Literary Magazines

Don't Worry Keith, We Don't Like You Either

Keith Gessen doesn't like Lit Blogs. He also doesn't like McSweeney's or the Believer. He thinks lit bloggers are self-promoting whores who, unlike Keith Gessen, are selling our collective birthrights for a mess of review copy pottage. We're "freelance publicists" who are only doing what we're doing because we want attention. Of course, we'd all be starting literary magazines like N+1 if we were making 40 dollars an hour copy editing in the fantasy trustafarian world that Keith Gessen lives in. But most of us don't live in that world. Which is fine. As any reasonably intelligent person can determine from reading Keith Gessen's magazine, N+1 and co. generally don't know what the hell they're talking about, and their greatest claim to fame to date is the embarrassing literary "career" of Ben Kunkel who—going on three years later—has yet to live up to his own Madison Ave. "The Next Michael Chabon/Jonathan Lethem/Dave Eggers" hype. Now, I'm not saying the literary world of New York is composed entirely of elitist insider snobs who wouldn't know a good book if it smacked them in the face, but I'm pretty confident saying that of the editorial staff of N+1. Even when they get it right, as they do with Michel Houellebecq in the recent issue, it's for entirely the wrong reasons, Marco Roth praising him for being different from a whole canon of books that Roth qualifies in his first paragraph as not really representing the best of French Literature anyway. Reading N+1, I often have the impression that I'm reading the lit-critical output of that Monty Python sketch where all the inbred upper class twits blow themselves away with shotguns at the end. Here are people with nothing to say and all the room they want to say it, bought and paid for by god knows who, trading on minor celebrity in the hopes of improving that celebrity. That they have money and distribution and that there are a lot of other people who think like they do is unfortunate and incontrovertible, but it is not a good reason to listen to what they have to say. I, for one, am finally done staring at the train wreck and I'm going to move along and stop blocking traffic. I suggest that everyone else do the same.

One Story: The Wet Asphalt Interview

One Story is the only literary magazine I currently subscribe to. It's format is perfect: a single story in a small booklet, published every three weeks, that I can put in my pocket and take on the subway with me. The quality of the stories is also very high. I sat down with the editor and publisher at a café in Manhattan to talk about literary magazines, publishing and the state of short fiction in America.

On the Subject of n+1

This post at Conversational Reading discusses the new article on n+1's website in which Benjamin Kunkel talks about the state of the novel. The only problem? The article in question is no longer there. Which is especially strange considering that the Conversational Reading post was put up today. Not even the WayBack Machine can find the article so I can read it.

This is, of course, the same thing that happened to the article on the short story we covered two weeks ago. What n+1 is doing, in other words, is putting articles up on the front page of their website and then taking them down. I suppose their thinking is that they're teasing us with a preview so that we'll go out and buy the latest copy of their magazine. This behavior is absurd. Particularly if they're putting articles up then taking them down on the same day. Such buffoonery will only turn people off when they stumble across a link like the one on Conversational Reading.

One of the advantages to putting things on the Internet is that they're in a permanent place where they can be found years later and linked to and be discussed. Unlike physical paper magazines which by their nature are periodically thrown away, a piece of writing can remain online indefinitely with relatively little effort or money. We've learned to expect things to remain in the same place where we found them before. We bookmark them. We link to them. We scribble URLs down on post-it notes and stick them to our monitors. Taking things down right after you put them up only serves to alienate your readers. But then, the editors of N+1 also believe it's within the normal experience of their readers to earn forty dollars an hour as a copy editor, so what do we know?

Dear n+1, please knock it off.

[Edit: Well I'll be the first one to admit when I have egg on my face. Benjamin Kunkel's article on the novel was never put up on the n+1 website, I simply misunderstood Scott's post on Conversational Reading. So, no, n+1 didn't put it up and then take it down on the same day.

This doesn't change the fact that they did put up the article on the short story that we talked about two weeks ago and then took it down, or that they've put up and taken down articles in the past. Which behavior they need to knock off.]

[Edit: I have been informed by an editor of n+1 that Elif Batuman's article on the short story can be found here. There was, however, no link to it anywhere that I could find on the n+1 website. According to the aforementioned editor, "All of [the articles] have obvious, intuitive html addresses. If you can't figure one out, you can email me or Chad [the web editor]." I'm not sure I understand—they move articles off the front page to other URL's, and then if you can't find them you're expected to email the editors about it? Is that all that different than taking the article down completely? I remain confused and frustrated.]

Workshop Fiction Wars 2: n+1 and the doomed short story

Is the short story dead? Is n+1 run by snobs living over-the-top, trustafarian life styles? Read on to find out.

Charles Valle on The Economy of Small Press Print

Charles Valle, the editor of Fence, was kind enough to send us a detailed response to the articles on the economics of print literary journals Wet Asphalt recently published.

It's the Format: The Problem with Literary Magazines

The only way to save literary magazines is to change them.

Cognitive Dissonance in Literature as Business

I'm no great booster of market capitalism, so don't get me wrong here, this article is not going to be a defense of Milton Friedman Free Market Monetarism™. I'm a fan of social democracy and the intervention of governments in financially supporting all sorts of public goods from health care for all at one end of the importance spectrum, all the way down to experimental arts and letters at the other. Nevertheless for people who live and work in North America market capitalism is what we've got. What that means for producers of cultural artifacts—poems, short stories, paintings, movies, novels, commemorative mugs, chocolate candies modeled after the vaginas of performance artists, etc.—is that if said producer is producing a product and then selling it, those sales of said product are going to be determined by the old fashioned market rules of Supply and Demand.

Wet Asphalt Recommends: "The Ledge" by Austin Bunn

"The Ledge," a short story published in One-Story, is a tale of a 15th century cargo ship that unexpectedly stumbles across the edge of the world. It feels like a cross between adventure on the high seas, Latin American magical realism and the gothic ghost story and is utterly compelling from page to page. It is written by Austin Bunn.