Introduction: Hobart and the Future of Lit (Mags)
"I was at this airport bar. I wondered what motivated people. I missed my connecting flight. Things happened."
—the first lines of "Layover" by Kim Chinquee; Hobart #5
"Our father laughed and we felt exhaustion in how he propped his body against our own. We heard thirst in the bobbing of his throat. We saw age in the whiskers around his ears and nose, and age startled us, hung us out to dry."
—from "Age Hung Us Out to Dry," by Ryan Call; Hobart #8
"You know that feeling you get when like somebody's trying to make a point and they say something like, 'it's like the difference between driving a Kia, and a Lexus...' and you're like driving a Kia. Or when like somebody tells you about the worst fucking movie that they ever saw, and you kind of really loved it. Or like everybody..."
—from an untitled painting by David Kramer; Hobart #7
Soon after I began Luna Park, a thick package arrived in the mail one morning (August 16, 2007) from Ann Arbor, Michigan. The package didn’t stand out in any way and I tossed it on the desk next to the others from that week. I had been receiving review copies of literary magazines for some time at that point, and the various publications were scattered throughout the house: next to the lamp alongside the bed, on the butcher block in the kitchen, in mini-stacks on the dining room table, tucked in between back issues of The Nation and Dwell on the living room ottoman. When I got around to opening that package from Michigan that evening, I was given my first introduction to Aaron Burch’s Hobart.
Hobart, a small literary magazine published almost exclusively by Burch out of Ann Arbor, was a special magazine for me—not because it is "better" than any other literary magazine, because I wouldn't say that it is. Hobart was simply a literary magazine that right away spoke to my own literary interests. (I have found others before and since that do so as well, but what particularly drew me to Hobart was that the work Burch published reminded me so much of what I imagined myself writing, which was almost eerie to encounter; sort of the magazine as a Lacanian mirror.)
What Hobart was (and is) for me was an imagined community such as Benedict Anderson writes about—which is, I think, a great part of what literary magazines are good at creating. Magazines like The Masses, The Little Review, the first and second Dial, Harriet Monroe's Poetry, Kulchur, Neon, kayak, and many others were enjoyed so much by readers because they made it possible for these readers to imagine a world of similar readers outside of their own community. McSweeney's does this. So does The Minnesota Review. So does every magazine discussed in this issue of Luna Park. Every publication does this in one way or another. The only thing special about literary magazines is that they bring together readers by using literature.
Hobart publishes great writing—such as, in the most recent issue, fantastic stories by Benjamin Percy, Sheila Heti, Lee Henderson, Chris Bachelder, Ryan Call, and others—but many magazines do that. The writing in Hobart just seems to be for a reader like myself, and I think that is saying something. I think this is something literary magazines do very well, maybe even better than other such venues. Magazines such as Partisan Review and Story are thought of in such awe because of the great writing they published and because of the communities of readers they created because of that.
May 15, 2008