Writers are followed across platforms with more interest than the publications for which they write are followed: many readers relate to this. We follow the individual, not the publication. I follow Sheila Heti and Cat Marnell and Elizabeth Wurtzel and many others on Twitter. I’ll read whatever they write, wherever they write it, even their tweets about the weather. I also get to know who and what they are reading.
Personalities don’t substitute for good stories or good sentences, but they are slowly changing how we approach literature.
Instead of stumbling into writers through publications for which we have faithful subscriptions, it often seems like the opposite. Writers lead us to the publications for which they write. Many of us still get magazines in the mail. Weekly magazines haven’t kept up, but the monthly and quarterly ones still have their place, piling up against our walls. Except while our hard copies of magazines are piled at home or we’re waiting for The New York Times stamp of approval or whatever to come first, the writers we follow are always sharing their work and the work they are reading at our fingertips.
Here are three literary magazines I’ve come across and recommend that, like many of us, focus on writers and / or finding new approaches to literature.
I’m a sucker for interviews: the standard magazine format, the questionnaires in the back of Vanity Fair, and even the endless celebrity interviews on YouTube. (Harmony Korine’s appearances on Letterman are maybe my favourite.) Interviews are also one of the most direct ways to get to know an artist. I recently came across an interview about interviews with Sheila Heti, a Toronto-based writer and interview editor at The Believer.
The magazine not only turns out great interviews, it has a stable of recurring features, including book reviews, installments from various writers, advice columns, and letters from readers. In 2009 they published a planner, 52 Weeks, Heads, and Quotes, in which each week featured a Charles Burns illustration and quote from the interviewee; subjects included Tina Fey, Joan Didion, Judith Butler, and Jack White.
Its features tend to be long and critic A.O. Scott described the magazine as part of “a generational struggle against laziness and cynicism.” It also seems part of a generational interest in the people who write and read books as much as the actual books. But they get to explain themselves in much more than 140 characters.
Hazlitt is a new, internet-only “home for writers” that Random House Canada has funded. I heard about it in the real world, unlike the other publications I’ve included. A panel I went to last year on Canadian literature included vice-president of Random House Canada Louise Dennys. During the panel discussion, she identified Canadian literature (to an audience of mostly high school teachers) as “exotic and sexy.” She had the most eclectic idea of Canadian literature of the six panelists.
Hazlitt Magazine is just as eclectic as it features award-winning, best-selling authors beside young, emerging writers, from both Canada and abroad. It also promotes itself as “writer-centric” and features the voices of those tweetable writers you read no matter their subject.
Little Brother is a Toronto-based magazine that began as a Tumblr and is now biannual in print. The first issue of the magazine, like its name, suggests Canada has this dual reputation. It’s this geeky younger brother to America but it’s also this small pocket of overlooked culture and art that once in a while makes its way into American consciousness, and America is like, “I can’t believe we overlooked this! We need to pay more attention to Canada!” And then goes back to ignoring us because we’re geeky little brothers.
The second issue, which came out early May, is about all about JOKES. It suggests that you can take a literary approach to a “low subject” and the writing doesn’t need to be inaccessible. The Believer has done this as well, often mixing pop genres with literary theory.
Image is a screen grab from the home page of Hazlitt