first published in 1976, with a group of founding editors including Ralph Ellison, Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Bowles and Reynolds Price.)

Henderson called Smith, who lived with his wife, Joyce Carol Oates, in Princeton, NJ., a classic small press editor, modest, hard working, pouring his energies into The Ontario Review as a labor of love. Smith published one of Henderson’s short stories in The Ontario Review in 1974; the story later was listed by Martha Foley in the back of the “Best Short Story” anthology. “I was not just a reject after all,” Henderson said. “And that mention gave me the inspiration to start the Pushcart Prize the next year.” 

The Pushcart stories, “Departure,” read by actor Khris Lewin; “Blowing Shades,” read by James Naughton, and Steven Millhauster’s “The Dome,” read by Alec Baldwin, will be aired later this year on NPR’s “Selected Shorts” series.