Starting a little magazine is like embarking on parenthood: Its founders begin with a vision, with no idea as to what it truly takes to raise their baby to adulthood, day by day. These projects are often birthed in basements, borrowed apartments and coffee shops, on shoestring budgets scraped together through small loans, donations or academic largess that these days could not feel smaller. Their goal is to make public exceptional new work by established and emerging writers. What results, in some cases, is nothing short of spectacular. In “The Little Magazine in Contemporary America” edited by Ian Morris and Joanne Diaz, twenty-three editors of influential little magazines, many still in circulation and others that have run their course, reveal the hardships and gifts inherent in creating and producing these journals.
It’s been thirty-five years since the last comprehensive examination of little magazines, during which time the advent of the Internet and evolving publishing constrictions have presented unique challenges to these little engines that could. Morris and Diaz’s anthology, which includes commentary by Betsy Sussler of BOMB Magazine, Ronald Spatz of Alaska Quarterly Review, Ander Monson of DIAGRAM and others, addresses these challenges and the ways in which many little magazines have turned them into advantages, including the opportunity for more and specialized promotion and differentiation. It also redefines the landscape of the little magazine itself: “Thanks to globalization, smartphones, and wireless technology, the actual location of a magazine and its editors is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and this might actually be a strength of the magazine in the twenty-first century,” Morris and Diaz write. Public discussion and debate is essential to literary and artistic work, and these essays speak to the opportunity for this collective conversation to reach a wider audience in the digital age. “The Little Magazine in Contemporary America” is a welcome and compelling update, one that offers substantive hope for the future and continued significance of its subject. (Amy Friedman)
“The Little Magazine in Contemporary America”
Edited by Ian Morris and Joanne Diaz
The University of Chicago Press, 264 pages, $27.50