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Loving Lit Mags: Jay Neugeboren

paper dreams frontIn August, we publish Paper Dreams: Writers and Editors on the American Literary Magazine, a collective history and conversations of the people who love new and interesting literature so much they spend their lives dedicated to sharing it with the world. But before we make history, it is only polite to introduce you to the literary magazines that most impress us — Atticus staff, authors, and associates.

Allow us the guilt-free pleasure of leading you to publications that have turned us into better writers and voracious readers and to hopefully, carry on the conversation.

 

It’s a trait of great literary magazines to help discover new, exciting voices, and often, lit mag acceptances are what gives a budding author the confidence to continue submitting their work. However, no matter how good, the best literary magazines that previously published the most renowned authors of today don’t always continue on forever.

When you have been published in as many literary magazines as Paper Dreams contributor and accomplished author Jay Neugeboren, there’s  a chance you have got credit lines in not only respectable magazines, but also in the same archives as your own literary heroes.  Jay has recommended an avalanche of great magazines, some that continue to publish great work, and others who, for one reason or another, have stopped. However, one magazine in particular greatly affected his writing career. Read on to learn about his relationship with the Transatlantic Review and other literary magazines Jay recommends for readers and writers alike.

 

*Find more recommendations for fantastic literary magazines here.

 

Transtlantic Review, 1959 – 1977

Jay Neugeboren

 

By 1964, when I was 26 years old, I had written eight unpublished books, and had accumulated, by count, more than 2000 rejections, all of which I had saved, and several hundred of which I had once, in a fit of antic despair, taped to the wall above my writing desk. I thought the collage would be amusing and useful—dulce et utile—and would lift me out of my funk. It didn’t.

In the spring of 1965 I was living on New York’s Upper West Side, teaching at Columbia, and working on my ninth book—Big Man, a novel set against the background of the college basketball scandals of the early fifties. On the afternoon of May 30th of that year, my twenty-seventh birthday, while browsing in a bookstore on New York’s Upper West Side, I told my wife that I had come to a decision: if I didn’t have a novel published by the time I was thirty, I would consider never writing again, and would start thinking about what else I might do with my life.

That evening I received a call from Joe McCrindle, editor of the Transatlantic Review, who introduced himself, and said he was wondering if anyone had told me that my story, “The Application,” which had been published in Transatlantic Review 17 (Autumn 1964), had been chosen by Martha Foley for inclusion in the 1965 edition of The Best American Short Stories. “The Application” was my second published story—it had been turned down more than thirty times over a four year period—and I had been thrilled to have it appear in a periodical that had previously published work by an extraordinary range of writers, including, among others, William Faulkner, John Fowles, John Updike, Muriel Spark, Robert Musil, William Trevor, Peter Barnes, Harold Pinter, Jack Kerouac, Paul Bowles, Boris Pasternak, and Samuel Beckett. Elated by the news from McCrindle, I was back at work on Big Man the next morning, and thoughts of retiring as a writer (pace Philip Roth and Alice Munro) have never returned.

I completed the novel, and my agent, Martha Winston, was enthusiastic about it, as she had been for three previous novels she had been unable to sell. Big Man was, however, turned down quickly by several publishers. Then my luck changed. Joyce Hartman, a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin, sent me a note telling me that she was the editor for the Best American Short Stories series, that she had read and admired “The Application” in galleys, and that she wondered if I was working on a novel, and if so, might she see it.

She loved the book (despite, as I later learned, not knowing how many men played on a basketball team), offered a contract, and the book was published in the spring of 1966, two years short of my thirtieth birthday.

Between 1966 and 1974 I published six more stories in Transatlantic Review, one of which, “Ebbets Field” (Transatlantic Review 24, Spring 1967), became an O. Henry Prize winner, and all of which made their way into one or another of my first three short story collections.

In addition to publishing the fiction of other (then) young writers such as Frederick Busch, Jerome Charyn, Alan Lelchuck, Joyce Carol Oates, John Banville, Alan Sillitoe, Leonard Michaels, Irvin Faust, and John McPhee, Transatlantic Review continued to publish fiction by the best (and best-known) writers in the world: Flann O’Brien, William Burroughs, William Goldman, Anthony Burgess, Jean Rhys, Austin C. Clarke, Eugene Ionesco, David Plante, et al.  And it paid us all what it had paid me for my first story—twenty-five dollars.

Initially published in Rome before McCrindle moved it to London and New York—its title borrowed from the original transatlantic review founded by Ford Madox Ford in 1924— Transatlantic Review also published poetry.  In the seven issues in which my stories appeared, it published poems by, among others, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, C. Day Lewis, Robert Graves, Muriel Rukeyser, James Merrill, Eugenio Montale, D. M. Thomas, and Philip O’Connor. In these same issues it also published interviews with Jorges Borges, Federico Fellini, Frank Marcus, Jules Feiffer, and Joe Orton, and each issue was graced with lovely illustrations (Jean Cocteau did the sole illustration for Transatlantic Review’s very first issue) and with notes and correspondence from a variety of writers, including Henry Miller, Gore Vidal, and Francoise Sagan.

In 1970, Stories from the Transatlantic Review, a collection of 34 stories taken from the Review’s first decade, was published in both the United States and England, and I was, then as now, proud to find myself in the company of  writers—William Trevor, Paul Bowles, Jerome Charyn, John McPhee, and John Updike, among others—whom I admired enormously, and who were heroes to me—as they still are—in the way players on the Brooklyn Dodgers had been when I was a boy growing up in Brooklyn in the years following World War Two.

McCrindle kept offices and apartments in New York and London. We became friends, and his friendship was one of the sweet dividends of being published in his magazine, as were the parties and dinners he hosted on both sides of the Atlantic. I can still remember—this was early in 1970—bringing my three month old daughter, Miriam, to a gathering at his New York home, and having Muriel Spark come over to me while I was holding Miriam in my arms, and, after tapping Miriam gently on her forehead with an index finger, informing me that my child had the most beautifully wicked smile she had ever seen.

I usually corresponded—about edits, proofs, extra copies, et cetera—either with Joe McCrindle or Heathcote Williams. Williams, a marvelous writer, illustrator, conjurer, playwright, and actor, had, in the same season in which “The Application” appeared, published a book about the Hyde Park speakers. He gave me a Sunday morning tour of Hyde Park during which he introduced me to several of the speakers, and—my good fortune again—I spent many other delightfully zany hours with him.

Transatlantic Review published its final issue, Number 60, in 1977, after which Joe McCrindle, ever a generous friend to writers, created the Henfield Foundation (later changed to the Joseph F. McCrindle Foundation), which awarded and continues to award grants to arts, music, and social justice organizations, along with an annual prize to promising students in creative writing programs. Winners of this prize have included A. M. Homes, Walter Mosley, Mona Simpson, and Ethan Canin.

In the three decades after the Transatlantic Review ceased publication, McCrindle devoted himself to his other great love: art. His consuming passion was for old master drawings, many of which adorned the walls (and even the restrooms) of his apartments, stacked, as at the Louvre, one above the other. During his lifetime he accumulated some 2500 of them. He also collected Italian baroque paintings, 19th century drawings, historical manuscripts and letters, pre-Columbian art, and works by British artists such as Duncan Grant, Augustus John, and Walter Sickert. He donated his works to more than thirty institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Morgan Library and Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum.

He died on July 11, 2008, at his home in New York City. He was 85 years old.

Like McCrindle, Martha Foley, who edited The Best American Short Stories from 1941 until her death in 1977—the same year in which the final issue of Transtlantic Review was published—chose stories by both unknown and established writers for the annual anthologies. And she frequently insisted on the fact that the “little” magazines such as Transatlantic Review were our “richest source of fine stories.”

Reading through issues of Transatlantic Review that were published in the sixties and seventies—and through some of the Best American Stories anthologies—I was reminded that this was a time when many large-circulation magazines were publishing short stories, often several per issue—and serialized novels too!—by both well-known and unknown writers, and that many of these magazines (The Reporter, Yankee, McCall’s, Mademoiselle, Redbook, GQ, Woman’s Day, Ladies’ Home Journal, Harper’s Bazaar,Vogue, Good Housekeeping), are now either gone, or no longer publish fiction. In the 1965 edition of The Best American Short Stories, The Saturday Evening Post, which regularly published several stories in each of its weekly issues (and in a year when The New Yorker had only one story selected), had five stories chosen for inclusion.

 

older mags

Although some of the literary periodicals of the sixties and seventies are, like Transatlantic Review, gone—I think of Grand Street, Partisan Review, Evergreen Review—others, such as Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, Sewanee Review, Georgia Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Prairie Schooner—are still with us, and there is a wealth of new periodicals, in print and online—Little Star Black Clock, Tin House, One Story, New Letters, Notre Dame Review, Threepenny Review, Ploughshares—that continue to do what Transatlantic Review did: to publish good stories that nurture and give hope to those of us who continue to write them.

new mags

 

 Post Contributor

Jay Neugeboren is the author of twenty-one books, including two prize-winning novels (The Stolen Jew, Before My Life Began), two award-winning books of non-fiction (Imagining Robert, Transforming Madness), and three collections of award-winning stories. His stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Esquire, Virginia Quarterly Review, Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and Penguin Modern Stories. He is the only author to have won six consecutive Syndicated Fiction Prizes. His most recent novel is The American Sun & Wind Moving Picture Company.He lives in New York City.

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Atticus Books is a fiery multimedia press based in Madison, N.J. We specialize in genre-busting literary fiction and compelling narratives that feature memorable main characters. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we receive no nourishment from Uncle Sam, nor do we eat small children for breakfast. We do nurture the creative minds and bruised egos of starving writers worldwide.

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