August in Open Letters Monthly — and an Interview


Once again it’s a new month and so we’ve got our new issue up. One neat new thing is the graphic “slider” at the top of the site, which showcases a range of pieces from the magazine (and which will also include new blog posts and highlights from Open Letters Weekly). We think this adds a bit of dynamism to the front page and we hope it will help visitors to the site spot things they’re interested in reading easily — though scrolling down the page to see the full Table of Contents and links to recent posts remains the best way not to miss anything.

MaryBarton-195x300As always, I think there are a lot of pieces well worth your time. Favorites of mine include Jessica Miller‘s smart and probing review of Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s Plato at the Googleplex; Dorian Stuber‘s thorough piece — as much essay as review — on Bernard Wasserstein’s The Ambiguity of Virtue (about Gertrude van Tijn, whose work with the Jewish Council during WWII helped over 20,000 Jews escape the Holocaust but also involved her to a vexing degree in what some have seen as collaboration with the Nazis); Elisa Gabbert’s typically sharp critique of Ben Lerner’s regressively metafictional 10:04; and our collective feature on ‘minor’ works by major writers from Shakespeare to Muriel Spark. My contribution to this list is Gaskell’s Mary Barton; as I say there, in its day there was nothing obscure about Mary Barton, but thanks to Masterpiece Theater, today it’s North and South and Cranford that most people know, and I’d guess (though this may just be me) that these are also taught more often than Mary Barton.

I thought I’d also mention here, for those of you who might have missed it, that writer and editor Matt Jakubowski interviewed me for a series he’s beginning on the role of critics and criticism. We did the interview by email and then he cut and tidied my long responses into a single rather more manageable and coherent piece. I really appreciated his thoughtful questions; it was useful to me to look at my trajectory in the way his inquiries prompted me to, and also his interest in my critical work and approach was encouraging in a way I hadn’t quite expected — the internet is a big place and it’s easy to feel a bit lost in the crowd, so knowing that someone like Matt cared enough to single me out for a chat was a real boost. I’m looking forward to seeing his other interviews as they appear.

5 thoughts on “August in Open Letters Monthly — and an Interview

  1. Tom August 6, 2014 / 12:42 pm

    Glad to have read the very nice interview Rohan. Will you be traveling to NYC on 8 October to attend Christopher Ricks’ lecture on Hardy and G. Eliot at The Kosciuszko Foundation?


    • Rohan August 6, 2014 / 2:08 pm

      Sadly, no! October 8 is smack in the middle of the week and the fall term, so there’s no getting away, even if NYC were closer (and cheaper) to get to from here. Thank you for letting me know about it, though: I wonder if it will be streamed online.

      I’m still thinking hard about NYC in 2015, though. I’m not entirely sure what pretext I can come up with for such a trip, but I will let you know if this dream comes to fruition.


  2. Tom August 7, 2014 / 12:05 pm

    Would it help if the OLM crew held an event in NYC in 2015… perhaps not in August? Ricks is giving three lectures in October, the first on The Waste Land, the second on Hardy and G. Eliot and the third, “Bob Dylan and the Charge of Misogyny”. Resident OLM types may find some or all of the above of (some) interest. But maybe not – I can hardly predict who will find what of interest anymore.
    What is curious Rohan is how you’ve kept Novel Readings as fresh and interesting as it is for as long as you have. Those Valve posts of yours were great reading too.
    Thank you!


    • Rohan Maitzen August 7, 2014 / 3:00 pm

      I appreciate your saying that about Novel Readings, Tom. Do you remember when we met in NYC the last time? I said something about how I was trying to figure out what kind of writing to do now that I was working with Open Letters, and you replied by saying that you hoped I would not change (I’m oversimplifying, but that was the gist). What you said really stuck with me, because it was generous and and it came from you, and also because it was salutary, a caution against chasing other ideas of good writing or success instead of staying true to my own ideas about it. To have you say now that Novel Readings still seems “fresh and interesting” to you … that makes me happy.

      Also, I think an OLM event is an excellent idea, and it’s one we have in fact tossed around a little. I would be in favor of “not in August” (it was very hot and sticky that last time).


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