About the Cover
Our cover design by Nanette Black features Esztergom, Hungary, 1916 by internationally renowned photographer André Kertész (1894-1985). Noël Bourcier, in the book Kertész (55s, Phaidon Press), says this about the image: “Having gone off to war to find a meaning to his life, Kertész recognized himself to be a resolutely peace-loving, romantic young man. Coming under fire on the Polish front, he escaped with a seriously wounded hand. His friends at the time were Hungarians, Albanians and gypsies. At Esztergom, he spent his convalescence photographing his comrades in misfortune, in this case, the gypsy Lajos Mihalik. His aim, which he was unable to realize, was to publish these photographs in the form of books or postcards to raise funds for the Red Cross.”
Photo and biographical information courtesy of Estate of Andre Kertesz © 2006. Special thanks to the International Center of Photography for their assistance.
It’s The Internet, Stupid!
I confess I don’t recall when it first came to me that we’d be wise to develop a Web site for The Kenyon Review. Certainly not a dozen years ago, when we were publishing a journal three times a year and operating the Young Writers program, which I’d created separately several years earlier. Mostly we were struggling to weather the financial tsunami that nearly shut KR down.
Some good while later, when the inspiration struck at last, what I envisioned, and what took far longer to develop and launch than I’d anticipated, was a kind of electronic billboard. KenyonReview.org in its infancy was fairly static—a place to find out basic information about KR and our programs, to subscribe (I dared hope), even to sample some excerpts.
So here we are in 2006 with a KenyonReview.org that represents a third generation of the design. It’s far more interactive than before, and more attractive too, with forums and podcasts and now even a daily blog. How much I’ve learned! (How much I haven’t . . .)
To my astonishment and delight, our Web site has become a principal tool in fostering a lively community that stretches far and wide. It includes our readers, of course, and the authors we publish, and many who hope to be published. It includes KR associates and interns here in Gambier. Not to mention those hundreds and hundreds of participants, young and not so young, who’ve been part of our writing and reading programs. Many of them stay in touch with us and with each other across space and often across many years. Nurturing this community has become ever more important to me, second only to the ongoing creative challenge of publishing KR itself. The two, I suspect, go together.
Writing is such a solitary business. So too, of course, is reading. In and of itself, solitude is no bad thing. Yet a community offers the possibility of engaging the literary enterprise in many diverse and unexpected ways including, sometimes, the simple joy of sharing. And that is a good and wonderful thing.
If there is a single, great question challenging all of us who care about literature, it has to do with who will be the readers of the next generation? As I’ve discussed here before, surveys suggest that the numbers of young people reading books and magazines are plummeting. Even my own children, lovely, bright kids, the lights of my life, must be coaxed away from the computer screen. This is the truth, and hiding from it or denying it or even trying to persuade young people to be other than who they are in this new world is bound to prove fruitless.
Don’t mistake my point: young people are always going to need and respond to and yearn for stories and poems. I believe that with all my heart. I believe that need goes to the very essence of what it means to be human, and that it is hard-wired, one way or another, into our genetic code. What does change over time, however, is the medium in which language is delivered. The scribes took it from the oral bards and prophets. Gutenberg played his essential role. Six hundred years later I think we’re smack up against another profound revolution.
That doesn’t mean we’re abandoning print entirely. The Kenyon Review will always be produced as an elegant, stylish artifact, printed on paper, with the pleasure of heft, the thinginess of page and typeface, as long as I’m editor. But KR can and will be more than that too.
If we’re going to reach younger readers, we must be innovative, offering stories, poems, and nonfiction through the Internet and other electronic media. Already, for example, we are offering podcasts (aka digital recordings) of authors reading from their own work or engaging in thoughtful interviews, available on the KR Web site. Even I enjoy podcasts, especially when I’m sweating through a hard workout.
And now we have a KR blog as well—regular, casual, sometimes provocative, sometimes amusing, almost always fascinating entries about the literary world. We’ve gathered a group of savvy, well-informed readers and writers and teachers who are posting these musings on our site. The response in just its first few weeks has been overwhelming. The blog has already become the principal “driver” to KenyonReview.org—drawing readers to us from around the world, rather than merely one of the features offered to visitors who have already found their way to our Web site.
The Kenyon Review will survive. We’ve made certain of that. The challenge is that it remain alive, something other than a relic or a curiosity. KR needs to remain relevant to its readers. There’s no reason in the world we can’t keep it engaged with the wider world. And through our programs and our publications and our Web site—through the community of The Kenyon Review—we can actually help create that audience of readers for the next generation.
—David H. Lynn