The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Lit mag day

Posted on: October 18, 2007

It seems to be the day to talk about magazine subscriptions, as both Biblioaddict and The Literary Saloon have posts on their subscription lists. (I do have a “review” of that postcolonial SF/F anthology I’ve mentioned here occasionally, brewing in drafts. Hope to get it out today, might not.)

The prize for longest magazine subscription goes to The Economist. The catch is that for quite a long time the outfit (unwittingly, I assume) extended my free online subscription offer for at least a year. This was back in the late 90s and it looked as though it was beefing up their website offerings and drumming up interest. Sadly, I was caught, eventually, and once I moved to Canada and got a credit card, it was one of the first sites to get some of my imaginary moolah.

I’d love to subscribe to the TLS but it is beyond my means. $225 annually? *wheeze* I depend on the good ol’ local Chapters to keep up with the latest issues, and the campus library to catch any I missed. A charming LRB editor noticed my blog during its infancy (by googling the mag, I guess) when I did a post on lit mags and complained that the local Chapters had stopped ordering the LRB after I had gotten only one taste. He said nice things about my blog and offered me three or four gorgeous free issues to try. So of course I signed up. (The fact that it’s only $50 CAD helps.) I’m with the Paris Review as well, even though it’s $45 smackaroos for a sometimes quarterly mag. Maybe I’ll renew, maybe I won’t.

It may seem like a step down but I could replace the “biggest little magazine” with Bookmarks, which I just discovered earlier this week. Stephen King may patronise unenlightened book stores but my Chapters, regardless of its other evils, has a whole top section in the periodicals area devoted to all kinds of literary magazines and journals. It had always been there, but the selection had been more mixed, not quite as well organised and not so singularly devoted to lit. I felt all of them crying out to me to be bought and read, but I did not even scribble their names down for fear of getting carried away. I could not possibly accommodate more reading into my life at present, especially since most of the magazines were devoted to short fiction and poetry rather than criticism.

Anyway Bookmarks’ glossy finish was eye-catching and I took it down to see what it was all about. It was the fall issue and I loved it. First of all most of the ads were stuck at the back where they belonged. Second of all they had basic, but fairly good profiles on one classic author (James Joyce) and a contemporary one R.K. Narayan, which was a happy coincidence since last week’s TLS featured a Commentary article on Kamala Markandaya, an author from the same literary period in India, so to speak. What I liked about the pieces was that the writers assumed that the reader was a newbie to either figure and gave good overviews of each of their backlists.

You can also tell from the way it’s put together and its overall tone that the mag is run by real book lovers who like to give attention all kinds of books, regardless of genre, instead of only the literary kind. In their copious listings of new releases (whether in hardcover or paperback) there was Andrew O’Hagan and Tim Willocks (who writes frothy historical romps, it seems) side by side, and a bit of attention paid to SF/F as well. I can’t think of a bookish print publication that is so comprehensive. I was not impressed with the non-fiction listings, but for everything else they did just fine. And a 2 year Canadian subscription is only $65.95!

Besides Bookmarks the other magazines I can remember being there were On Spec, Fiddlehead (with which I’m familiar), The Antigonish Review (which I know about too), about three for SF/F fans including Fantasy & Science Fiction, another Canadian lit mag that looked very very indie, another that seemed aimed at writers…. I’ll have to explore those shelves at a later date. Just to look.

I’m three weeks away from my site’s one year anniversary. Fancy that! Maybe after this publicists will offer review copies of books that, you know, I’d actually consider, rather than “Mitch Albom-type” fare. I’m still boggled that anyone’s offering me review copies of anything.

Edit: Scott scents a meme in the offing. What say you? And am I the only one who finds the New York Review of Books to be bland, bland, bland with an occasional woo (subscription required)?


3 Responses to "Lit mag day"

I’ve gotten exactly one offer of a review book that I liked — it was the Sweeney Among Other Things I’ve Taken Up Smoking book. Otherwise, I figure I wouldn’t want to read it — not that I get that many offers to begin with. But I’m still amazed anyone bothers at all — to be honest, I’m not sure it’s the best use of marketers’ time, to be emailing me. But don’t tell them that … 🙂

Dorothy, I got that same book – although, poor reviewer that I am, I haven’t read it yet. I once thought it would be fun to be a book reviewer (and still do for the most part), but I never considered that reviewers often have to read books they’re not particularly interested in. There’s a downside to everything, I suppose.

Imani, you are definitely not the only one who finds Te New York Review of Books bland. I tried, I really tried to like that magazine, but…eh. Once upon a time, I considered subscribing but I figured, why waste money?

A magazine meme? I’m down.

Dorothy I received my first over the summer one or two have popped into my inbox since then. I’m just surprised since my blog isn’t even a year old yet, and the frequency of my reviews is pretty sporadic.

But yes, never let it be said that one doesn’t want to be offered….

Peyton lucky you! I acquired it myself after I read Dorothy’s review. I never thought it would be fun to be a professional book reviewer: think of all the crap you’d have to read, quickly and thoroughly, twice even, and on a deadline! *shudder* Running my own site suits me fine.

Glad I’m not the only one who isn’t into the NYRB. I know it has great political coverage (certainly not fiction) but for a non-American it’s pretty predictable and monotonous since the spotlight is rarely turned on other countries who don’t currently hold some direct relevance to America’s current interests (so you get a million Iraq articles, the occasional Iran, Lebanon etc.). I much prefer the LRB for that sort of thing because it’s not always about Jolly ol’ England.

I never considered subscribing. 😀

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