Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Where are LitMags Going?

I think the three readings for today should be ranked as different points along a spectrum. Ultimately the question is do we keep literary magazines alive? The Wet Asphalt article says yes, but change it up a bit in format, but keep it in print. Jodee Stanley's commentary says maybe they should go online and try new things. The Harpoonist piece is all for the destruction of the printed magazine and perhaps even the concept of the anthologies created by litmags.

I am wholeheartedly in agreement with the article in Wet Asphalt. Why can't literary magazines look more like magazines? Once a month glossies would surely be cheaper and you'd get around the marketing problem. Fill it with just enough in the way of poems and short stories to get a reasonable length and incorporate some artistic photography to make use of that glossy paper. Charge about $5 an issue and you could, theoretically, make some money. Stanley believes printed magazines can co-exist peacefully alongside web-based counterparts, and I have no objections to that idea either.

In fact, I really don't take any offense until the Harpoonist piece tells me that literary magazines are dead. Someone is clearly still buying them. People are still interested. Internet-based collections may be the way to go, but leaving each writer to their own devices publishing-wise is not the best plan for the literature of the future. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I'm not going to seek out every "brilliant, strange, new, marginalized writer with a Blogger account" that wants to be heard.

Monday, January 12, 2009

First Assignment

I am particularly fond of the round table in the Mississippi Review because it is a transcript of an actual discussion. The speakers are quite candid about their opinions, and they're right. Magazines are there because wider commercial printing won't take the risks on a pile of strange new things. If it won't sell, they can't afford to print it, and if it's unproven as a sell-able item, why should they take a risk? Literary magazines give new ideas a place to express themselves to a wider audience.

Jill Rosser's commentary on the magazine as the replacement of the salon that doesn't "really happen[] anymore" is a testament to the evolution of technology and the desire to reach a larger audience. As printing became cheaper, circulation increased. A small circle of intellectuals can now reach out into hundreds and thousands and more through the printed word. This does logically lead to the internet, an almost free resource for millions of people. I agree with Todd Zuniga's evaluation that we tend to value print magazines over online magazines because of an imaginary standard of quality, because a printed magazine has to limit quantity, so it must have higher standards for its submissions. We like the permanence of tangible printed matter, and that helps, too. Web-based publications do help the realm of literary magazines by taking more writers and increasing interest in literary works, but I think they both need to exist simultaneously for either one to reach its full potential.

The only downside I see for literary magazines is that they need some form of support, and often they have to rely on their sales to get that support, and in order to make a sale, they have to please an audience. Pleasing that audience might mean not publishing the really new and novel pieces, but then again, maybe transitioning gradually is the key. I, however, draw the line at performance art on YouTube.