Places for the Placeless: Review of The Common Journal
It might take more than a few issues for the new journal The Common to come to terms with “a modern sense of place,” as it articulates its mission. We moderns seem to have developed an exceedingly complicated, ungrounded relationship to place—and, if I had to guess, I’d say readers of literary magazines probably have some of the most balkanized inner geographies. Few of us live where we grew up (unless that was New York or L.A.). We experience place through research or through evocative photos, movies, and—most to the point here—works of literature.
The first issue of The Common, which is based in the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College in western Massachusetts (a building where, I’ll disclose, I spent too many hours between the ages of 18 and 22), is packed with several excellent short works of literature about place. There are poems by Rafael Campo, Honor Moore, Mary Jo Salter, and many others, including a new translation of Marina Tsvetaeva; stories by Lauren Groff, Fiona Maazel, and Sabina Murray; and elegant historical reportage by Brook Wilensky-Lanford and Ted Conover. They’re all bound together in a volume as small and handsome and well designed as a New England liberal arts college (to make a superficial place-based comparison).
Ted Conover and Fiona Maazel will read at The Common’s NYC launch party. It takes place at BookCourt in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, on Tuesday, May 10, at 7:00 p.m.
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