While the Internet has disrupted American magazine and book publishing, several venerable journals keep going strong with little or no change to their editorial philosophy.
All have made concessions to the Internet, setting up web sites and publishing electronic editions. They have remained primarily committed to their print editions, which have stayed pretty much the same in the type of articles printed and the look of their covers and layouts.
Both the Hudson Review and the New York Review of Books have kept going after losing key founding editors.
At the venerable Hudson, founded in 1947, Paul Deitz maintains control after the death of her husband, co-founder Frederick Morgan, several years ago. The Hudson's distinctive red and white cover, with a list of articles inside, has never changed.
Known as a champion of formalism and non-experimental writing, the Hudson has a characteristic rarefied tone. I often find the Hudson stuffy, like a traditional faculty tea, yet it always comes through with interesting articles and a few worthy poems. As with most publications, its short stories generally don't captivate me. (Yet I venerate the form. See below).
The latest Hudson offers Stephen P. Joy's "Goddess or Witch," which turns out to be a surprisingly compelling comparison of the careers of C.S. Lewis and Robert Graves. Despite the disparity in their views on religion and relationships between men and women, their Oxford backgrounds, World War I service and other aspects of their lives were similar. Joy gives a vivid portrait of Oxford-Cambridge literary life, and I was amused at his calling Graves paramour Laura Riding a "poetess." I thought that term had been scrapped long ago.
Longtime Hudson Review contributor David Mason compelled me to want to re-read Joseph Conrad's work with a perceptive and informative review of a new selection of Conrad's letters. I also liked Derwent May's chatty and old-school Letter from London. Erick Neher delivers an in-depth overview of Broadway's musicals from last season, including a perceptive discussion of "Hamilton's" casting black actors to play Jefferson, Aaron Burr, and George Washington.
At the NYR, longtime editor Robert Silvers keeps turning out a varied editorial package. Co-founder Barbara Epstein died several years ago, leaving Silvers to motor on. The political articles and reviews of poetry and fiction have kept the same sophisticated tone through the years. Despite an impressive roster of writers with distinctive styles, Silvers' editing gives the articles a unitary finish.
Full disclosure: I now read the NYR on an electronic device, giving up the piled up newsprint edition years ago. The electronic device proves handy for skimming those long pieces on subjects like Greek archaeology.
I'll remain loyal to NYR as long as it keeps publishing articles by Russell Baker. In the latest issue, Baker review Joseph Lelyveld's recent book on Franklin Roosevelt's health-ravaged last days. Baker's elegant writing, which for years graced the New York Times op-ed page, points to the decline of Times columnists, although I ritualistically continue reading Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman and yes, the oft-disparged Maureen Dowd.
The NYR also gave a home to excellent political writer Elizabeth Drew, who for years gave the New Yorker in-depth coverage of Washington. Her departure from the New Yorker was one of the worst decisions of the Tina Brown era.
Comparable to the Hudson Review, the Sewanee Review comes out quarter after quarter with the same blue cover it began with in 1896. As with the Hudson, the SR's articles, stories and poems can feel out-dated, as if the last three decades, or two centuries, had never occurred. Yet, I always find several engrossing articles and striking poems. Even the SR stories often draw me in. George Core has guided the SR for years.
Giving its allegiance to the past and traditions, I was surprised that the SR has gone to an electronic submissions model. Now, a contributor must pay $3 to have his or her work considered. The cost is minimal, but still a burden for hard-pressed poets and writers.
The New Yorker, Paris Review, Harper's and Atlantic also keep coming out with strong print editions. Perhaps enough of us aging print acolytes will survive to keep print culture going for a few more years.
True confession: I stopped receiving the print New Yorker, and now find the electronic editions lining up as the print ones used to stack up on my living room floor. The New Yorker's articles seem more predictable these days, but I keep pushing myself to read it. In a recent edition, I enjoyed a racy short story by Curtis Sittenfield, whose work I've mostly avoided.
The Atlantic shamefully quit publishing short stories a few years ago, but the format remains a vital part of the other journals mentioned here. Alas, the National Magazine Awards recently announced it will stop giving a short story prize.
Sounds like the organization that gives the awards no longer wants to make the effort to have judges read a multitude of short stories. Or perhaps the awards ignores literary journals. Fie on you, Natiional Magazine Awards, the short story will outlive you.