What Happens When Literary Journals Report The News?


With newspapers folding and cutting corners all around the country, it’s easy to give up entirely on the fourth estate. But now look who’s riding in on their white horse: those writers you newspaper types wouldn’t give jobs to before because they tried to make their articles all “literary.” Take that, 5 W’s.

As Dave Eggers said in his interview here at The Rumpus, McSweeney’s will soon be releasing a newspaper edition, with writers from Stephen King to Miranda July to Junot Diaz helping to create Panorama, which they are billing as a “prototype.” (A preview is here).

But it’s not just at McSweeney’s. Carolyn Kellogg at Jacket Copy points us in the direction of a powerful four part piece at the Virginia Quarterly Review on the Mumbai attacks of November 26-28, 2008. She says, “That a magazine like VQR — esteemed, yet with a modest and distinctly literary circulation — has undertaken such an effort demonstrates an enthusiasm for significant nonfiction storytelling.”

In other news, The Boston Review has this online report on “The Trial of Ezra Nawi,” and Guernica has this piece on Sudan (as well as lots more). I haven’t been around long enough to say whether all this is new or not (I doubt that it is), but there’s definitely more now than there was a few years ago when I started reading literary journals again (there was a long, dark chapter in there where I completely sucked).

And the question, I think, is whether this will expand the reach of literary journals and increase the quality of news coverage, or whether all it means is that we’ll end up with a few literary types that are a lot better informed on the issues of the day than they were a few years before.

Seth Fischer’s writing has twice been listed as notable in The Best American Essays and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize by several publications, including Guernica. He was the founding Sunday editor at The Rumpus and is the current nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. He is a Dornsife PhD Fellow at USC and been awarded fellowships and residencies by Ucross, Lambda Literary, Jentel, Ragdale, and elsewhere, and he teaches at the UCLA-Extension Writer’s Program and Antioch University, where he received his MFA. More from this author →