New Yorker fiction dominates the contemporary American short story. Sheer numbers separate New Yorker stories from those appearing in other glossies. The New Yorker publishes two per week. In a year's time, more than 100 stories appear in the magazine's distinctive type, as opposed to a maximum of 25 in The Atlantic and Redbook.
Editorial differences begin on the magazine's cover. John Irving has a story in Playboy? Playboy's editors splash the news across Miss September's thigh. Not so The New Yorker. No advertisement of content ever mars the design of its cover. Were Anton Chekhov to have a story accepted, he could expect the same treatment as newcomer Katherine Andres or as regulars John Updike and Eudora Welty. His name would appear in minuscule type on the obscure table of contents. His story would run in the pages immediately following ''The Talk of the Town'' and preceding the week's nonfiction offerings. At story's conclusion, Chekhov's name would appear for the second time.
The magazine volunteers no information about an author's place of residence, personal habits, or literary credentials. New Yorker editorial policy guards the privacy of its contributors while at the same time resisting the cult of celebrity. The story's the thing, and the magazine presents its stories without blurbal hype or illustration to tart it up.
Then there is ''the New Yorker story.'' Long since elevated to generic stature, the term connotes any short fiction in which vaguely disaffected characters offer readers a snippet of contemporary domestic life. (Jane's 40th birthday is approaching. Elliot has asked her to marry him. Jane does not want to; she does not not want to. She spends an afternoon wandering bridal salons, touching the veils and dresses, wondering . . . .)
Supporters laud these replications of the day-to-day. Critics dismiss them as empty exercises in technique. For the unconverted, works by Ann Beattie, Frederick Barthelme, Mary Robison, and George W. S. Trow can prove dreary going. Their stories rarely conclude in resolution. Often, the central conflict eludes identification so successfully that resolution never becomes an issue.
Readers who expect stories to extract meaning from bewildering choices will be disappointed in these. However, read The New Yorker they must. Anyone who relishes short fiction must. For along with a plethora of slices of life, The New Yorker consistently publishes the quintessential achievements in short story.
The first 14 issues of 1984 include at least three ''New Yorker stories'' which transcend that form. Judy Troy's ''Birthday,'' David Updike's ''Bachelor of Arts,'' Daphne Merkin's ''Enchantment'' figure to show up in anthologies of 1984's best. So do three stories that operate outside the house form: Trow's ''What I Want,'' Bill Barich's ''Too Much Electricity,'' and Prudence Crowther's ''The Deeper Crisis in Banking.'' With 38 weeks remaining in the year, odds favor the appearance of 15 more first-rate stories. So if The New Yorker deserves its critics' brickbats, it deserves, too, their attention each week