Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Luna Park Spreads the Word in Chicago

Until 2008, the editors will be in Chicago telling the industrial capital (and everyone at the MLA conference) about Luna Park. One of our editors will be presenting at the conference as part of a panel on journals run by students within university graduate departments (some examples of acclaimed literary magazines in this capacity are Ninth Letter, Willow Springs, and Black Warrior Review).

Remember: submissions for issue one deadline is January 10th. Issue will be put online January 31st.

(Photo: University of Chicago in 1906.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Preparing for the Park

The launch is almost upon us, and all of our efforts are being directed to the production of our first issue and our approaching launch event. The issue has had a great response and is filling up with reviews, interviews, and excerpts. Here are a few updates on the production of the Luna Park website, our coming January 31st launch party/fiasco in Brooklyn, NY, and some extraneous comments on and reviews of the lit mag world that we couldn't fit in on the regular blog posts here over the past month:
  • Website production is running according to schedule. Submissions of reviews, essays, interviews, or excerpts (from editors) for Luna Park issue one are due January 10th. The first issue will be released January 31st at (This will be roughly the same ongoing quarterly schedule: pieces due the 10th of Jan./Apr./Jul./Oct, and issues will come out at the end of these same months.)
  • Tao Lin has been added to the list of readers for the Luna Park website launch party this coming January 31st at Noo Na in Brooklyn, NY. Tao Lin is the author of the books Eeeee Eee Eeee and Bed, and also has a book of poems to be published in early 2008. Tao also has the blog, Reader of Depressing Books. We are excited to have him on board. (We are under the assumption that he will be reading from his upcoming book of poetry, but are prepared to be surprised.)
  • Juked magazine has also come on board for the launch event. (Also look for Juked editor John Wang at the AWP book fair; he will be sharing a table with Hobart.)
  • As most know, the Chicago Review has published in their recent issue (vol. 53 no. 2/3) one of the more controversial pieces in the literary magazine world in recent years, Juliana Saphr and Stephanie Young's "Numbers Trouble," an essay on the amount of female poetry published in United States' magazines and anthologies. The essay is in response to Jennifer Ashton's article "Our Bodies, Our Poems," from a recent issue of American Literary History [here is an early draft of the piece]. Ashton responds in the issue of Chicago Review to Saphr and Young's rebuttal with her essay "The Numbers Trouble with 'Numbers Trouble.'" And at the end of the issue, the magazine's editors, Robert Baird and Joshua Kotin, provide two charts illuminating the ratio of male versus female poetry recently published in literary magazines. Because of the attention these pieces attracted in the blogosphere and elsewhere, Chicago Review has made all the previously mentioned pieces available in full for free on their website. In November and early December, Poetry Foundation published numerous posts in response to the Chicago Review pieces on their blog, harriet.
  • A refreshingly new literary anthology, Best American Fantasy 2007, released their first book in mid 2007. Michael Chabon is quoted as calling this first book in the series, "A cabinet of dark wonders, and an important--no, a crucial--map of the richness and strangeness and startling range of the modern American short story." Rather than merely a science fiction or fantasy compilation, the anthology instead includes some of the best and most magically mysterious stories published in magazines online and off, such as from A Public Space, Oxford American, ParaSpheres, Pindelyboz--even The New Yorker. The overall series is edited by fiction writer Matthew Cheney (here's his blog), and guest editors are Ann and Jeff VanderMeer--both highly acclaimed fantasy authors. The 2007 volume includes exciting stories from writers working on the frontiers of the imagination: Kelly Link, Peter LaSalle, Daniel Alarcon, Brian Evenson, Kevin Brockmeier, Chris Adrian, and many others. Quite easily the most electric best of anthology to come out since Eggers' Best Nonrequired series was launched in 2002. Cheney's Best American Fantasy is a more than welcome addition to an often safe and conservative Best of series from Houghton Mifflin (Cheney's series is published by Prime Books). Cheney and editors are looking for submissions from magazines for their 2008 volume--click here for details.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Literature in the Americas

Literary magazines are often referred to as little magazines not as an insult, but to reflect the usual size of these magazine's readership and circulation. (Paris Review's George Plimpton famously detested the label.) It is a niche audience American publishers of literature must cater to, and this is even more true in the world of literary periodicals. Sure, many people read literary magazines, such as The Paris Review or The Georgia Review. Literary magazines, such as those mentioned, are even nominated for and win national magazine awards, plus they obtain attention from national newspapers. But compared to bigger commercial magazines, such as Time, Esquire, or The New Yorker, literary magazines are a very small affair.

Yet it is existence in this smaller world which allows them to not only get away with their expected diversity of literary content and general emphasis on less well-known authors--but these magazines' greater anonymity and slower publishing schedule also allow them to publish compilations of critical, in depth, and exploratory work, many times resulting in more lasting writing than other, larger, non-literary magazines. There is less pressure, monetarily, at least, in the literary production and editorial world. Some literary magazines take advantage of this fact. They use their medium to engage an issue along a broad array of information, views, and artistic forms. They spend months researching and probing into a topic, isolating particular works from the past and present that best address the issue. And many times the results are more than satisfying; they can even be illuminating.

And then there is Ted Genoways's Virginia Quarterly Review (I say "Genoways's" because under his editorship the VQR is a different, more engaging, and seductive publication than it was previously). VQR doesn't just offer you a literary magazine in the general sense. Genoways's concoction of VQR is like a happy tri-marriage of The National Georgraphic, Granta, and Harper's; a wide-reaching literary-political reflection of the world.

The latest issue of VQR, vol. 83 no. 4, focuses on South America. The United States has (to say the least) a complicated political relationship with South America, from Teddy Roosevelt's big stick policy for relations between the Americas to our prolonged enmeshment in Colombia's drug war to American Presidents' less than amiable relationships with many South American leaders. But it is not an exaggeration to say that most U.S. citizens are unaware of the goings on within our sister continent. As Daniel Alarcon described U.S. knowledge of Peru during the early eighties in the winter 2007 issue of A Public Space, "Peru a rumor, more or less." (Image at right by Simon Diaz is from that issue of A Public Space.) Much of the job of this issue of VQR seems to be to unpack rumors of South America in the way only literature can, which is with the subtle registering and questioning of a subject through both precise and figurative language.

It is "the literary journalism I guess we are getting to be known for," Genoways has said, describing the editorial direction of the magazine. This type of journalism is not new for the newly restructured VQR. Past issues have included in-depth features on AIDS in Africa, the United States/Mexican border, and the current Iraq war. What is different--and altogether impressive--about this issue is that the entire issue, from page 1 to 322, is focused on South America. In a radio interview available online, Genoways explains that the project of putting together the current issue began nearly two years ago, when VQR managing editor Kevin Morrisey noticed that, every time he opened the newspaper, South America was on the front page. Morrisey and Genoways got in touch then with Peruvian-American writer Daniel Alarcon, a regular contributor to VQR, to co-edit the magazine. Alarcon and VQR worked together with Etiqueta Negra (a high-quality Peruvian magazine where Alarcon is on staff) to get the best South American writers and photographers for the issue. And, eighteen months later: a thick, full-color issue of VQR, filled with 17 pieces, each highlighting a separate, important, and fascinating section of this large southern continent.

J. Malcolm Garcia writes in "The White Train" about a train in Buenos Aires, which transports the imporverished as they lug paper and copper across town to sell. A new translation by Chris Andrews of a novel from Roberto Bolano, "Nazi Literature in the Americas"--a fictional portrait of literature and fascism in South America--is excerpted at length. In "Soy in the Amazon," Pat Joseph covers one of the Amazon's most destructive crops. And much, much more is included in the issue--fearful albinos, transsexual prostitution, blind mayors, and portraits of Incan descendants on the islands of Lake Titicaca (pictured at left). This is the sort of magazine which not only sets a high bar for literary magazines--and for magazines in general--but makes one reconsider the distinction between magazines and books.

[Special note: For the first time in the history of VQR, the magazine has put the entire content of the issue online. "I just really wanted people to see this material," said Genoways. "I think it's a really important gathering of material and I just wanted people to find it." The content is available in the form of an interactive map, featuring current and past VQR pieces on South America and its people. Also included in the map are pieces that didn't make it into the issue. The site is well worth the time, if only to see a new step in connecting print literary magazines to the digital age.]

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Lost Ideal

Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007) died last Sunday evening, December 2, 2007, in Manhattan. A frequent contributor to Partisan Review, Hardwick was well known as an essayist, novelist, and reviewing. Along with her husband, Robert Lowell, Hardwick was one of the founders of The New York Review of Books in 1963, after an 114-day newspaper strike in New York City. An acclaimed novelist and short story writer, Hardwick is most well known for her insightful, passionate essays. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt described her as, "credited for expanding the possibilities of the literary essay through her intimate tone and her dramatic deployment of forceful logic." Hardwick was also a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, The New Republic, and Harper's, where she published one of her most mentioned essays, "The Decline of Book Reviewing." Published in 1959, this essay criticized what Hardwick saw as a lack of criticism in book reviewing--everyone instead all too eager to pass around praise for even the most minor achievement. (Photo at right is of Hardwick in 1983; image from the New York Times.)

Here is a long excerpt of the essay (copied from the Harper's website): "In America, now, oblivion, literary failure, obscurity, neglect—all the great moments of artistic tragedy and neglect—still occur, but the natural conditions for the occurrence are in a state of camouflage, like those decorating ideas in which wood is painted to look like paper and paper to look like wood. A genius may indeed go to his grave unread, but he will hardly have gone to it unpraised. Sweet, bland condemnations fall everywhere upon the scene; a universal, if somewhat lobotomized, accommodation reigns. A book is born into a puddle of treacle; the brine of hostile criticism is only a memory. Everyone is found to have 'filled a need' and is to be 'thanked' for something and to be excused for 'minor faults in an otherwise excellent work.' 'A thoroughly mature artist' appears many times a week and often daily; many are the bringers of those 'messages the Free World will ignore at its peril.'"

[Here is Hardwick in a 1985 Art of Fiction interview in The Paris Review.]