Saturday, January 7, 2012

Lit mags and Adam Bellow

I spent a few hours today going through my pile of literary magazines today, taking stock, purging and reorganizing. I've been collecting the magazines for a few years, since I started submitting my own stories and especially since I got the gig reading submissions for All-Story Zoetrope. I subscribe to about 4-5 magazines a year, playing the field and rotating my subscriptions each year. I also buy individual issues once in a while, like the pretty Noon Annual or the charismatic The Fabulist. I try not to get more than I can read, and end up reading about a quarter of the magazines that I get.

The task of looking at old magazines turned into a fun social activity when my friends Genine and Amber came over and sat with me on the floor and flipped through the pages. We ordered Chinese and had dinner together, after which everyone turned drowsy. When my friends left, I thought of cleaning up, but actually ended up reading some stuff. A few stories, and an essay that had only tangential relationship to literature: Adam Bellow's "On Conservative Intellectuals," published in World Affairs in the Summer of 2008. I think I'd picked up this magazine at a Slavic conference I went to a few years ago. What grabbed my attention about this essay is that it started like a story, with a funeral (William F. Buckley's); that the writer is an editor; and that the writer is Saul Bellow's son. I'm not sure I understood the point he was making in the article: he seems to be uncomfortable with the direction of the contemporary conservative movement (which he distinguishes from the Republican party here), but is unapologetic about his place in it. Anyway, I'm coming to this debate in the middle and have only a vague idea what he is to apologize for, and what I liked most about this essay was a metaphor he used about the media stream of the 90s: "Metaphorically speaking, the Berlin Wall had been replaced by the Jersey Turnpike--and eight lane superhighway filled with trucks zooming past in both directions, variously labeled "Gulf War," "Bosnia," "O.J. Simpson," "Princess Di," "Titanic," with no particular distinction made between them. For in the postmodern world, all media events are created equal." This is not a particularly fresh metaphor--the information superhighway--but he delivers it with a lot of punch and conviction.

No overarching conclusion from this flurry of activity today, but a sense of nagging sadness. I ended up mixing the stacks of magazines I've read with the ones I haven't read and packed them away again in such a way that I won't be able to remember which is which.


  1. while it's still fresh in your mind, can you perhaps go through the pile again and recycle the magazines you've already read?
    - an impartial competely independent observer

  2. Actually, it's much easier for me to part with the mags I haven't read yet. I haven't gotten personally attached to them yet, and also am not liable to go looking for "what was that story I read recently" there.
    I got rid of quite a few mags. Any independent observer should be proud.

  3. It's great to see people reading lit mags with gusto. Please get in touch if you ever wish to review literary magazines!

    All the best,
    Editor, The Review Review

  4. Becky, thank you for the offer! I love reading mags, and will seriously consider it :)