Editor’s Notes & Cover Art

About the Cover

Our cover design by
John Pickard features Class, Olympic high-diving champion Marjorie Gestring, 1936, by photographer John Gutmann (1905–1998).

Born in Germany, Gutmann was originally trained as a painter. Being of Jewish descent, Gutmann emigrated to the United States after the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Party in the 1930s.

Gutmann’s Depression-era photographs captured lively and celebratory scenes, often in stark contrast to the despair displayed in other photography of the day.

Photo and biographical information courtesy of Collection Center for Creative Photography ©1998 Arizona Board of Regents.

Editor’s Notes

Brave New World,
and Not

As I write, the Gambier skies are gray. Patches of snow from last week’s storm still cluster on the grass outside my window. It’s December 2007. I’m perfectly aware, of course, that you may be reading this column in March or April 2008, when the Spring issue of KR arrives in the mail and at bookstores. Or there’s an equal chance you’ll be leafing through these pages sometime later, months or even years after publication, because The Kenyon Review does possess a long shelf life—readers comb the offerings of back issues long after the journal first appears.

Timeliness, or the lack thereof, affects the earlier stages of the process as well. Between the moment a story or poem arrives in our offices (electronically these days)—one among thousands—days and weeks and sadly even months may expire before our handful of valiant and talented readers begins to read the particular submission. If deemed promising enough, it may then be passed along to me. I confess that still more time will undoubtedly elapse. But read it carefully I will. And, if bowled over, I will happily accept it for publication in KR. That’s the best part of my job.

What then? Months more, I’m afraid, of contracts and proofing and copyediting and layout, before the poem or story or memoir appears on those very pages you hold in your hand.

This is all to the good as far as I’m concerned. Unlike fine wine, literature certainly won’t mellow, gain depth or complexity while resting, but neither will it diminish. It will always seem fresh, even startling, and very much alive whenever we happen upon it. And should we come back to read it again, those same qualities—and this is the magic of art and the human imagination—will greet us again.

These are the most compelling reasons, it seems to me, better even than our—yours and my—love for the thinginess of the artifact, the paper and ink and heft of the book itself, why The Kenyon Review must always have a life in print. It will continue to bloody well take its sweet time and be the better for it.

Ah, but the world doesn’t want to wait, does it? Timeliness presses its urgency against us, nose at the glass.

There are topics and genres that do seem better suited to instant and universal distribution. Interviews are often that way. Often humor too. Or the kind of quick, off-the-cuff writing that can be delightful but is not meant for aging in the cellar.

For better or worse and for whatever we may wish, it is also true that many readers today and more tomorrow won’t be bothered with paper. They look to the computer screen and the Internet for their entertainment. (Whatever high sentiments we may expound about reading, entertainment is and must be always part of the reality.)

All of this is by way of explaining why The Kenyon Review Web site, kenyonreview.org, is an increasingly important part of what we do and who we are. Over the past several years the site has been evolving, offering more, becoming more interactive. This spring (assuming that you are indeed reading these notes sometime shortly after publication) we will venture a brave step farther: KROnline will offer stories, poems, essays on the Web site, demonstrating that they, too, can have a life—and find a new readership—in the electronic universe as well.

The beauty of the Internet is that we can publish this literature almost instantly. Competition for space disappears, because space is limitless. And the readership will be international, reaching a wider and larger audience than the print journal—or any print journal—has ever been able to do.

The pieces we publish online may well be different from what we publish in the journal: shorter, edgier, perhaps more experimental, more out there. Yet our critical judgment and standards will remain intact. This is precisely why KR’s role in cyberspace will be similar to our traditional one, but perhaps even more vital. We will vouch for the value of what appears on the KR Web site as we do for what we print in our pages. Readers will trust us to select the best writing available in any format or medium. Amidst the overwhelming, undifferentiated offerings available on the Internet, The Kenyon Review’s role will be all the more critical.

Electronic publishing won’t replace the print version of The Kenyon Review. They will complement and strengthen each other. That’s my best judgment.

—David H. Lynn

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