Jul/Aug 2007  •   Reviews & Interviews

Five Quick and Dirty Lit Site Reviews

Interview by Scott Malby

The following are the author's opinions and do not in any way represent the official views of Eclectica Magazine or its editors.


The Kenyon Review

In electronic publishing the editor and design programmer walk a fine line regarding the length of material and the way in which that material flows across the screen. The online Kenyon Review site is smart, polished and electronically savvy. Like most other sites of this kind, its primary focus is to try and sell its paper issues. Unlike the others, it does so with a minimum of fuss and provides for some fascinating reading. You get a good online sampling of its reviews, poetry and fiction. While the material can be read in a rather short period of time, it still manages to communicate the flavor of the paper issue as a whole. It amazes me that The Kenyon Review has maintained such a high standard of excellence for so long. While you may question editorial decisions regarding what it decides to focus on, you can be guaranteed that the material itself will be well written, entertaining and worthwhile



If you want a look at what creative college-age individuals are up to, here is a site worth visiting. Etude is published quarterly by the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon. Its specialty is literary nonfiction and it should be; the university has a program devoted to it. The Spring '07 issue had some great things in it as well as some writing that could have been better edited. Webmaster Louis Vidmar and Editor Lauren Kessler are responsible for this earnest, clever, creative and worthwhile product. Of special note in the Spring 07 issue was the flash feature titled “Faces of the Homeless.” The writing, audio, overall organizational design and thematic presentation of this feature deserve special commendation. “Faces of the Homeless” proves that when you have something real to communicate, words, audio and images can unite, morphing into a special kind of poetry. I was reminded of Steinbeck when experiencing this feature.


The Harvard Advocate

If it's available on the net and has any pretensions toward the literary, then it's subject to review. The Harvard Advocate is a case in point. It is student-centered but has an outward looking consciousness regarding events and happenings as far away as Los Angeles. The individuals and themes covered may suggest intellectual trends worth paying more attention to. The Spring 2007 issue of the Advocate was cute. I liked its organizational design. The art section profile was good. I liked the review of Dave Eggers and his work by Richard Beck and Alexander Fabry's interview with Julieta Aranda. However, the fiction section was somewhat juvenile and the poetry section, though fine, was without a captivating flair. The edition in question seemed hurried and patched together. This is a journal that accepts submissions from members of the *Harvard community.” I imagine there is quite a talent pool available. It was interesting to compare this issue with other college efforts such as the University of Oregon's Etude.



One of the most irritating literary sites on the internet is *TriQuarterly*. Its Web presence this last May represented a truncated calling card or paralytic limb of the Northwestern University Press. All I found by going there was an obligatory quote by someone special, in this case Robert Pinsky; a list of contributing editors, a page or two regarding how special TriQuarterly is and a list of features or titles that link only to an author's name. There is nothing there! No; not even a teaser. They just don't seem to give a damn. How journals of this stature can get away with this type of Web presence amazes me. This lack of effort is counterproductive; it makes a site look ineffectual, prehistoric, and negatively elitist.



I'd like to write about the Web presence of Fulcrum, but I'm not sure how. My impression is that it has a number of characteristics in common with TriQuarterly. Both may be intellectually sexy in the handling but you can't learn that from their Web presence. Take this sentence found in Fulcrum's mission statement: “Much of the available plethora of aesthetic discourse by poets today is resignedly tautologous, speaking as it does to the converted and the like-minded.” Hmmm. Is it saying: “When poets talk shop they tend to talk only with those who agree with them?” Is that what I can expect if I buy an issue? Fulcrum is a site begging for anthropological investigation. After study, you learn that Marjorie Perloff and Billy Collins love it, that it may have sprung up hydra-headed overnight from a loft somewhere in Boston and that it has an impressive Internet design, but no real net substance to support all the glowing claims. Just one little complete essay from an issue might well have made all the difference. As it is, I'll keep an eye out at a library book sale for a copy. After reading a bit of that I can more intelligently decide if I want to subscribe.