Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Preface

Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Preface

Article excerpt

Editors of magazines and journals are famous, or infamous, for a certain callous disregard for writers. They are involved, it is said, in a "butcher's trade," bloody and marked by hardhearted treatment of writers and their literary offspring. While the argument is purely ad hominem, it is nevertheless widespread that the reason for such behavior is simply the vice of envy. Editors are seized with envy since they are failed writers. Thus, they treat other writers badly. One might note of such arguments, as did T. S. Eliot, that most writers are failed writers, so editorial treatment may not be quite so unfair as writers imagine. But whatever the justice of the claims or the psychological origins of the alleged behavior, the stereotype is out there.

Our late editor Michael C. Jordan did not fit any of these stereotypes. He was neither unkind to writers nor a failed writer. As managing editor Elizabeth Kelly recalled, "Michael's rejections were so beautiful and so graceful, authors hardly felt rejected. There was a great grace in him that way." (1) Just so with accepted pieces that needed editing. Jon Balsbaugh, a student of Michael's from the 1990s who helped out in the early days of Logos, recalled being tasked with converting citations to Logos' format for international writers because Michael wanted to make them feel welcome in the journal. Michael would himself work hard at helping international authors make their pieces fluent and smooth in English. For pieces that had promise but needed substantive revision, Michael worked with the other reviewers to give precise requests for revision that authors would often thank him for. Pamela McClanahan, Logos's first managing editor, recounted coming to her job from a stressful management position and discovering "the kind of editor every writer would like to have on his or her side, one who illustrated daily that paying close attention is the best example of generosity that anyone of us can give." He made good pieces better and, on at least one occasion, made a bad piece good. About ten years ago Michael admitted that he had mistakenly sent an acceptance note for a piece that had been roundly rejected by the editors, himself included. Rather than going back on his word, Michael felt obligated to work with the writer to bring the piece up to standard without indicating to the writer what had happened. In the end, Michael fulfilled the writer Blake Morrison's assessment of the work of editors: "Editing might be a bloody trade, but knives aren't the exclusive property of butchers. Surgeons use them too." When Michael said "it will only hurt a little" to his authors, it really did.

As a writer, one might simply take the graceful essays he wrote as prefaces to each issue of Logos, all of which, from 2001 until the one you are reading, were written or co-written by Michael. While the prefaces of editors are often a perfunctory affair--after all, no one wins a reputation for articles with titles such as "Preface to 12:3"--Michael never treated them as such. Filled with beautiful and careful prose, often filled with references to music, literature, philosophy, theology, art, and architecture they not only summarized the themes in a particular issue but provided a model for what readers and prospective writers should understand as "a Logos piece. "We editors would periodically send out a short questionnaire to readers asking for feedback from the reader. What received the highest approval rating? The prefaces. One of Michael's last prefaces, for our Fall 2015 issue (18:4), analyzed Pope Francis's treatment of human ecology and the difficulties in our age of forming a proper and holistic view of reality in the recent encyclical Laudato Si. Michael connected the difficulties to a topic not touched on by Francis, namely the challenges to universities "to take up again from a fresh perspective the challenge to make the university a place in which the cooperative pursuits of scholars and students in all academic disciplines create new structures of knowledge and action sufficient to meet the challenges of the day. …

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