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Monday musings on Australian literature: Two favourite literary journals

August 27, 2012

I’ve been wanting for some time to write about two of my favourite Australian literary journals (that is, not specifically book review journals). I don’t  read every issue – too much to read, too little time, and all that – but I’d love to. I admire people who manage to subscribe to magazines and journals and read every issue through and through.

Before I talk about the two I’ve chosen I should say that there are others I know I’d love too. I go into bookshops, pick them up, put them down, pick them up again and then realise I just can’t manage any more so I put them down again. For a useful list of  some of Australia’s best literary journals, check out this Australia Council webpage listing the journals* the Council supports.

Anyhow, back to my two current favourites. Both can now be bought in e-versions, including for the Kindle. They can be followed on Twitter and have Facebook pages, and both make some of their content available free online. And, here they are …

Griffith Review

The Griffith Review is a quarterly journal of “new writing and ideas”, and is now 8 years old. It is published by the Griffith University. Unlike most journals, it takes a thematic approach, with each issue being devoted to a theme. For example, the current issue, no. 37, is themed “Small World”, which its website says “broadens the mind with postcards and intelligence from everywhere at a time when the growth of international air travel has shrunk the definition of proximity and the internet has enabled the globalised media industry to bring distant events and places tantalisingly close”. The contributors on this issue include writers I’ve reviewed here: Murray Bail, Melissa Lucashenko and Chris Flynn.

What I love about this journal, besides the overall quality of the writing of course, is the variety of forms it encompasses on a regular basis – Fiction, Poetry, Essays (including photographic essays), Reportage and Memoir. I love that they include memoir as a regular part of the journal. And, in 2009 (at least I think it was then), they commenced an annual fiction edition. These editions contain more short stories than the other issues, and the rest of the content (essays, memoirs, etc) focuses on fiction. Not quite Granta, but perhaps moving in that direction?

Kill Your Darlings

I’m not an expert on the economics of journal publishing, but the Griffith Review does have a pretty major university behind it. Kill Your Darlings (KYD) on the other hand is a much smaller – braver – affair. First published in March 2010, it is now up to issue No. 10 (which, in print, costs $19.95, but at $7.96 from Amazon for the Kindle, it’s a great deal). This current issue has an interview with Aussie writer Andrew McGahan (whom I like but haven’t read since starting this blog) and an article on one of my favourite Aussie writers, Jessica Anderson, so I let my fingers do the walking at Amazon and in seconds I had it on my Kindle. Gotta love this new technology!

Like most literary journal, KYD’s content is diverse, with its regular sections being Commentary, Fiction, Interview, Reviews – and, sometimes, a Cartoon.

Kill Your Darlings is a smaller, somewhat plainer publication than the Griffith Review, but it is gorgeous with a stylish retro look that catches the eye. It’s lovely to hold. Hmm, why did I buy that Kindle version, again?

I’ll conclude on another article in Issue 10, which comes from Gideon Haigh whose discussion on literary reviewing in the first issue I blogged about back in 2010. In Issue 10, he writes on the economics of writing. Early in the article he says:

Here is a disjunction in Australian publishing: the most enthusiastic and imaginative publishers are the ones with no money; caution grows with size.

That seems an appropriate thought to leave you on methinks.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you – Aussie or not – whether you have any favourite literary journals, what they are and why you like them.

* I’m not sure how up to date this list is, but it’s a start if you’d like to check others out.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 28, 2012 1:54 am

    Literary journals can be fun to dip into. I’ve always wished for the time and the money (they can be expensive) to be able to subscribe to a bunch of them but I have yet to win the jackpot of cash or time so I just read an essay or two that might be an online freebie now and then and dream of “someday.”

    • August 29, 2012 8:35 pm

      I know what you mean Stefanie … they can be expensive and it’s great that they make some content available online. Hopefully they can keep supporting that. Many I think make more material available online as time passes, which is also great.

      I’m thrilled about KYD being available for the Kindle at the price it is …

  2. August 28, 2012 6:42 am

    I agree with you wholeheartedly on these two particular journals. I am a fan of the Australian Book Review too. I must share this funny story with you. When I offered to lend a copy of ‘Kill Your Darlings’ to someone, she looked at that gorgeous retro cover I held in my hand that we so love and said: ‘oh no thank you, I don’t read crime fiction.’

    • August 29, 2012 8:40 pm

      Oh, I love that story Karen Lee. I was trying to think of a way to describe the cover. I was going to say Retro 30s-50s style but they do look like they could be crime fiction (if you don’t look to closely). And the title doesn’t help if you don’t know the origin of the phrase.

  3. August 28, 2012 7:58 am

    Literary journals are really the life blood of creative writing and the two you have looked at here, The Griffith Review and Kill Your Darlings are two very impressive examples. There is also a long history of not so ‘mainstream’ journal publishing – and many of these also carry literary reviews. One of favourite of all time would be Magic Sam (which was published during the 1970’s and 80’s on an old gestner machine) – you can get an idea of what the magazine was like from this short collage http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBrIoOcDwgQ.
    I recently wrote an article comparing small literary magazines and journals then (eg 1980’s) with now – it maybe of some interest. http://rochfordstreetreview.com/2012/04/05/the-more-things-change-small-presses-and-magazines-then-and-now/

    • August 29, 2012 8:46 pm

      Thanks and welcome Mark … I appreciate your comments. I’ve popped over to your blog but will try to read that article in detail in the next day or so when my life becomes a little more relaxed for a few days.

      I don’t know Magic Sam … but I certainly remember the smell of the gestetner!

  4. August 28, 2012 2:37 pm

    I’m a subscriber to the ‘actual’ magazine of KYD. I also love the retro look and think they have some excellent content, although I’ve been underwhelmed by the fiction so far. Their online content is also good and they have some great podcast interviews with Australian writers. But my one true love when it comes to journals is The Paris Review.

    • August 29, 2012 8:43 pm

      Thanks Annabel for joining in. Must say I pick and choose the content I read and I haven’t read a lot of the fiction – mainly I suppose because I read so much fiction elsewhere that I go to the magazine mostly for commentary BUT I really should get more into the fiction I think, to support up and coming writers.

      I haven’t read a lot of the Paris Review. I’d love to read the London Review of Books, but if I did I would hardly find time to read anything else I reckon. Not quite, but you know what I mean!

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