Re: [LMC] That Huffington Post article...

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wick...@aol.com

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Aug 16, 2010, 9:58:08 AM8/16/10
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i couldn't agree more, owen




-----Original Message-----
From: Owen <owenk...@gmail.com>
To: LMC: Literary Magazine Club <litma...@googlegroups.com>
Sent: Mon, Aug 16, 2010 3:16 am
Subject: [LMC] That Huffington Post article...

I don't know, Joseph, I found this article pretty uninsightful, not to
mention deluded . . . what I found truly saddening was the readers'
comments. Certainly, the attitudes and shallowness expressed by these
people are nothing new to me, but still, reading and hearing comments
from people like this always seems to depress me.

One of the people commenting actually tries to claim that people who
are under 30 don't read. Is he serious? Again, this belief is nothing
new to me, but that doesn't make it any less baffling and depressing
when I hear or read it being expressed.

At any rate, too many of these people are clearly quite confused about
what they think literary art is supposed to be and especially what
they, personally, actually want out of literature.

Although the Huffington Post is perhaps not quite scraping the very
bottom off the barrel, just yet, among readers of literature, they
seem to be uncomfortably close to it.

As for the magazines themselves -- those which are listed in the
article: sorry, Joseph, I do not happen to find any of them very
interesting -- except, perhaps, for the Iowa Review, in which I
believe I recall having seen some good and interesting material, in
the past, but again this is not really a journal I'd be interested in
reviewing.

Jackie Corley

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Aug 16, 2010, 10:09:01 AM8/16/10
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I just find that I'm much more interested and excited by what the
"newer" lit mags are doing: NYTyrant, Hobart, Pank, Quick Fiction,
etc.

It just seems that more traditional, longer-running lit mags aren't
challenging me as a reader. I find I'm disappointed in the subject
matter, voice, structure, etc.

...but maybe that's just because I'm coming off a particularly dull
story in Crazyhorse.
----
Jackie Corley
Publisher, Word Riot
http://www.wordriot.org

The Suburban Swindle | Stories by Jackie Corley
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0977815153/

Joseph Johaneman

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Aug 16, 2010, 10:22:34 AM8/16/10
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Honestly, I'm not familiar with any of the journals in the HuffPo article outside of their reputation.  I just thought there might be something in there worth reading.  

I tend to pick up journals randomly at my local Barnes and Noble (well, localish.  I have to drive an hour to get there).  About the only journal I specifically sought out recently was Slake because it was the first issue, and it contained a piece by Mark Z. Danielewski.  

So I apologize for posting that list here.  I didn't really have any idea of the quality of any of the journals.  I just ran across it via Regator and thought it might interest everyone.  :-)  
---------------------------------------------------
Contributing Editor at Apple Thoughts
----
Joe Johaneman

Robb Todd

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Aug 16, 2010, 10:26:44 AM8/16/10
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Well, it stoked a conversation here, so I'd say it was good you sent it along. Thanks.

Kevin Lincoln

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Aug 16, 2010, 10:28:45 AM8/16/10
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Haha... I think we all understand, Joseph, thanks for the article. I
just� after that hysterical overrated writers piece, and considering
Huffpo's history in general, I stay about as far away from Anis Shivani
as I possibly can. At least this time he was a little more positive:
these journals "MIGHT" survive.

And on that note, weren't a significant portion of the magazines he
mentioned academically affiliated, if not MFA? I thought he was
militantly against the MFA system?

Joseph Johaneman wrote:
> Honestly, I'm not familiar with any of the journals in the HuffPo
> article outside of their reputation. I just thought there might be
> something in there worth reading.
>
> I tend to pick up journals randomly at my local Barnes and Noble
> (well, localish. I have to drive an hour to get there). About the only
> journal I specifically sought out recently was Slake because it was
> the first issue, and it contained a piece by Mark Z. Danielewski.
>
> So I apologize for posting that list here. I didn't really have any
> idea of the quality of any of the journals. I just ran across it via
> Regator and thought it might interest everyone. :-)
> ---------------------------------------------------

> Contributing Editor at Apple Thoughts <http://applethoughts.com>
> ----
> Joe Johaneman
> jejoh...@me.com <mailto:jejoh...@me.com>
> My Home Page <http://jejohaneman.com>

Joseph Johaneman

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Aug 16, 2010, 10:31:17 AM8/16/10
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That overrated writers piece made me so angry.  But then, it created a whole bunch of discussion in the blogosphere about literature, so it might have actually been a good thing.  
---------------------------------------------------
Contributing Editor at Apple Thoughts

On Aug 16, 2010, at 10:28 AM, Kevin Lincoln wrote:

Haha... I think we all understand, Joseph, thanks for the article. I just— after that hysterical overrated writers piece, and considering Huffpo's history in general, I stay about as far away from Anis Shivani as I possibly can. At least this time he was a little more positive: these journals "MIGHT" survive.

cjzell...@aim.com

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Aug 16, 2010, 2:28:01 PM8/16/10
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Lit Club:


It all comes down to the editors.

Magazines aren't really representative of anything.  They are names that certain individuals apply to their own aesthetic inclinations.  So if the editor likes boring poems and horrible fiction then the magazine will be known as such.  If the editor is a kiss-ass to famous writers who is using a magazine as a platform to either further his reputation as an editor (or a writer) you'll see nothing but established writers in the contributors notes.

Editors, in essence, are the ones accountable for the decline of many magazines and one can only hope that a new editorial staff will come along in time and change things. But meanwhile, if we let them simply hide behind the names of their journals, crossing our fingers to get published by them someday, never questioning their horrible editing or calling them on their shit, then we are irresponsible artists, terrible critics, and patrons of mediocrity.


Corey Zeller

 



wick...@aol.com

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Aug 16, 2010, 2:35:51 PM8/16/10
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amen, corey
=

Gregory Sherl

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Aug 16, 2010, 3:20:52 PM8/16/10
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i am just happy to be reading words with people.

gregory sherl
http://gregorysherl.com/

Mike Kitchell

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Aug 16, 2010, 3:24:54 PM8/16/10
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I am curious about something.  Seeing as the editorial position is, of course, entirely a subjective role, how exactly could an editor change the entire scope of lit mags?  There are always going to be editors that have a specific taste, but I imagine if the taste is specific and unique it will still only appeal to a specific number of people.  I'm just curious as to what, exactly, editorial position could be taken that would both lead to a transcendence of the homogeneous, typical lit mag, and appeal to an audience outside of writers.  Isn't that the only way the lit mag will be considered "not dead" ?

wick...@aol.com

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Aug 16, 2010, 3:37:57 PM8/16/10
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that's a tough question, one i've been contemplating myself, as i've been trying to launch something for awhile now, and am very close

1. limited scope - an editor obviously has a certain taste, an aesthetic that they are drawn to, even certain voices and authors, so one thing they could do would be keep changing, keep expanding the work they read, and mix it up - not just literary fiction, but edgier stuff, genre/lit blends, etc.
2. outside of writers, they need to find work that is more mass friendly, again, not simply literature, but work that is wider in its appeal, call it genre, call it commercial, but they need to find work that has a greater audience

there are authors out there today that are doing that, blending genre/lit or commercial/lit, people like brian evenson, stephen graham jones, blake butler, holly goddard jones, amelia gray, etc. - that's where i think the future is, and it's something that i'm working towards, making it happen

also, appealing to other formats, not just print, but ebooks, online, and even graphic formats (comics/graphic novels) that will help bring in new people

/mytwocents

peace,
richard

Roxane Gay

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Aug 16, 2010, 3:43:03 PM8/16/10
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Mike that's a really good question. Two magazines that come to mind where the editors begin to transcend the typical lit mag are Artifice and Lumberyard. They both have very specific aesthetics with a lot of audience appeal. Lumberyard, in particular, reaches beyond just writers. 

As for dead, not dead and whether writers are the only audience... who cares? I don't think an audience comprised primarily of writers is a bad thing. The world is full of writers. We should be so lucky as to keep writers as our audience.

Cheers,
Roxane

Mike Kitchell

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Aug 16, 2010, 3:46:37 PM8/16/10
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Yeah, I mean, I am personally fine with keeping writers as an audience, but it seems like all the articles that ever call something dead feel it necessary to point out that "only writers read this."  I don't see it as a problem, but apparently "only being read by writers" is on the list of potential attributes that contribute to something's "deadness."  Which I'll agree is weird.

Josh Kleinberg

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Aug 17, 2010, 9:48:33 AM8/17/10
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I guess I'm inclined to stay out of this, but since I AM in a discussion group now...

I disagree that it isn't a problem.  I can't really speak as an insider from a publishing, nor a writing standpoint, but it's kinda depressing to me to realize that there aren't any non-writers (read: anyone I know in the real world) that will see anything I've written unless I take the initiative to show them.  It also makes me doubt my own volition as a reader.  It's not really pervasive, but when I'm feeling extra self-critical, I'll wonder if I'm opening a book or a journal for my own enjoyment or just to use the knowledge I gain on "what's good" etc. in future endeavors.  I don't have a reaction in mind, and I don't know that I'd say that makes the things I read "dead."  Still, I'm bothered by it.

Bleh,
Josh
--
http://00oo0.blogspot.com/
http://litareview.com/slingshot

Owen Kaelin

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Aug 17, 2010, 11:32:08 AM8/17/10
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Well, for one thing, I don't feel that the editors of any magazine are responsible for anything other than putting forth a publication that makes the aesthetic impression that the editors want to make. To suggest that these editors are responsible for other people's audiences is going more than a little bit too far, I feel.

Now... probably the worst thing that the founding editors can do is succumb to the differing whims of a rapidly changing cycle of editorial opinions in their staff. When a journal puts out one issue that publishes great, high-quality nontraditional works, that suggests to the readers that this is the material that the journal wants to publish. Now, if the next issue is totally straight-laced, that's not only going to disappoint the audience you've made with the last issue which so enthused some people that they went ahead and got a subscription, but it's also going to confuse people. The old audience will never read your journal again, but a new audience will come along.

Then you put out one that makes somewhat of a different presentation. Thus, your new audience is disappointed and will never read your journal again. Now you have a new audience.

Then your fourth audience goes back to great non-traditional work, but doesn't sell because you've gone through so much of the readership and by now nobody likes or trusts you. What's your next journal gonna be? Who in the world will want to subscribe to a journal that you don't know is going to thrill you or bore you? Subscribing to journals can get pricey, after all. You really have to love a journal before you subscribe to it.

Also, the above scenario would give fodder for people who want to shoot down modern nontraditional literature, and this is dangerous.

So... I suppose the point is: The founding editors need to make a decision in the beginning as to what sort of impression they want to make, and stick to that. Only then can you build an audience. 3rd Bed was able to do quite well with this strategy. Unfortunately, well... I don't know what happened to them. I suspect they overextended themselves, but for a little while they were a surprising success story.


As for whom the journal is published for, in other words who the audience is: sure, it's always seemed to me mostly writers -- or at any rate, a very large percentage of the readership is composed of writers, especially those writers who want to be published in that particular journal. So... there's a problem with this? It's only a reflection of how society works, how people behave. Why should anyone be wringing their hands over it? Just accept the reality of things and work within that understanding.

...which is also essentially what Roxane said. Not that I want to be repetitive, it's just that this is something that's been bugging me for a while. People who hug whatever literary style currently wears the "mainstream" crown attack nontraditional writers for scaring readers and driving away readership, claiming that their fallout is causing collateral damage that affects the "mainstream" market. (In other words, they're just using us as a scapegoat for their own disappointment, wherever it might lie.) And, you know, somehow these arguments never get less bothersome, they never stop making me angry.

To suggest that the number of non-writers in your audience defines whether
or not a journal is "thriving" is simply ludicrous . . . and bothersome.


Finally, I think it's important to note that the audience of literary journals has always been and always will be different from the audience of books.


Dustin Luke Nelson

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Aug 17, 2010, 1:40:18 PM8/17/10
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I'll be quick, but a lot of magazines don't want the kind of consistency you're talking about. A magazine like All Story or Granta (given not the most exciting lit mags I've read) but they actively seek to not put out the same style all the time. I think a lot of the time editors box themselves in saying We're going to do this one thing, every time, and it will stay edgy. And that's not going to stay interesting either. It's a living industry and that's a good thing. It's inconsistent, it's full of death and birth. And that inconsistency is what makes the world of the literary magazine interesting. This is the legacy of the literary magazine since it took hold in America just before 1920.

I also wanted to share a link to a great discussion about the literary magazine that took place at the PEN World Voices Festival in April that was just put online. It's long, but interesting. It features editors from Tin House, PEN American, and Granta.It's interesting though they seem to have a disdain, or at least heavy-handed skepticism, of the online magazine (for the most part). Anyhow, draw your own conclusions: http://indigestmag.com/blog/?p=4747.

Thanks for starting this group Roxane.

Dustin Luke Nelson

Founding Editor | InDigest Magazine
Producer | Radio Happy Hour

indigestmag.com | lprnyc.com | radiohappyhour.com

James McGirk

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Aug 19, 2010, 3:24:07 PM8/19/10
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Maybe this is old news, but it's the first time I saw this:


Stats are still drawn from visitors to his own website 
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