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Literary Journals

I have one more set of dreams to document for Matt over at the mothership, but once I’ve done that (this evening), I’m wiping my hands for the time being of 2666. Over the next week or two, I’ll begin posting some teaser material for Moby Dick, along with a couple of announcements that I’m really excited about. For today, I have a tangential question unrelated to any particular book. It’s actually a whole series of questions.

What do you look for in a literary journal? Are there any you subscribe to or make sure to browse regularly at the library? How often do you find journals to be really well-targeted to your interests? That is, do you often find yourself reading the things nearly cover-to-cover or are they hit-or-miss? And which ones are which? What do you most like to read in such journals (fiction, poetry, nonfiction, journalism, something else)? Bear in mind that I’m asking in particular about literary journals and not necessarily any periodical. I wouldn’t include Harper’s, for example, though it often features literature and reviews of literary books. Do you tend to read niche journals or more general-interest journals? If the former, what niche? Do you favor print or online journals or do you not discriminate on the basis of medium? Anything else?

I ask because I’m putting some thought into my own subscriptions. I subscribe to Poetry, for example, but I find it almost always to be really uneven. Sometimes they publish stuff that’s almost unreadable to me. Other times, there’s really good stuff. The only part I read faithfully and all the way through is the section of letters to the editor. So I’m curious what others’ experiences with journals are. Am I just a picky or a lazy reader, I wonder, or do others have problems with unevenness in journals as well?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Joan
    May 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Hands down, the one I read cover to cover (have never gotten around to subscribing so buy regularly) is Oxford American, http://www.oxfordamerican.org. It’s perhaps a bit between a true journal and periodical, but to me is more of a journal of all things southern and literary. Plus, you can’t beat the awesome annual music issues complete with cds. One I recently discovered, and may make it a regular read, is The Believer, http://www.believermag.com. Apparently Nick Hornby’s regular column is back there according to the web site!

    Those are my quick hits. Overall I agree, that they tend to be uneven, and I find myself loving one then being disappointed, so I end up not really browsing them!

  2. May 4, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I find literary journals, in general, to be uneven. I think this is partly because they are taking risks and I suppose I approve of that. I really like the Paris Review, almost always find something great in there. I also subscribe to AGNI, because I like the editor Sven Birkerts and his letters at the beginning of each issue are not available online. I also like McSweeney’s & The Believer, for the design if nothing else. I’ve subscribed to BookForum for a long time, but I’m going to give that up–it’s just not that interesting anymore. My other favorites are n+1, Granta, SEED, Black Clock, and A Public Space. I’ve bought individual copies of the Iowa Review, Denver Quarterly, Conjunctions, and Tin House.

  3. May 4, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    I used to subscribe to Zoetrope, but stopped because McSweeney’s was better edited. From this, you can probably tell that I buy my journals for the aesthetics–I can only hope the content matches up.

    I have been following A Public Space since it started; a big fan. Tin House is also nicely done. Every now and again I’ll check out n+1 or Granta, but sometimes there’s just too much to read. Besides; I’m not a fan of straight interviews or non-fiction, which I find they–and The Paris Review to do. Creative non-fiction’s fine, though.

  4. May 4, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, guys. I used to read the Paris Review occasionally years ago but haven’t in a while. I have a weird knee-jerk reaction against McSweeny’s and The Believer that I can’t quite explain. I don’t think I’ve read any of the others you guys mentioned, though. May check a few out.

  5. May 5, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Oh and the VQR (Virginia Quarterly Review) is nicely designed with a lot of interesting content, but I’m hesitant to recommend them after I spat I had w/them on twitter. They just don’t get twitter, but I guess I shouldn’t hold that against them.

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