Editor’s Notes & Cover Art

About the Cover

Our cover design by John Pickard features a photograph, also by John Pickard, of Finn House, taken in October, 2008.

The building now known as Finn House was, for most of its life, called Neff Cottage for the name of its builder, Peter Neff of the Kenyon College Class of 1849. A successful entrepreneur and investor, Neff donated Kenyon’s first telescope and provided essential financial assistance for the research of Hamilton Smith, the Kenyon professor who invented the tintype. Neff himself christened the 1850’s house Clifford Place in honor of his daughter (yes, daughter) Clifford.

The venerable Finn House takes its current name from James P. Finn, a trustee of The Kenyon Review, and his wife, Susan Calvert Finn, who provided the necessary funds for the building’s renovation in memory of Jim Finn’s parents, Mary C. and John L. Finn. A masterpiece of Gothic residential architecture, it is a fitting home for The Kenyon Review, whose headquarters will now be one of the first sights a visitor sees when driving up the hill from Ohio 229 to the Kenyon campus. Finn House’s carefully restored interior features offices for staff members, a work area for the journal’s student associates, and a full (and fully waterproof) basement for storage purposes.

Perhaps most exciting of all, the aesthetically and historically sympathetic addition at the rear of the building, the handsome Cheever Room, provides a new space for readings, seminars, and other gatherings during the academic year and in conjunction with the Review’s growing list of summer programs. The Cheever Room is the gift of Janet Maslin and Ben Cheever, parents of John Cheever, a 2008 graduate of Kenyon, and Andrew Cheever, a member of the Kenyon Class of 2011. Janet Maslin is a current book reviewer and former film critic for the New York Times; Ben Cheever is the author of four novels and two works of nonfiction and the editor of The Letters of John Cheever.

Cover research by Tom Stamp, college historian and keeper of Kenyoniana.

Editor’s Notes

Print vs. Internet: An Ongoing Conversation

I’m about to finish writing a new short story. To whom should I send it? That’s become a more interesting question in recent years. Instead of the print journals in which I’ve published for thirty years or more, perhaps I should try an electronic magazine. Would the Internet, I wonder, provide the same sense of satisfaction, let alone cachet? In other words, am I willing to put my own work where I regularly assign others—in the equivalent of a KROnline rather than a Kenyon Review?

Right now I’m in that final stage of polishing, of developing particular moments or scenes, of shifting sentences here and there. For me, this is where writing fiction is the most fun. I am not as impatient as when I was younger. The engagement, the act of writing, has over the years become more important to me. It’s finally the only solace for this profession—and more fulfilling than publication itself.

Nevertheless, this is also the moment when I begin to ponder where I might submit the story. Certainly, many traditional journals continue to flourish, among them TriQuarterly, Southwest Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review, all places I’ve happily published my work over the years. But I’m also keenly aware that other journals with noble histories, such as New England Review and Southern Review, are in great peril in this period of financial turmoil.

(An historical aside: when both the Southern and The Kenyon Review faced similar calamity in 1942 because of the war, John Crowe Ransom reached out to his pals Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks. Their initial thought was a collaboration or joint publication. When it became clear, however, that the Southern was doomed, Brooks and Warren allowed KR to fulfill outstanding subscriptions, thus permitting its survival for nearly another thirty years before a decade’s hiatus.)

Another possibility would be, as I’ve mentioned, to send the new story to any one of the dozens of electronic journals burgeoning on the Internet. But what would it mean for me to abandon print? Less status? Not least foregoing the tactile pleasure of holding the printed thing itself in my hand? How much is that worth?

I set out the questions this way to make the point that this is not merely a hypothetical: something precious to me as a writer is on the line. Because, of course, there’s the larger issue as well: what does the relationship between the print Kenyon Review and the electronic KROnline mean for the writing community? Should authors be as willing—more than merely willing, should they be as happy and enthusiastic—for their work to appear in our online journal as in print?

The question was brought home to me in a recent conversation with G. C. Waldrep. G. C. teaches at Bucknell College and is one of the country’s most knowledgeable and gifted younger poets. He is also a valued editor of The Kenyon Review. Yet he was confessing his own mixed feelings about KRO. On the one hand, he likes the literature we have thus far posted on the site—indeed he has advocated for many of the pieces there—and approves of its design and presentation as well.

Nevertheless, G. C. made it very clear that some authors consider KRO nothing more than a “Kenyon Review-Lite.” Publication there, he argued, has less status, signifies less on a curriculum vita, than the print KR. Some writers, he told me, especially those who have passed through the opening thresholds of their careers, already have a book or two but have not yet been tenured or feel professionally secure, might not even submit their work to us any longer. They worry that if we chose a poem or story for Internet publication instead of print, they wouldn’t want to have to decline the offer and risk offending. While this troubles me, my colleagues and I will certainly understand those who decide not to send their work while they navigate the modulation to this new medium, as we do the same. I hope that sooner rather than later they’ll reconsider.

What in the meantime is an appropriate response to these real and serious concerns? Obviously, an online journal that is viewed as nothing more than a Kenyon Review-Lite, is hardly what we had in mind when launching it a year and a half ago.

If increasing the status of the electronic site were our principal goal, the easiest response would be simply to reproduce the contents of The Kenyon Review on the Internet, something akin to the daily New York Times or the weekly New Yorker, along with some added Internet-only features. But our ambitions are a little more, well, ambitious than that.

First, I believe that for better or worse the electronic universe is the future. It’s no surprise that fewer people are reading the print version of the Times or New Yorker and are turning to the Internet sites instead—or are turning to different electronic publications entirely. And therein lies the real challenge.

Perhaps paradoxically, I am hopeful that KROnline can help insure the survival of The Kenyon Review in print, at least for the foreseeable future, by being its complement rather than its reproduction. This is made possible in part because people seem to read differently online. Evidence suggests that they are looking for shorter pieces, more timely work too, and even a little more experimental. In other words, I think KRO may be able to meet the tastes of different, perhaps younger and more international readers, making fuller use of a very different and evolving technology—not just an equivalent to print—and offer a new and distinct aesthetic as well.

In other words, in addition to allowing us to publish many more of the great submissions we do receive—more than doubling our acceptance rate and reducing the lead time for publication—KRO also lets us take risks on the edgier work we always found interesting but simply couldn’t make room for in the print journal, given the tiny number we could accept.

So what about the issue of status? G. C. suggested we post more “big names” on the Web site, and I’m inclined to agree—and to act on it. But I think the answer will be to publish well-known authors whose work fits the aesthetic of KRO, not just those who bring added renown. And I have every hope that not a few of the writers we have already featured in KROnline are well on the way to establishing themselves as prominent artists. That’s part of both our mission and our history, after all.

Like Ransom, Brooks, and Warren, we are trying to find a way to preserve literary publishing in a vastly changed and changing environment—and to make a place for it in the future. It’s what writers want as well—to make a connection with a journal to publish and share their work with as many readers as possible. As it happens, we’ve already seen the evidence with KROnline that the potential audience on the Internet is far greater than those who read the printed journal. For that reason, as well as a small sense of adventure, when my own story is finally and fully polished I’ll be submitting it to an electronic publication. And hope they accept.

— D. H. L.

Back to top ↑

Sign up for Our Email Newsletter