Friday, August 20, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Literary Magazines

Day 193 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and someone is reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender, but who? Did I just delete the answer to this from my email? Was it at another blog? Did I hear something about it on NPR? It's just one of those days, of loose ends, heavy humid air particles, sparse rain, squished brain cells.

Anyway, a lot of people are reading it, as it's on a number of bestseller lists, so I needn't worry about the why, even if I've temporarily lost the particular who.

Meanwhile, there is trouble, and particular sadness, at the Virginia Quarterly Review, where a managing editor committed suicide and his boss is accused of being a bully. What a sad thing. I wonder if this will end up in a future "literary feuds" book, or if the grief and anger in this situation will flare up, then turn to ash. I feel sorry for everyone involved.

Literaries in the mail this week include The Comstock Review and The Sow's Ear Review, both nice magazines with a wonderful variety of fine poems by new and established poets. I am particularly taken with a center art section in Sow's Ear, Book Sculptures by Samantha Y. Huange, which you can see here at her page at Art Review or at flickr. It's really gorgeous, in black at white in Sow's Ear, in color at these websites, and there's a particular sadness, perhaps, in the beauty that comes from the artful "destruction" of these old books. But, of course, they have here a new life.

Artists and interior decorators come to Babbitt's now and then, wanting old books to use as art, to cut up for collages, or to cut out the centers of to hide things in, or to place on shelves, in cabinets, on little end tables as decoration. I went to a funeral home recently that used old books as decoration on shelves of its large coat closets and in glass knick-knack cases along with the dishes and figurines. Even I have been known to cut up books--that were already falling apart--to make collages (or to recycle appropriately by removing the covers) or to stack books in a somewhat sculptural way....

Even the indulgence of two poems from What Feeds Us has left a lemony sweet taste of sadness. "Heart on the Unemployment Line," by Diane Lockward, ends "Even in grief, it keeps beating." And "Wren House" ends, "We had waited like this once before, / wanting some soft creature to fly in." And so the sadness continues.


seana said...

It's not the greatest thing to have coicidences around, but suicide has been very much around me this last week. Not with my immediate friends and family, thank God. But it does sadden me that an acclaimed literary magazine has had this happen among its staff as you report.

Kathleen said...

So sorry, seana. It's very troubling. In this case, you worry about the poor man, who was asking for help, his boss who was also his friend, and his frustrated family, driven to blame. There must be details and delicate complexities here, and so much suffering. There is gentleness and respect in the way the VQR itself reports on the loss, so I hope everyone can get through this with room to grieve.

I had just begun to work with Escape Into Life, as poetry editor, when we lost our young founding editor. His family, friends, and colleagues are still struggling to understand and carry on. His magazine was a tribute to his mother, who also died young (but 60; he was 31), and now it is a tribute to the both of them.