Toxic? A Response to Robert Boucheron’s Article in The Review Review

Lighten up. Seriously. Pretty sure we’ve read that somewhere.

Oh wow. My designer and I are going to make blackout poetry of this article during lunch, and I can already tell it will be AMAZING. But first, to engage with the text itself:

#5. No search results
Internet search engines cannot find the magazine by name. The magazine exists only in the cyberworld of WordPress or Weebly, or on a site that hosts blogs…

Yeah, those upstart WordPress lit mags are so backwater: ZYZZYVA, The Masters Review, North American Review, Ploughshares, Bellingham Review. Rank amateurs all, amirite? Some of these journals even have Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. The insouciance.

Also, when did prospective readers cold-calling literary magazines in Google become the preferred/respectable channel for discoverability?

#6. Distasteful work
…You are perusing an issue and you can’t find a single short story, poem or essay that you enjoy reading to the end…

I can select from many adjectives when I find that I don’t enjoy any of the pieces in a literary journal. “Distasteful” doesn’t make my top 20. Why on Earth is “distasteful” the go-to adjective for literature one doesn’t like?

#7. Silly author bios
The staff biographies, found under a site tab called “About” or “Masthead,” are jokey and fake. The staff photos are not face shots, but instead show cats or inanimate objects…

Silly staff and contributor bios, including cat pictures, could well be the salvation of small lit mags. Is there any practicing writer who puts down a sample copy and says “Well, I was going to submit some stories to that magazine, but I just can’t get behind a journal that limits staff/contributor bios to a mere two or three self-aggrandizing statements”? When a journal plays down the importance (or self-importance) of the masthead, that’s actually a good sign. It indicates that the staffers enjoy their jobs and aren’t trying to out-snob anyone.

Anyone still tempted to confuse editorial solemnity and literary rigor ought to check out the delightful April Fool’s “beef” between Kenyon Review and Ohio State University’s The Journal:


Why it matters

The beauty of lit mags, the beauty of literature—hell, the beauty of the whole frickin’ world–is that there are multiple paths to artistic truth. Is self-promotion bad? Perhaps. Ditto for profiteering reading fees and slapdash copy editing. But humor? Self-deprecation on the masthead? Use of the world’s largest and most open-source blogging platform? If such things be “toxic,” please spare me the antidote.

Now, where’d that chisel-tipped Sharpie go? This will be a hoot…

bicycle comics square plate with slogan

Right. I knew I’d read that somewhere before.


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