As editor of Granta, Bill Buford had a specific editorial vision: British writing was crap and American voices needed to be published more in England. So, the first issue of Granta that he published was called “New American Writing” and included writers like Susan Sontag, Paul Auster, and Louise Erdrich. And the third issue went out under the title “The End of the English Novel.” This fascinating bit of history comes from John Freeman, the current Editor of Granta, during a PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature event (Literary Magazines: Here and Abroad, Now and in the Future) that took place earlier this year. Along with Freeman, the panel of participants discussing the history, future, and international differences of literary magazines included Rodrigo Fresán, Rob Spillman, M Mark, and Peter Stamm, with David Haglund moderating.
Early on, Spillman, editor and co-founder of Tin House, tells about a publishing class in Santiago, Chile trying to create a literary magazine “out of nothing,” because that country’s literary tradition doesn’t have such a thing and has been more concerned historically with poetry broadsides and chapbooks. The students, Spillman says, were excited, but also frightened by the challenge.
Other topics that come up during the discussion include publishing processes, translations, online versions of magazines (as well as what reading online can do to a story), and much more. If you’re a fan of literary magazines or just a fan of literature in general (and if you’re on this blog, you probably are) then this is a discussion you won’t want to miss. And, if you don’t have a full hour and a half to give to it, the conversation jumps around a lot, so you can just click ahead and catch up on the fly, in order to get a taste of multiple topics.