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Granta editor calls attention to impending Canadian litmag crisis

John Freeman, the new acting editor of Granta magazine, weighs in on the state of litmags in an article in today’s Independent. Interestingly, the piece begins by looking at the recent blow dealt to litmags here in Canada:

Bad things happen up north in the winter, when no one is looking. Like last February, when Canada’s heritage minister James Moore gave a speech which poorly disguised the fact that his office was effectively preparing to clear-cut many Canadian journals. Under his directive a literary journal in Canada must now sell at least 5,000 copies each year to be eligible for government assistance. This may seem like an abstruse piece of bookish trivia, until one remembers that most journals are lucky to reach half that number of readers, and that this radical cutback in funding is happening in a country whose tiny journals supported the early work of Michael Ondaatje, Anne Michaels, and Alice Munro, let alone talented newcomers such as Pasha Malla.

But it’s not just Canada leading this retreat. Fearful capitulation has been the norm in so much English-language literary publishing over the last four years. Newspapers in the U.S. and England have slashed book review supplements, and watched dumbfounded as readers upchucked their subscriptions.

(Thanks to the National Post for calling our attention to Freeman’s piece.)

  • ol’ brucie

    You know, it’s funny that he says stuff like:

    Journals can afford to provoke these questions because they have the ability to fail, at least part of the time. They have the ability to use the cognitive friction of juxtaposition, layering, and varying lengths. Rare is the novel which features a one-page chapter and a 120-page chapter between two covers; but a journal can do this because a journal can be anything.

    But the truth is, go to the submission guidelines of any journal and the first thing they tell you is to “READ BACK ISSUES” so you have a sense of what they want.

    Don’t journals have their own ‘strictures of the market’? A smaller market, sure, but still…

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