Saturday, July 19, 2014

Too Many Literary Journals? Really?

Earlier this week, I read an essay that argues whether or not there are too many literary journals (web & print).  I received this essay through a friend’s FB posting, which has since disappeared. 

The essay disturbed me, comparing The New Yorker, Tin House, Atlantic Monthly editorial processes to boutique web journals’ editorial processes, and coming to the conclusion that many of the boutique journals published less than noteworthy work.  Really?  
Here is my response to this:

The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly have been around for many decades and have significant readership.  Tin House, which may be close to the completion of second decade, has established its readership, too.   All have a web presence as well as print.
Many boutique journals, that have started as e-zines, have had to work hard to establish their readership. The ones who have capture writers and readers’ attention are thriving.Writers, who are also readers, want to be in those galleries.  There is something for everyone out there.

None of these journals/magazines would be significant without their selected writers.  And, isn’t it subjective determining what is good and not-so-good. Readers are editors too.  They are making decisions about what a good read is.

In many ways, this essay seemed to be casting doubt. This question of what is authentic, solid, engaging depends upon where it’s printed.  So if a writer elects to publish in a boutique journal, then it’s not as significant as being published in The New Yorker.

Not so.

I often wonder if these essays show up every decade to weed out writers whose vanity would be affected by such remarks.  But it seems like the question of what came first: chicken or egg? Writer or editor?

Writers need to promote the boutique journals.  I would say that Tin House began as a boutique journal, and writers/readers have lifted it to its status.  

Writers need to be concerned with their writing, not worrying about publishing. After all, you have to have something to publish; so get busy. Writers have to find the journals that match their aesthetic.  Writers have to support their industry. 

What seems obvious (at least to me) that this essayist has been hurt by this debate. Someone said, "Well, it's not the New Yorker."  

But don't you see, you can have both.


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