Literary MagNet

Kevin Larimer
From the March/April 2008 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

The question of whether readers would rather curl up with a good book or get cozy with a computer screen hasn’t been answered definitively, and despite the exhaustive (and exhausting) efforts of literary pundits, academics, and statisticians to nail it down, there really isn’t sufficient evidence to support one position over the other. For typical readers, it seems, the balance of time spent pondering the printed word versus staring at all those ones and zeros can vary widely. It makes sense, then, that literary magazines are going both ways—some editors are exiting the topsy-turvy highway of the print magazine format; others are just getting up to speed. After seven years and seven issues of Pindeldyboz, executive editor Whitney Pastorek announced last November that the print era of her annual literary magazine had come to an end. The final issue, which features stories by Julia Lichtblau, Norman Lock, Jeff Parker, and Ben Stroud, among others, was published as a PDF in December. “Literary magazines are hard-ass work. Seriously,” writes print editor Kristin McGonigle in the final issue. “When you are not connected to a university where funding is almost an afterthought or a well-heeled, literature-loving rich person, well, it’s kind of like swimming in pudding. Or at least trying to.” While a few editors of university-published magazines may take issue with her description of the ease with which funding is acquired and maintained at our country’s academic institutions, most will probably sympathize with the pudding part. So the print edition of Pboz, as its readers and contributors lovingly refer to it, is no more. But the online edition, which has published more than a thousand stories over the last seven years, is alive and well. No longer limited to one mighty—or measly, depending on your perspective—issue per year, as was the print edition, the Web site adds new stories every couple of weeks. Meanwhile, Narrative, founded in 2003 by Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks as a free, online magazine, recently branched out (environmental pun intended) into print. With the Fall 2007 issue, Narrative began publishing each issue simultaneously as a paperback; the hard copies are available from Amazon. “We created the paperback editions at the urging of readers for whom online technology is a challenge,” Jenks says, “and for readers who expressed a wish to have a bound hard copy in lieu of the online magazine.” (And for those who have an extra $14.95 lying around.) Jenks emphasizes that his allegiances remain with online publishing: “Most of our thirty-two thousand readers choose the online issue over the hard copy,” he says. “We view the future of literature as being digital.” To prove it, he and Edgarian are launching a book imprint, Narrative Library, which will publish literary titles “in a variety of digitally based formats.” While Jenks isn’t quite ready to reveal details of the imprint’s initial offerings, forthcoming later this year, he describes them as being penned by a varied group of new and well-known writers.

Despite having been founded only six years ago, Bellevue Literary Review, published twice a year by the Department of Medicine at New York University, has a long literary history behind it—if only by association with its namesake institution. Bellevue Hospital, where writers such as Gregory Corso, Norman Mailer, William Burroughs, and Delmore Schwartz spent time as patients, is the oldest public hospital in the United States, founded in 1736 (when George Washington was just a wee lad). Editor Danielle Ofri, an author and attending physician in the medical clinic at Bellevue, recently compiled The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review, a three-hundred-page anthology that includes poetry, fiction, and essays by Julia Alvarez, Rick Moody, Sharon Olds, Floyd Skloot, and others. It was published in February by—who else?—Bellevue Literary Press, a new book imprint whose first titles, including Doctored Drawings by Mark Podwal, were published last spring.

Kevin Larimer is the deputy editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.