Literary MagNet

Kevin Larimer

Not every editor has the moxie to sign off on his final issue with the message that while it's been fun, there's really something else he'd rather be doing. And yet here is Bret Lott, in his editor's note in the Spring 2008 issue of the Southern Review, the quarterly magazine published at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge: "The most gratifying part of serving as editor has been finding the work of writers who have never before been published—we literally hollered out for joy at the office when these folks and their work came our way—but even that level of reward could not match, I came to understand, the moment when a student sees in his or her story its possibility for being much more than an account of an event; nothing compares to working with a student toward that instant of discovery, and possibility, and accomplishment that only the creation of art can give to its creator." You see, before Lott succeeded James Olney as editor of the seventy-three-year-old magazine in 2004, he had, since 1986, been an English professor and writer-in-residence at the College of Charleston in South Carolina (which means that even after he became the first author to be anointed by Oprah and her book club—for his third novel, Jewel—in 1999, during a time when another author might have directed his efforts in a sustained assault on the best-seller lists, he continued teaching in the Palmetto State). So, really, it's less surprising that Lott resigned as editor of the Southern Review than it is that he ever left his cherished Charleston in the first place. A testament to the power of the esteemed lit mag, no doubt. Still, one can't help but wonder if Lott didn't phone in this last issue (literally, considering he started teaching in Charleston again last fall). While it features original work from more than a dozen strong poets, such as David Bottoms, Brendan Galvin, and Laura Kasischke, each of the six pieces of fiction and a third of the essays in the issue are excerpts from books, including a nine-page sample from Lott's own novel Ancient Highway, published this month by Random House. Or maybe it just means that the new editor, Jeanne Leiby, who left the editorship of the Florida Review in order to fill Lott's shoes, didn't inherit a stack of already accepted stories. Readers will find out when her first issue is published this month.

The Spring 2008 issue of the Ontario Review will be its last. Editor Raymond J. Smith, husband of Joyce Carol Oates (who served as associate editor of the magazine ever since it was founded in Windsor, Ontario, in 1974) passed away in February. During its thirty-four years, the Ontario Review published poetry, fiction, and essays by writers with such celebrated surnames as Atwood, Barthelme, Bellow, Brodsky, Carver, Gordimer, Lessing, Merwin, and Updike, and also lesser-known authors of equal talent. In an obituary published on Celestial Timepiece: A Joyce Carol Oates Home Page, Greg Johnson writes that the editor "prided himself on finding and publishing writers at the beginning of their careers as well."

Either by design or circumstance, the production schedules of some literary magazines aren't measured in terms of days, weeks, or even—in some cases—months, so long is the gap between issues. Volt, which pushes the boundaries of "annual," is a good example. But such a timeline can present problems for the editor who tries to plan a special issue—one pegged to current events, for example. Unfortunately, the events that founding editor Gillian Conoley wanted the work in the new issue of Volt to address are just as current now as they were when she first placed a call for submissions back in early 2006. The 160-page issue features poems by Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Valzhyna Mort, D. A. Powell, Martha Ronk, James Tate, Joe Wenderoth, Matthew Zapruder, and more than fifty others that address the various wars waged by the United States, including the one in Iraq.

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