Academic journal article Chicago Review

Chicago Review Memories

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Chicago Review Memories

Article excerpt

Chicago Review Memories, 1964-69

These were good years at the Chicago Review--at least they were good years for me! I started as a freshman recruit when I was living in a dormitory, reading the "slush pile" of incoming manuscripts. As far as I can remember, we never used literary agents or solicited work through publishers. We read and read and read through the submissions that came in "over the transom," or we solicited work directly from authors. I was thrilled to be working on such a prestigious publication, even for no salary, and I put in hours reading manuscripts. Novices were not trusted to judge or select manuscripts for publication, but the protocol was that we read, read, read, and anything that we thought might in any way be suitable for the magazine, we put aside and brought to the attention of an editor. Our staff meetings were an eye-opener for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire editorial process. We had a rough-andtumble discussion of all the candidate manuscripts, and anyone (even a green freshman) could go to bat for a poem or story from a known published writer or, more often, from an unknown stranger.

These were all typed manuscripts we read--there were no word processors or digital files at that time, and if a writer wanted copies of a manuscript, that meant either typing with carbons so as to have a blurry copy on "onionskin" or other translucent paper, or perhaps expensive copying. Going back to the technology at the time, those manuscripts always came with SASEs (self-addressed stamped envelopes), and we always had to send back the rejections along with rejection slips. I was thrilled when I started feeling confident enough to write personal notes and initial those standard printed slips. I felt privileged when, after we hashed out what everyone liked and what we would reject for an issue, an editor would certify that I or another reader could jot a note on the rejection encouraging that writer and asking to see more work in the future. When I later became Poetry Editor for a year in 1968-69 (despite being still an undergraduate), this was my main mode of soliciting new work: starting a correspondence with a writer who submitted interesting poems by scribbling those handwritten notes on rejection slips.

When we picked out the manuscripts for an issue, they were sent to the University of Chicago printing plant for the pages to be typeset. This meant lead type, "cold type" as it was called, and the first issues I worked on were hand typeset by those veterans of the publishing industry who were soon to be put out of work by phototypesetting technology. This happened during the sixties while I was at CR, and I never heard what happened to the typesetters, whether they all retired or whether they went to work elsewhere in the printing plant. When the issues were set, page by page, in lead type, a typo on a page of a printer's proof meant we wrote the correction needed on the page, it went back to the print shop, the typesetter would find that page of lead type, break it apart, painstakingly make the change of letters or slip in the tiny comma or period, then the page was locked back together (and perhaps fused with heat to keep it together, I don't recall the entire process). Needless to say, there was a limit to what we could set in the journal with cold type, while later, probably by 1966 or 67, we could do something as outre and extravagant as the "Anthology of Concretism" issue (which was bought up and reissued by Swallow Press after we published it).

I'm still quite happy with the issues of CR we put out during my years on the staff. We published a diverse and rich banquet of writers ranging from a group of regulars who were established Chicago novelists (such as Cyrus Colter and John Schultz) and poets (Paul Carroll, Naomi Lazard, Bill Knott, and John Logan, for example) to top-notch professional work from all over the US. We also published new translations of poetry, such as the modern Greek selection translated by Kimon Friar, and prose, such as stories by Akutagawa Ryunosuke (the author of the story "Rashomon" that was filmed by Kurosawa) and Kenji Miyazawa, another Japanese author of "magical realism" tales. …

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