Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ray Bianchi on Rebecca Wolf etc

I came upon Ray Bianchi's blog entry above while putting off stuff I have to do. Unfortunatley I couldn't leave any comments on his blog, so I'll leave them here.

Rebecca Wolf: I agree that the journal isn't the greatest thing in the world. But then what journal is? As far as Fence Books goes, few presses have published books as interesting as Fence over the past few years: In addition to Joyelle's books (which apparently make Ray "vomit"...), Tina Celona's latest, Catherine Wagner and Ariana Reines.

I'm not sure why she gets criticized so much. Ray mentions her marketing skills. But it doesn't seem to me that she markets her books half as aggressively as for example Wave Books. Yet I seldom hear anybody criticize them. In fact she doesn't market her books much at all. Can't remember the last time I saw a Fence ad for example. Not that this should matter.

[On second though - there are actually quite a few journals I really like more than I like Fence: Tinfish, Soft Targets, Circumference, Double Room (web), Nypoesi (web)]


Blogger Raymond Bianchi said...

actually Joyelle's books do not make me vomit. What makes me vomit is the fact that so many presses are machines for friends to publish friends or colleagues and there is no structure of editorial distance

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just ran into this a year or so late...

Yes, nepotism is vile and, yes, nepotism rulz throughout the literary publishing world. However, I'd argue that Rebecca's Fence operation is better than most. The competitions really are blind (though, of course, the judges aren't picked randomly) and she publishes a lot of stuff in the magazine more or less blindly. Compared to, oh, Jubilat, your random language poetry journal, or the Paris Review, just to name a few, Fence and Fence Books are a paragon of editorial discretion.

It's worth noting, perhaps, that few successful literary journals/publishers handle editorial work blindly and/or with strict peer review. In fact, with a few notable exceptions, collapsing editorial functions into friendships and friendships into semi-saleable books, contributes to the financial and promotional well-being of the journal. It's more efficient from a short term business point of view and so on. There's a good reason why so many journals make everyone who isn't part of the club vomit. Unfortunately.

In the academic literary world, it's even worse. In short, everyone hides behind peer review but the most commercially successful academic presses rig peer review. It's used as rough form of fact checking but at most university presses editors pick the reviewers and they pick readers to confirm submissions not to vet them. Everyone knows this goes on but I can tell you that it doesn't just "go on." It's SOP for smart editors and the way smaller presses compete against the trade houses.

For years, ever since I started working in publishing, I've wanted to see a magazine or publishing house of some size run with a (reasonably) blind editorial process. Sure, it's a bit tricky to do since everyone knows everyone else but it's possible. I doubt it would be radically different from, oh, various current blind competitions but it might snowball in to something interesting, depending on the editors, the process, etc.

7:02 PM  

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