Hundreds of little literary magazines flourish across the country feeling no embarrassment about modest four-figure readerships and perilous financial straits. In the community of their largely thankless task, the spirit is of mutual respect -- so long as each magazine keeps its unassuming place.
Grand Street, a five-year-old literary quarterly, didn't play by the rules. It set out to become known, and known it has quickly become -- which is where Robert Fogarty comes in, with fighting words.
Fogarty is the editor of one of the better known and older (46 years) little magazines, the Antioch Review. In an essay of unminced words -- which appears in the summer issue of yet another literary magazine called The Quarterly -- he declares that Grand Street's "reputation has not been earned but by and large bought."
Because this "timid and formless magazine" sits pretty in its succe`s d'estime, Fogarty writes, Grand Street fails to perform what he stipulates is its mission: to pluck unknown writers from their undeserved obscurity and give them a nudge toward recognition. But "Grand Street risks almost nothing! ... It publishes only the work of a handful of arrived American, Canadian, and British writers and critics," he writes.
Oh, yeah? The gauntlet has been thrown. Grand Street and its champions will be watched for a reply. And by publishing Fogarty's broadside, The Quarterly, two issues young, well endowed, well connected, has invited careful attention to its own privileged position.
The Quarterly is published by Vintage, a division of Random House, some of whose writers it showcases. It was created by Gordon Lish, editor of lean-boned, artifact-strewn contemporary fiction and mentor to its practitioners.
The contents include fiction, poetry and a series of writers' dispatches "to Q" (for Quarterly). These last have included story fragments, diary entries, experiments, essayettes and literary complaints, like Fogarty's about Grand Street in the summer issue. A pleasing sample of reading here would include Sanford Chernoff's "My Man at the Station" and Sheila Kohler's "The Mountain," poems by Paulette Jiles and hard-to-label things by Nancy Lemann.
The Quarterly (available from P.O. Box 615, Holmes, Pa. 19043) is worth reading, and scrutinizing: Does it meet Fogarty's test of nurturing unknown writers, or is it publishing the work of the arrived and the anointed?
Melancholy Baby News Time's cover story on child care this week (June 22) asks "Who's Bringing Up Baby?" The answer, increasingly, is "not mom and dad," who are off earning a living. The impact of this phenomenon can be found in pressure on employers to accommodate leaves of absence for childbirth and to provide day care for employes' children, and in deep anxiety among parents torn between careers and parenthood.
At U.S. News & World Report, this week's cover question -- "Are We Having Enough Babies?" -- makes Time's seem trivial. In a pre'cis of his new book, "The Birth Dearth," conservative pundit Ben Wattenberg argues that people of western countries aren't doing nearly enough to propagate their species. He calls for "pronatalist public policies," from improved child-care programs to cash disbursements for childbearing, to create incentives for the right kind of babies, and lots of them.
The key question, for Wattenberg, is: "Will our values continue to dominate in a world where our population shrinks?" As he puts it later, "The democratic ideal needs carriers." This is high-temperature stuff. Justly anticipating some heated reaction, U.S. News rounds up experts to pooh-pooh Wattenberg and urge moderation in all things.
Artful Dodgers At the intersection of art and commerce, the corner newsstand carries the June issues of:
ARTnews, with its extraordinary report of the man who created the so-called "Zagreb Louvre" in Yugoslavia. As Andrew Decker tells this absorbing tale, Ante Topic Mimara died in January at the age of 88, certain that the Yugoslav government had done his bidding: built a second museum to his specifications (the first one didn't meet them) to house his collection of 3,600 works of art. Meanwhile, art experts who've had a look at the stuff declare that "ninety percent of it is junk," describing Mimara "an ignoramus" who collected "as if blindfolded."
Art & Antiques, celebrating artistic depictions of sport through the (recent) ages. As theme issues go, which is often awry, this one isn't half bad: Novelist Joyce Carol Oates, who is now an expert on boxing, assesses the classic prizefighting paintings of George Bellows. Hoagy B. Carmichael Jr. -- the angler son of the singing dad -- notes the fine points of the fish decoy. Two reporters inquire of horse lovers why they pay good money to have their thoroughbreds immortalized in paintings. Tennis pro Tim Mayotte is surprised to discover his raison d'e~tre in the Jeu de Paume.
New Art Examiner, a Washington-based review, with its unsmiling dissection of "mainstream" art by Luis Camnitzer. Broadly hinting at the coming revolution, Camnitzer opens a window on what the dispossessed of the American artistic community are presumed to think and feel. The mainstream art market, with "its distorting incentives, its self-congratulatory righteousness, its bulldozing cultural flattening and its deep-seated racism," he writes, perpetuates "a power structure that promotes a self-appointed hegemonic culture." And so on, toward the only conclusion possible: that "the issue is not our access to the mainstream, but the mainstream's access to us."