Paper Dreams: Writers and Editors on the American Literary Magazine is a compilation of the continued 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 as we venture to preserve 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.
You may have one, two, or three publications that you continuously go back to for inspiration. A few magazines that really get what you’re looking for. This time, writer and Paper Dreams Contributor Aaron Gilbreath, recommends three lit mags that have what he wants to read again and again, but he’s still open to finding something new, foreign even.
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Aaron: As a nonfiction writer, I gravitate to the literary magazines whose essays consistently floor me. The ones who do this number more than three, but the ones I rely on to stimulate me as a reader and to shock my mind out of any bad essayistic habits are Brick, The Normal School and Cincinnati Review.
Aaron: The Normal School has two columnists that rank as some of my favorite essayists: Phillip Lopate and Joe Bonomo. Bonomo’s new music column is a killer and alone worth the surprisingly small price of a magazine subscription. Yes, I’m biased. We dig lots of the same music, but the main attraction is his mind. Speaking of which, Lopate is another intellectual giant that I believe every essayist should read. But even without these contributors, TNS has proved consistently rich in essays of varying styles, subjects and lengths, which explains why they frequently appear in the Best American Essay anthology, in both the front and in the Notable Essay section in back. And it’s why I read and save every issue like the essay-loving hoarder that I am.
Aaron: You wouldn’t guess it by the name, but Brick dedicates itself to the essay. Although they do run fiction, Brick is one of the only literary magazines where nonfiction comprises the bulk of their pages, and thankfully the mag has wide distribution. Teju Cole, Carolyn Forché, Haruki Murakami, regular contributions by poet, fiction writer and legendary, cerebral eater Jim Harrison–if you write essays, you will love this magazine. I wait for each issue with the same anticipation I do for my next whole grilled saba, which is a lot.
Aaron: Never say nothing good comes from Cincinnati. This magazine has remained one of my favorites since it debuted in 2003, and I am proud to say that, after years of submitting (mostly things I never should have been submitting), they printed an essay of mine in their pages. It earned a Notable in the back of Best American Essays 2011, which qualifies as one of my proudest moments as a writer. The magazine also printed poet Alan Shapiro’s essay “Why I Write,” a piece I love so much that I frequently photocopy and give it to writers I know. I often keep the new CR issue on my desk to motivate me to write harder and better, and to never give up. Also, if you get to Cincinnati, order a Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich.
Aaron Gilbreath has written essays and articles, some forthcoming, for The New York Times, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Tin House, The Threepenny Review, Oxford American, The Awl and others. Future Tense Publishing put out his chapbook A Secondary Landscape, and his essay “Dreams of the Atomic Era,” from Cincinnati Review, was a notable mention in The Best American Essays 2011. He writes about food, music and miscellany at his blog.