For a long time, literary magazines have been the lifeblood of books, writing and ideas. With Harpers in trouble, the recent hiatus of Heat, and the whole industry in flux, here’s an overview of good reading on the subject.
We begin with a mythbuster. The myth is that a literary magazine or journal is less likely to survive in the marketplace than a general interest title. Wrong, it turns out, according to a study published on Bookslut. Here’s some analysis at Poetry Foundation.
Another myth: often assumed to be at the vanguard of progressive thought, it turns out that literary magazines continue to be dominated by men. A recent survey has shown that men are disproportionately represented at every literary periodical of note. Again at Bookslut, Alizah Salario considers the dominance of men among New Yorker critics: “Why don’t I submit my work and pitch stories more often? I know I should. I just don’t. I hesitate. I do the dishes. I come back to my computer and my idea has soured. Is it because I’m a woman, or is it just because I’m me?”
Bad reviews can be traumatic: here’s Emily St. John Mandel on the subject. Reviewing and reviewers have been the subject of much discussion lately, including here at the Wheeler Centre. Zadie Smith’s appointment as Harpers‘ new fiction critic has prompted some chatter, such as this defence of 'middlebrow’ and this (both from the New Yorker): “Smith [said] that reviewing was having a fascinating moment. The book review is currently tasked with reinventing itself, thanks to the Internet, where the most inconsiderate reader could post a thumbs-up/thumbs-down review on sites where they could wreak considerable damage.”
Finally, the Paris Review has pleased fans of the late, and highly prolific, Chilean master Roberto Bolaño. The quarterly has announced it will be publishing a “lost” Bolaño story called ‘The Third Reich’ over 4 issues, beginning with the forthcoming spring issue. Here’s an excerpt.