Perhaps, as so many contend, we young kids have very little interest in reading and writing. Follow that logic to its end, and you will find that we are also quite uninterested in: thinking, argumentation, analysis, discourse, wit, conversation, conversation-as-art, conversation-as-lance, lance-as-conversation, art-as-conversation—and all those rich and wonderful activities that find their origin in the simple acts of reading and of writing. (We’ve also little patience for rich and wonderful ideals: truth, beauty, love—all those trying eternals.)
Perhaps this is the case.
Perhaps it is only luck that has guided this e-letter to your attention, only chance that has gifted me countless conversations revealing, in another contemporary, a like mind, passion and orientation. That we may not offend (or invite statistics from) those who have us pinned down and summed up, let us call it only that in their presence: luck and chance.
But when the naysayers and dreary prognosticators retire from our company, we might say what it really is: proof of a solid fact, and a none-too-rare reassurance, that we are neither what the talking heads say we are, nor what the media wants us to be: mindless tech-dilettantes with the attention spans of a fly; least among the generations in intellect, attention, humility, and art; riders of the apocalypse clad in boots we bought online, torches lit by all that burning paper (oh, we can’t stand paper!).
In short, it will be our little secret—until the secret grows beyond its limits (as every truly good secret does) and becomes the thing itself: a new conversation; a better conversation; a bolder, smarter conversation. And not a single person at the gates telling us when and where we enter. We’ll take the tree house they’ve given us and build it out, until it dwarfs in splendor and square-footage the main house. We’ll take the corner of the lawn they’ve allotted us and attend to it with zeal and grit; we’ll watch it unfold—verdant, blooming.
We’re led to believe that each of us, alone with our thoughts, are just that: alone—rather than one of many silenced readers and thinkers across this city and this country who have not been given a serious, dignified, and regular space where they might come together and speak directly, honestly, and fearlessly to one another.
The American Reader’s immodest aim is to chronicle this conversation, in all its forms, on the printed page, and to host a daily online forum devoted to furthering it. This is a simple task, but far from an easy one—and it is a task made possible only by your engagement and your enthusiasm.
For the month of September, we will feature daily writings on the issues that concern us: literature and criticism. On October 8, we will be debuting our print issue and switching to an expanded version of the site. Each print issue will include: new fiction and poetry; reviews of new fiction and poetry; essays; occasional interviews; and a portfolio of translated literature from a single country (our first two issues will showcase new Russian literature; our second two, new Pakistani literature).
Meanwhile, throughout this month (and going forward), you can enjoy essays, reviews, investigative journalism, web marginalia and whimsy, weird shit, and weekly columns ranging from the free associative to the deep political. Why, beginning in October, there will even be a weekly Sunday morning show!
As for our first print issue, you can look forward to:
+ Three short stories: the wrenching and incantatory “Talk” by Stephen Dixon; the chilly, enigmatic “The Mary Casket” by Jason Schwartz; and a renegade Western—all grit and metaphysics—“West of the Known” by newcomer Chanelle Benz.
+ Three portfolios of new poetry: from Dean Young and Maureen McLane, and a portfolio of new “political” poems curated by Joshua Clover.
+ Two Russian short stories: by Olga Slavnikova and Denis Osokin.
+Essay: by William J. Maxwell on FBI surveillance of African American literary production during the Hoover era.
+ Book Reviews: on Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue; Frederick Seidel’s Nice Weather; César Aira’s The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira; as well as the first of a monthly critical round-up of new poetry collections, penned by senior editor Cat Richardson.
In addition to our print and online offerings, we invite all Readers to join us in person at our events, which will be publicized in their time. I am so looking forward to being in conversation with you all—visit often, and stay late.
Yours, Uzoamaka Maduka