March 23, 2015
The Los Angeles Review of Books launches ambitous new channel, The Offing
by Taylor Sperry
Last week, the Los Angeles Review of Books launched the Offing, “an online literary magazine publishing creative writing in all genres and art in all media.”
The Offing joins Avidly (critical essays published twice a week), Marginalia (an “open access review of literature and culture in the nexus of history, theology, and religion,” published every other Tuesday), and Philosoplant (on plants and philosophy?) as part of the LARB’s Channels project and it’s their most ambitious initiative yet–they plan to publish each day in one of ten departments: Fiction, Poetry, Essay/Memoir, “Dead Letter Office” (“missives never sent”), “You Are Here” (“Writing that inspires a reconsideration of places”), “Wit’s End” (Humor), “Micro” (10- to 560- character works), “Enumerate” (lists), “Offsite” (links), and “Insight” (Op-eds).
Executive editors Airea D. Matthews and Michael D. Snediker sat down with David Ulin for an interview published in the Los Angeles Times and partially reprinted below.
Let’s start with the Offing’s mission of diversity: “to seek out work by and about those often marginalized in the literary conversation, including people of color, women and gender non-conformists, and members of the LGBTQ and differently abled communities.”
Airea D. Matthews: We want to broaden the literary conversation. The making of art often happens in insularity — inside of our thoughts and bodies. But while social media and technology offer an alternative discourse, we unfortunately discover that we are farther apart than we ever suspected. Cultural fragmentation persists, privilege persists, belief systems garnered in the familiar isolation of our singular experiences persist.
The sharing of art, then, must necessarily be democratic and encourage plurality — a simple recognition that valuable work is being made in the center and on the periphery; and there’s space for all. We aren’t asking artists to migrate to the center to be heard; we’re providing a platform for those working in circumferential spaces, by choice, circumstance or experiment.
Editorially, this means we are growing — exploring our predilections and interrogating them under the white-hot light of fierce work. Ultimately, in order to clear a path for marginalized, or divergent, voices, we have to value ”openness to otherness,” and hold space for those placed beyond the pale.
Given this intention — to embody a mix of sensibilities, genres, communities — what is the center, the through line, that unites these parts?
ADM: The definition of “offing” is the most distant part of the ocean that can be seen from the shore. We are guided by that idea. We are looking past the breakers to the vanishing line, the point where the sky and earth merge. We honor the work of farsight and imagination. If we look, we see. As such, the through line is vision.
How does the editor help push that vision? As facilitator, advocate, but also curator?
ADM: The role of the editor morphs over time. In these initial stages, we are at once organizers and curators, trying to make sure the work that gets chosen aligns with our goals for the magazine. To that end, the executive editors are in frequent talks with the department editors. We have conversations about submissions: What does the work aspire to? What questions does it raise or leave unasked? I suppose in this way we are in a constant state of complex advocacy — for our readers, for the authors and for our editors. We’re a tribe of risk-loving craftsfolk who desire, above all else, artistic provision for the writer who insists on correspondence rather than closure.
The Offing encourages writers to test their boundaries — in terms of both perspective and style. What does such a sensibility look like?
Michael D. Snediker: The sensibility for me is in the testing: I think of Thoreau’s account of “Walden” as an experiment, or Dickinson’s “crumbling’s not an instant’s act.” Breaking down boundaries (whether literal, figurative, political, epistemological) is easier said than done; testing boundaries involves more finesse than chucking them altogether. Intellectually, this testing of boundaries — whether for the sake of dismantling or recalibrating — is a form of attention. In that spirit, it’s hard to paraphrase what this might look like, since the testing of boundaries has as much to do with honing habits of perception as it does altering what we see.
The complete interview is available here.
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.