I read a lot of translated literature. Every now and then I make an effort to find out more about what’s being produced by my own continent’s writers, but a lot of time it’s not very good. Obviously there are exceptions, but oftentimes I have a much better shot of finding something worth my time if I read stuff by dead people or by people who don’t write in English.
But I don’t think Chaon’s advice is necessarily beneficial to literary fiction writers. For one thing, most contemporary literary fiction is terrible—mannered, conservative, and obvious. Most of the stories in the annual best-of anthologies are mediocre, as are the stories that populate most magazines. It’s inevitable that this should be so; fiction writing is ludicrously popular, too many people are doing it, and most of them are bound to be bad at it. MFA programs, while of great benefit to talented writers, have had the effect of rendering a lot of lousy writers borderline-competent, and many of these competent writers get stories and books published. (This is not an anti-MFA rant: I loved the program I studied in, and love the one I teach in, and enjoy helping students do their best, even when it doesn’t end up being very good.)