Uncategorized | June 04, 2004

I have been thinking about Richard’s question posted earlier this week: “What do you want from a literary magazine?” I could come up with a menu of authors, some from the pages of TMR, some from The New Yorker, and of course a smathering from other literary magazines. Say a story or two by V.S. Naipaul, Nancy Kincaid, Michael Byers, Robert Olen Butler, and William Trevor. Add in a few essays by Adam Gopnik, Floyd Skloot, Janet Malcolm, and William Holtz. Perhaps a feature of poems by Talvikki Ansel, Robert Haas, or our own poetry editors Bern Mulvey and Steve Gerhke. And of course interviews with other literary greats. But putting together a literary magazine is seldom as easy as ordering up your favorites. Even more, TMR is known for giving new, unpublished writers a chance to join the literary fray. Cooking up a literary magazine is a combination of chance and hard work—ours and the authors’. Sometimes we solicit our favorite authors. But mostly we look for our contents in the slush pile, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

What I want in a literary magazine is akin to what I want in a boyfriend—charm, wit, graciousness, authority—all vague abstractions that only really take on meaning when you meet the right guy. The truth is that no amount of talking about what you want in a guy can guarantee the right outcome. It’s much the same with a literary magazine. I could explain what I want in a magazine–even order up a menu of authors–but what matters more is recognizing what’s good when it is sent our way. Forget the matchmakers, the dating services, the personal ads. I’ll take the surprises. The chance encounters. The first-time discoveries. At its best, TMR is a great date; a literary equivalent of an all-night conversation.