Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Becoming a Reader of Future Authors

If I wanted to read what authors like Ray Bradbury and Charles Simic and Woody Allen and Herta Müller were writing for publication these days, I could scarcely have done better -- I tell myself -- than subscribe to three journals that have begun to arrive at my new address. I have ignored the voice of experience that reminds me of other subscriptions over the years that each promised a new lease on my reading life. Alas, month after month the issues had collected, barely perused and largely unread, on bedside tables and back porch chairs.

Well, so what?

I am furnishing my new rooms, and I have fallen victim once again to the lure of the printed page to help create a look that would engage me if I met it in someone else's home.

Zoetrope was the wild card in this trio of publications. Thanks to the "Frequently Bought Together" feature on Amazon, I discovered the fiction-and-film journal, first launched in 1997 and headquartered in San Francisco. If Francis Ford Coppola can market wine and The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola can market a literary magazine, and I decided to taste the vintage. Like some unknown author whose novels I will check out at random times from the local library, Zoetrope seemed worth a gamble. I take as a good omen the appearance of an entertaining piece by Woody Allen in the first issue in my subscription.

Subscribing to The Paris Review seemed a privilege. It was a seat unexpectedly pulled out for me in a sidewalk cafe, a place cleared for me at a table strewn with cream-colored Gallimard editions. It is a twentieth-century tradition of writing and reading which I had forgotten to join over the years, and I feel fortunate to have found in the past months that I might still join the conversation. I can discover that cultural link between New York City and Paris as something still capable of bringing alive the hunger for thought and supple expression that should never go away. Lives feel on hold for some of us until that hunger is acknowledged and honored and assuaged.

East Coast and West Coast, Left Bank and Washington Square -- I might not have thought to revisit those literary roots without a nod to the authority of Granta. It is a subscription to Granta that initially led me on online crawls to look for an affordable ticket to a publication that has become synonymous with new writing. Begun long ago by undergraduates at Cambridge University, it was reborn within the last four decades and became a place for the emerging talents in British fiction to reach a reading public.

Beyond fiction, beyond Britain, the magazine has served up a range of writing that deserves attention. I was fortunate by means of the first issue of my subscription to be introduced to British poet Michael Symmons Roberts. His record of an extended visit to a Scottish Benedictine monastery, a record included within a Granta issue focused on writings on Sex, is breathtaking. If you're wondering what he could possibly have said to earn a place within that context, buy the Spring issue.


Ur-spo said...

I like the new renovated look here.

John said...

Thanks. It felt like time to open up.