The Booky Man: Little Star and Loose Change

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The inaugural issue of a new periodical, Little Star, arrived in the mail last week. It’s something outlandish, in this day of e-v-e-r-y-thing. Who would imagine that a high-literary periodical would have a readership?

Well, Seamus Heaney, for one. Paul Muldoon. Padgett Powell. Mary Jo Salter. Derek Walcott. Lydia Davis. These worthies and 18 other eminent international literary figures. That’s who.

Little Star, its press release states, “is dedicated to the proposition that engaged readers need reading that fills their appetites—perhaps now more than ever, when so much of our reading comes in such small bites.”

Editor Ann Kjellberg flies in the rarefied air of literature. She’s been on the editorial staff of The New York Review of Books for two decades, and serves as literary executor of the poet Joseph Brodsky. She’s also cultivated contacts as an editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and at Artes, the magazine of the Swedish Academy.

The content of Little Star challenges, arrests, even intimidates. Know as you pick up the publication that your literary IQ will be fully tested, from Powell’s gnomic observations in “Manifesto” to Dave Lucas’s own kind of manifesto in his poem, “The New Poetry” (“The new poetry will cough up blood,/It will stare, like a dog, at the door/until we shift restlessly in our seats./It will eat its own young.”). Readers nowadays who still have the will and the zeal to cage-match their minds against muscular words and ideas will find themselves eager followers of Little Star.

Meanwhile, here in Atlanta, an ambitious and energetic arts cooperative called Wonderrroot will soon launch its own new literary magazine. Though still on the drawing board, the magazine will shoot for the same, well, star as Little Star, reaching out to the best writers possible for interesting, daring work. This too will happen on paper, eventually. Systematically, raising a great middle finger to the Doubting Thomases of print as a still-viable medium.

Cristina Martin, editor of this new journal, Loose Change, is just starting out, an editor at the far end of experience from Kjellberg. But both these editors answer the same impulse—they love the way words shape the world.

This past week, I saw on one remarkable day two of the most beautiful sights on our earth.

At sunrise, I stood on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, snow falling hard and fast, the new sun soft as a pearl in the nacre of snow clouds. That same afternoon, 100 miles north on the other side of the Navajo lands and almost to Utah, I blinked up in wonder at light shafts piercing the roof of Antelope Canyon, a natural wonder small and intimate, but as perfectly startling as the Grand Canyon in its own miniature way.

I felt I was standing by the whole ocean at the Grand Canyon … then tiptoeing through a perfect open seashell at Antelope.

It strikes me that these two new journals, one filled with the mighty and proven literary voices of our time, the other a bijou, a miniature, are like these two natural creations.

Large or small, each will be shaped the same way, by the force of moving words, the wind and water of human thought.

Readers should wish them luck.

Charles McNair is Paste‘s books editor. His novel Land o’ Goshen was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.