A Critical Memoir
London Magazine has made a point of attempting something different from the book-reviewing weeklies or fortnightlies, treating politics in the larger sense through poetry and fiction rather than through journalism, and giving new writers the chance of appearing with the more celebrated.--Alan Ross, London Magazine 1961-85 (1986)
Though I must own well over twenty thousands books, I've not until recently collected anything in sense of trying to purchase everything within a certain category. Most of the books owned by me were obtained for a particular project--sometimes a work currently in progress, other times a project that I did in the past but about which I nonetheless maintain an active interest, and more often for one that I am planning to do in the future. In the course of my professional life I've accumulated substantial amounts of 1) contemporary American literature; 2) criticism of modern literature; 3) avant-garde literature; 4) cultural magazines; 5) American history; 6) book-art books; 7) criticism of avant-garde art and literature; 8) various editions of books by favorite authors (e.g., Henry Miller, John Barth); 9) books by my friends. In no case are any of these accumulations complete, and I doubt if they ever will be.
My first publication outside of school was in a university quarterly that did not pay its authors; and for five decades since I've continue to contribute to such eleemosynary journals, thinking that the abundance of them is a true index of cultural opportunity in America and thus that my continuing contributions to them constitute my principal charity. While my library includes shelf upon shelf of such magazines, most of them perfectbound (rather than saddle-stitched), what I think is more significant is the collection I've made of the books in which their current magazine editors usually, though later editors sometimes, select the best work that appeared in their pages. I call such books self-retrospectives, drawing upon a term more common in the visual arts. Even if such books customarily appear in modest editions designed initially for the magazines’ loyal subscribers or as special issues celebrating decade(s)-long anniversaries, self-retrospectives ideally give its editors an opportunity to show, better than any single issue, how they want their publication to be regarded by posterity.
Believing that any anthology from a single magazine has intrinsic importance, I’ve since added retrospectives compiled by people other than the periodical’s editors, indeed often after the magazine has died, though often wondering if I had not made a collecting mistake. William Wasserstrom, for instance, edited selections from both The Dial (1963) and Twice-a-Year (1964) more than a decade after those magazines folded.
For some magazines, such as Harvey Kurzman’s Humbug, I own both a selection in a small paperback (1957) and the complete run in two large boxed paperbacks (2009). Gelett Burgess’s The Lark and James Oppenheim’s Seven Arts likewise reappeared completely in two volumes. For two legendary German magazines, Akzente and Die Fackel, I own reprints of the complete run in respectively seven and twelve volumes. On the other hand, for several magazines, mostly short-lived, the complete run appeared in a single volume.
One reason initially to make cultural journals' retrospectives a subject for collecting was that no one else known to me is concentrating on them. Indeed, the category is so unfamiliar that I customarily must explain it at least twice, even to a bookseller eager to unload his inventory. A final reason for my doing this collection was that my closest professional colleague Dick Higgins (1938-1968) had all the books he could find by the author/designer Merle Armitage. Once Dick died, I had more reason to gather a collection, probably more numerous and loose-ended than his, that implicitly honored him.
Below are some paragraphs worked up after 2000 on individual volumes in roughly alphabetical order, though I could imagine casting them in another kind of sequence. I’d added some earlier notes on the genre as they appeared in my One Million Words of Booknotes (1995). Below that is the latest bibliography to which I’m still adding.
Accent was among the first American literary magazines to publish a self-retrospective that at the time gave it greater visibility than it might otherwise have had. Though the magazine was based at the University of Illinois, Harcourt Brace published the Accent Anthology (1946), which contained a prophetic departure of “narrative prose” along with poetry and critical essays. By the time a second self-anthology from Accent appeared from the local university press in 1973, more than a dozen years after it folded, the magazine had slighter presence in literary memories.
Precisely because Agenda is one of those long-lived British poetry magazines that are scarcely known in America, the self-retrospective published in New York in 1994 necessarily serves as an introduction.
The Best of Amazing (1967) must be incomparably selective with only nine stories from 43 years (1919-1962) from “the first all science-fiction periodical.” (Actually, though the dust-jacket says the earliest story appeared in 1926, the copyright page credits 1919.)
What should be made of the fact that Antaeus has produced only one self-anthology (1986), given its editor’s ambitions? I think perhaps this absence reflects a recognition that its issues were meant to reflect, as well as an occasional publication can, the opportunities of every moment, impressing literary VIPs sooner than aspiring for lasting influence.
Antioch Review is one of those midwestern university journals whose principal implicit function is spreading the name of its small college to readers who might otherwise be unawares of it. (Ever hear of Otterbein, Dennison, Wooster, and Wittenberg, among other small Ohio institutions.) Considering the comparatively small cost of publishing such a periodical, even if it is scarcely read, the publicity gained finally represents a kind of bargain for its institution. Nonetheless, the two self-anthologies from Antioch Review (1953, 1992) demonstrate why it has never been a consequential journal. Some magazines go where no others have or would; others self-consciously don’t.
Nothing reveals editorial aimlessness better than a self-anthology—not even a complete stack of issues says so much. Among the other self-retrospectives similar to each other in this respect are Poetry from The Amicus Journal (1990), The Best of The Missouri Review Fiction, 1978-1990 (1991), The American Voice Anthology of Poetry (1998), and The Ohio Review: New & Selected (two volumes, 2002). To read them (and others I could name, but won’t) is to wonder what their editors thought they were doing, aside from putting their names on opening pages (and perhaps keeping a job) and probably publishing their colleagues and friends. Self-retrospectives reveal how some literary magazines especially were edited more to impress their contributors than to win readers.
I brought Stories To Live By: A Treasury of Fiction from the American Girl, which was an official publication of the Girl Scouts, because I already had an anthology from American Boy, one book in hand typically suggesting the acquisition of de facto companion. On my alphabetically organized shelf, they reside next to one another, of course.
The Best of American Girlie Magazines (1997), Dan Carlinsky’s College Humor (1982), Nudist Magazines of the 50s & 60s (1992), Tony Goodstone’s The Pulps (1970), It’s a Man’s World: Men’s Adventure Magazines, the Postwar Pulps (2003), Otto Penzler’s The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps (2007), Stories Care Forgot: An Anthology of New Orleans Zines (n.d.) and Tijuana Bibles: Art and Wit in America’s Forbidden Funnies, 1930s-1950s (1997) all select from not one journal but a group of purposefully similar magazines, some of them representing the outer limits of what constitutes a “cultural journal.” In anthologizing from related periodicals they resemble Voices of a Black Nation: Political Journalism in the Harlem Renaissance (1973) and Editors: The Best of Five Decades (2001). The last thick book reprints from a succession of magazines edited by Saul Bellow and Keith Botsford: Noble Savage, ANON, Bostonia, The Republic of Letters.
Several retrospectives from American Mercury have appeared—one during H. L. Mencken’s legendary reign as editor (1926), the others well afterward (1943, 1944)—the differences between them reflecting clearly the change in leadership. The latter pair is curious for another reason. The first, clearly prepared as a soft-cover paperback for soldiers, is considerably shorter than the later hardback, which was reprinted at least twice (1946, 1979).
Conversely, perhaps the most unique characteristic of the many self-retrospectives from Partisan Review is that one man, namely William Phillips, had his name on all nine of them.
The six volumes of hardback anthologies from John W. Campbell’s science fiction magazine Analog (1963-68) all select from the thirty-five years of materials. With only several selections in each volume, the contents of the six books should be combined into a single thick paperback that would represent a more complete and thus truer self-retrospective.
One distinction of The Anvil Anthology 1933-1940 (1973) is that it appeared a full thirty-three years after the magazine folded, the retrospective co-edited by the magazine’s original founder, Jack Conroy. To put it differently, Anvil was remembered well enough to be remembered again. Another late anthology is Marcus Graham’s from his own Man! (1974), a major anarchist magazine in the 1930s, the self-published retrospective decades later indicating to me that Graham must have had considerable respect for his own earlier editing.
From art magazines I have Selections from the Art Journal (1901), Modern Art Yesterday and Tomorrow: An Anthology of Writings on Modern Art from L’Oeil (four volumes from the 1950s), The Best in Arts (1961), Archigram (1973), Art World: A Seventy-Five Year Treasury of ARTnews (1977), Visual Art Mathematics & Computers: Selections for the Journal Leonardo (1979), Looking Critically: 21 Years of Artforum Magazine (1984), Art, Activism, & Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage (1998), Portrait of the Art World: A Century of ARTnews Photographs (2002).
Aspect Anthology (1981) reflects the ambitions of an heroic individual, Ed Hogan, who published its first issues in modest circumstances while still a teenager and then kept it going by doing everything himself (selecting, typesetting, design, even distribution). Given his ambition, it is scarcely surprising that he published a retrospective early in its career, just after he turned thirty. Because of a canoeing accident, he died too soon, his literary magazine passing along with him, dammit.
The implicit theme of The Best of Australian Geographic Photography (2007) is that imitators of American photo magazines can print color photographs that are equally lush.
The distinction of the Beatitude Golden Anniversary (2009) comes from reprinting in its entirety the magazine’s 112-page City Lights self-retrospective from 1960 after a 470-page selection of more recent texts by scores of contributors purportedly writing in its tradition.
I find it curious that Chicago Review should have self-published its 50th Anniversary number as a regular issue of its magazine. Shouldn’t the University of Chicago Press, which had published The Chicago Review Anthology in 1959, been predisposed to do the same in 1986? Since Chicago Review is edited by graduate students who necessarily come and go, one truth revealed in the self-retrospective some periods of the magazine have been considerably stronger than others.
Issues 33/34 of Confrontation (1986) mixes selections from previous issues along with new material, while a 50th anniversary number of The Kenyon Review (1989) closes with "Excerpts from the War Years" nearly fifty years before, mostly by authors whose names remain familiar.
Martha Foley’s The Best of the Best Short Stories 1915 to 1950 (1952) selects from yearly anthologies that differ in title only by the year surveyed, making this an anthology of anthologies that appear periodically, selecting the best of what was previously chosen as the best, the second degree of selection probably revealing more about biases and limitations better than any of the individual annual volumes. Other anthologies of annual anthologies, so to speak, in my collection are Shannon Ravenel’s The Best American Short Stories of the Eighties (1990), Harold Bloom’s The Best of the Best American Poetry (1998), Frank N. Magill’s Best Masterplots 1954-1962 (1963), The Pushcart Book of Short Stories (2002), Anthony Brant’s The Pushcart Book of Essays (2002), John Hadfield’s The Best of the Saturday Book 1941-1975 (1981), two volumes of Gardner Dozois’s The Best of the Best (2005, 2007) from The Year’s Best Science Fiction, and William Braithwaite’s concluding 1958 Anthology of Magazine Verse. Most anthologies from Reader’s Digest, say, mostly reprint materials that were previously published in other sources; so does The Best of the Best American Humor (2002), which selects cartoons, columns, and essays initially reprinted in The Funny Times.
There was never a “best” from Argosy per se, though selections of both best cartoons and best sports stories appeared during the 1950s. While the latter was edited by Rogers Terrill, the former credits on its title page “3 Crazy People,” which is a most unique pseudonym for an anthologist in my recollection. One joy in reading retrospectives from very popular magazines is that the books lack the distracting advertisements so pervasive in the original publications.
Alphabetical or chronological order is so indicative of under-editing that either undermines selections from strong magazines. The tragedy of the two-volume The Last Blewointment Anthology (1985) is that selections appear in an alphabetical order by contributors’ last names, each barely represented, in sum devoid of the editorial adventurousness that marked the great Canadian avant-garde magazine.
I seem to have two different retrospectives of Arizona Highways, both issued in 1975. One is a special issue edited by one person; the other is a book edited by someone else.
Consider The Big Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories (2010) the biggest title for one of the thickest retrospectives at 1116 pages, double-columned. It also contains far more selections than earlier self-retrospectives such as Herbert Ruhm’s The Hard-Boiled Detective (1977), which chooses only a dozen from 1920 to 1951. The Best of Bon Appetit (1979) consists entirely of recipes accompanied by choice fullpage color illustrations.
The Choate Literary Magazine 1915-1965: Anthology Issue (1965) distinguishes itself from other comparable high/prep school books in publishing many distinguished writers, albeit with their teenage works—Edward F. Albee, James Laughlin IV, Gustaf Sobin, Avery Dulles, and Walter D. Edmonds. The only other anthology from a high school literary magazine in my collection is Prospectors 1917-1929 (1929) from the Horace Mann School for Boys in New York. Among the contributors to this volume is Elliott Cook Carter, who has since become known as a distinguished composer.
Close-Up (1927-1933) ranks among the great magazines of early modernism. Supported by Winifred Ellerman, commonly known as Bryher, it epitomized for Britain a connection between avant-garde literature and the new art of cinema that had no parallel in the U.S. Close-Up must have been important--why else would an American university press issue an anthology from its pages in 1998, more than six decades after its demise. (The only comparable American magazine at that time was Experimental Cinema [1931-34], which is remembered not with a selection but a reprint within a single volume of all of its issues.)
One should not forget that The Columbia University Forum (1968) was a cultural journal that was mailed gratis to all alumni instead of the narrowly promotional slick magazine favored by most universities. The Forum’s adventure didn’t last, alas. Unfortunately, no university known to me has since imitated Columbia’s sterling example. Nor has any university alumni magazine ever published a self-retrospective.
The editor of The Best Short Short Stories from Collier’s (1948) credits the magazine with inventing the “short short,” which here are all between four and six pages. By current standards such lengths aren’t particularly short, perhaps accounting for why so few of the dozens of authors are familiar now. The only names previously in memory are Lion Feuchtwanger, James Gould Cozzens, Elmer Davis, John O’Hara, Milt Gross, Christopher Morley, and “Budd (Wilson) Schulberg.,” and I suspect that most readers of this critique can’t identify half of these.
The fact that The Commentary Reader: Two Decades of Articles and Stories (1966) is its last general retrospective, as distinct from What To Do About (1995) that has a single subject, raises the question of why a magazine with its pretensions and its loyal backing doesn’t issue self-retrospectives more often? Am I alone in suspecting that perhaps its editors lack respect for the potential lasting value of what appears in its pages? Other Jewish magazines have done better by themselves, among them in one apiece--Midstream (1963), Moment (1987), The Torch (1967), Jewish Digest (1965), Jewish Frontier (1945), and Caravan: A Jewish Quarterly (1962); Tikkun in two (1992, 207),and Jewish Currents in three (1966,1977, 1987). I also have self-retrospectives of magazines Catholic, Armenian, and non-denominationally Christian.
One of the editors long involved with Christopher Street once told me that the anthologies from its pages were not representative, but, once I pressed him, he did not elaborate. The critical idea he put in my head is that a self-anthology might represent a different agenda from that governing a magazine, perhaps because the book’s editors differ from those running the magazine. For instance, none of Michael Moorcock’s several anthologies from the British science fiction magazine New Worlds include the more experimental texts that appeared in its pages, especially in the late 1960s, perhaps because these books were aimed narrowly at a science fiction audience with less distinguished literary taste.
The Cinch (1969) is, curiously, the only anthology from the Columbia College literary magazine--I say curiously because Columbia has been just as successful at producing professional writers at Harvard, whose Advocate was honored not once or twice but several times with self-selections, the first of Verses was published in 1876 (not 1976), the second of Stories (1896), both also in my collection. (The former seems privately published, crediting only a New York City printer, its subtitle proclaiming: “Reprinted for the Use of Later Undergraduates.” It includes a poem by Oliver Wendel Holmes, Harvard ’29 , that was reprinted from an 1830 precursor titled The Collegian.)
Two other self-anthologies from undergraduate publications are T.C.D. An Anthology, 1895-1945 (1945) from Trinity College in Dublin (accounting for the magazine’s title) and A Chronicle Sampler 1873-1967 (1967), which collects from a literary magazine published at Wells College, a venerable woman’s school in upstate New York. What should be made of the absence of either a table of contents or an index in this last book? Or that the whole seems more than the sum of its parts or that none of the contributors’ names are worth remembering?
The Eagle Looks Back selects from twenty-five years of another institutional publication, The Spread Eagle, which was published by Barclay’s Bank, whose contributors were limited to its employees. One of them happens to have been the prominent author Sir J. M. Barrie whose reprinted essay is “How I Joined Barclay’s Bank”�! This anthology too lacks bio notes.
The Crawdaddy! Book (2002) selects not from its entire run but only from the initial 19 issues, published during the late 1960s when the book’s current editor was still a teenager (implicitly reminding ambitious teenagers that low age need not handicap).
While the Internet periodical Diagram issued spinebound books in 2003, 2006, and 2008, its tenth anniversary (2011) was celebrated with a pack of 54 playing cards with the requisite hearts and spades, each containing on its face a selection from a previous issue.
The oldest self-retrospective in my collection is Selections from the Edinburgh Review (1836), “Comprising Best Articles in that Journal from Its Commencement to the Present Time.” I have only volume VI, which is devoted just to articles on Political Economy and Ireland. Inexplicably, this book was published not in Scotland or London but in Paris by Baudry’s European Library. As the front cover has fallen off this book, while some of the binding has come off, I necessarily keep it in a sealed plastic bag. The bookplate pasted into the inside front cover reads: “St John’s College Library, S.J., Fordham, NY.”
One of the earliest British retrospectives in my collection are Echoes from the Oxford Magazine: Being Reprints of Seven Years (1890). Among the earliest American books, Stories from the Dial (1924) reprints major writers all without a preface and without any acknowledgment of the important magazine in which they originally appeared. What makes this absence more curious is that the book’s publisher, The Dial Press, had taken its name from the prestigious magazine, even though it had a different owner. Knowing nothing, I suspect that the magazine’s directors might have been embarrassed by the book publisher and so did nothing to enhance this book. The later anthologies drawn from The Dial magazine are far more substantial and representative.
Dimension was a uniquely consequential magazine in introducing new directions in German literature to English-speaking audiences. One measure of its importance a 1981 retrospective; a negative measure is the absence of comparable American magazines serving recent French or Italian or Spanish or, say, Japanese writing.
Given Irving Howe’s success with draining commercial publishing, it is scarcely surprising that several selections from his magazine Dissent have appeared. I have only three of them edited by Howe, including the first Voices of Dissent (1958), in addition to one later edited by Nicolaus Mills (1994). May I wonder if all (or any) of these books enhanced the quality of the magazine?
Doris: An Anthology 1991-2001 (2005) draws upon a very personal periodical called “a zine” that Cindy Crabb began publishing while a teenager, her self-retrospective reproducing diary-like pages produced on a Royal Manual Typewriter before, toward 2000, she obtained a computer permitting slicker typesetting. The result is a sort of Bildungsroman. By contrast, Despite Everything: A Cometbus Omnibus (2002) comes from a more substantial fanzine “considered a classic in the subterranean world,” to quote the encomium from Time magazine. Much thicker and denser, unpaginated, this book reproduces both visual and verbal materials, the latter in a wide variety of typefaces, itself reflective of its eclecticism. If it had page numbers that would facilitate finding things among hundreds of pages, Despite Everything could stand as a model of its kind. Another fanzine anthology, likewise unpaginated and various in its contents, is Absolutely Zippo! (c. 1999).
Some self-retrospectives are simply too short for their subjects, Margaret Randall confessing in her preface to Selections from El Corno Emplumado/The Plumed Horn (2011) that she chose only from the initial three of seven years for the 41 pages allotted to her, adding in passing that her magazine deserved a bigger anthology, as indeed it did.
Encore was a remarkable British magazine that covered the new theater, mostly in London, from a critical perspective more typical of America than Britain at that time. The Encore Reader (1965) should have been a milestone in establishing a platform for the future; instead, it turned out to be a swan song. This book was reprinted intact as New Theatre: Voices of the 50’s and 60s (1981) with a charming new introduction by Michael Billington, who recalls the magazine’s influence upon him as a teenager. (By contrast, New Theatre Voices of the Seventies (1981) from the same co-editor, collects just interviews from the previous decades of Theatre Quarterly.)
Since Esquire is, like The New Yorker, a slick magazine with literary ambitions, it is scarcely surprising that both of them were early in issuing self-selections, perhaps in conscious competition with each other. Four years after New Yorker Book of Verse, 1925-1935 (1936) came The Bedside Esquire (1940); and both magazines have continued to release self-selections in the decades since. One way to establish which magazine has been the more important is to put these books side by side. Discrepancies in literary quality perhaps reflect different editorial ambitions. The New Yorker, unlike Esquire, has never published a single best from itself, instead forever issuing selective retrospectives of only this or only that—cartoons, biz stories, poetry, fiction, reportage, etc., etc. I have some of these, but not most.
Selecting from Exile, a literary magazine published by Brits residing in Egypt, Personal Landscape: An Anthology of Exile (1945) is on its title page “compiled by” not one or a few but a whopping fifteen contributors, including Robin Fedden, George Seferis, G. S. Fraser, and Lawrence Durrell. No other self-retrospective known to me acknowledges such a large committee of individuals.
Marshall McLuhan was one of those major critical writers who spent most of his years contributing to little magazines, even cofounding one, Explorations, that ranks among the strongest in its time and most prophetic in retrospect. One virtue of Explorations in Communication (1960) is reprinting most of the very best stuff from first-rank intellectual heavyweights.
The difference between Film Culture and Film Quarterly is that the latter is an academic journal reworking the canon while the first is an independent magazine focused upon establishing a new taste. Since the latter depends intellectually upon the influence of the former, it is indicative that the Film Culture Reader (1970) appeared 29 years before the Selection from Film Quarterly (1999) and 32 years before Hollywood Quarterly: Film Culture in Postwar America, 1945-1957. I’m also glad to have Cinema Examined: Selections from Cinema Journal (1980), because I’ve never seen the magazine.
/~xconnect (1996) represents a variation on the genre as a representation in print of “the best of the four electronic issues published on-line since 1995.” Unsure of orthography, the editors call this book CrossConnect on its title page, incidentally giving a clue about how the title should be pronounced. The preface speaks of wanting “to catch the wave of artists bursting into the traditionally scientific/academic forum and to lift their work to a new dimension through the ever-elusive ”�wonders of technology.’” Nonetheless, the publication disappoints by favoring work fairly traditional in styles. In 2002, I reviewed several book-length self-anthologies from periodicals’ websites: Dispatches from the Tenth Circle: The Best of the Onion (2001), Full Frontal Fiction: The Best of Nerve.Com. (2001), The Salon.com Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Authors (2000), and The Smoking Gun (2001).
Fine Homebuilding on More Frame Carpentry (1993) might represent another limit of my sense of a cultural magazine.
Forbes Life, previously titled FYI, included a retrospective of its first twenty years as an insert in its twentieth anniversary issue (September 2010). The departure was not reprinting whole articles but just some opening paragraphs beside the advice to find the full articles on the magazine’s website. Thus is their retrospective compressed into 14 pages. (The question for my collection was whether I should have printed out all the articles, in effect composing a selfretro from their outline? I didn’t.) For its 75th anniversary, Opera News printed a four-page timeline reproducing a few covers along with dated events. (I kept it, though think it insufficient.) I suspect that neither of these magazines had enough support to do the book worthy of their anniversary.
As C. L. Morrison’s Format was a modest magazine, so its self-retrospective is modest, consisting only of, as its title says, Pithy Sayings from Format Interviews, Volume I (1979), one paragraph to a page 4” x 5” for 32 text pages. A sequel never appeared.
Fortean Times (1992) is a truly eccentric journal that I didn’t know about until discovering its self-retrospective which is another way of saying that an anthology can, in addition to representing a magazine already known, introduce a magazine to readers who might have otherwise missed it.
Fortune’s Favorites (1931) collects appreciative profiles of American corporations, treating the entity as though it was an individual, which was indeed the magazine’s innovation. True to the original publishing style of Time, Inc., this anthology not only doesn’t identify any authors for the individual chapters, even for uncommonly distinguished prose; no editor is identified either. Those customs seem ever more peculiar with the passing of time. Though the corporations featured here were all prominent 75 years ago, some of their names are no longer familiar: Swift and Company; Drug, Incorporated; A.O. Smith Corporation; Niagara Hudson Power Company. The theme of Fortune: The Art of Covering Business (1999) is that the top of Luce’s line had the classiest covers in its old 11” x 14” format, and indeed it did.
The Best of Gauntlet (1992) might have been premature, since the magazine had published only a few issues before the book’s appearance, while it has scarcely published any issues since, the self-retrospective closing a short history.
Hugh Fox’s A Ghost Dance Anthology (1994) is important for keeping alive the memory of a modest periodical whose issues appeared in few copies. Other books similarly functional are Norm Moser’s The Illuminations Reader (1970), Susan Sherman’s Ikon The Sixties: A Retrospective of IKON Series One, 1966-1969 (1990), and Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein’s The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book (1984).
The distinguishing mark of The Guardian Omnibus (1973) is selecting from 150 years with over 50,000 issues of a single daily newspaper.
Adventures of America 1857-1900: A Pictorial Record from Harper’s Weekly (1938) has John A. Kouwenhoven’s extensive commentaries to a selection of pictures. From the modern Harper’s, now a monthly, I have retrospectives whose print quality is widely different. While An American Album: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Harper's Magazine (2000) is an elegant hardback book, An American Retrospective (1984) is a paperback printed on pages so thin that backsides easily show through.
Just as the Harvard Crimson is the only university newspaper to publish a self-retrospective known to me, so the Harvard Lampoon is the only undergraduate humor magazine known to me to have an anthology, both books accounting for why Harvard has been (and probably still is) Harvard. Incidentally, the fiftieth anniversary Crimson volume (1923) is not a self-retrospective, to my disappointment, but a history including then-current biographical notes on its hundreds of editors.
The selections in The Herbalist’s Almanac: 50 Year Anthology (1977) lack dates, even though all written by the same person, as were those in the two self-retrospectives from Harry Golden’s Carolina Israelite (1958, 1970).
Of the two self-anthologies from the music magazine High Fidelity, the second, edited in 1976 by Robert S. Clark, portrays a far more sophisticated magazine than the first, edited in 1955 by Roy Hoopes, Jr., introducing a subsidiary rule here—that a self-anthology can only be as good as not only its contents but the taste of its editor(s). One egregious absence reflected in Essays on Music: An Anthology from “The Listener” (1967), no doubt reflective of the magazine, is the absence of any essays about American music or American composers, unless one counts European composers who emigrated to the USA, where they died, such as Bथँla Bartथकk and Arnold Schoenberg.
Would that the contents of High 5ive (2006), an anthology of fiction from Ten Years of Five Points, be as witty and striking as the book’s title. Another witty title from an anthology that otherwise disappoints is Bitchfest (2006) from Bitch magazine.
Among books drawing from various kinds of music magazines are Perspectives on American Composers (1971) and Perspectives on Music Aesthetics (1994), both drawing upon Perspectives of New Music; Highlights from the First 75 Years (1991) from Musical Quarterly, The Rock Musician: 15 Years of Interviews, the Best of Musician Magazine (1994), Blues Guitar: The Men Who Made the Music (1995) from Guitar Player, The Country Reader: 25 Years of the Journal of Country Music (1996), and Scott Becker’s We Rock So You Don’t Have To: The Option Reader # 1 (1998). For dance magazines, I have only Arnold Haskell’s Ballet Decade (1952) from The Ballet Annual, Marian Van Tuyl”�s Anthology of Impulse (1969) and Dance Ink: Photographs (1997).
Collected Reprints from the Holt Radium Institute Manchester 1933-1943 (n.d.) lacks a preface and has uneven contents, including chapters whose excess paper was folded into the book, inside a pseudo-leather binding stamped in gold only on its front (and not its spine). It appears to contain articles from scientific journals during that decade—articles that were apparently reprinted contemporaneously for the Institute, only to be gathered intact into a self-retrospective at a later time, the book thus representing what among their distributions an unidentified editor felt worth preserving between encompassing covers.
The principal distinction of Simply the Best of”इHullabaloo (2006) is that the contributors are all between seven and eleven years old. Since no editor is credited, may I wonder how anyone(s) can select the best in juvenile work?
All the contents of The I. F. Stone Weekly Reader (1973) were written by one man who named his eponymous magazine. So were all the contributions to The Best of Preventive Maintenance Monthly (2011, Will Eisner) and Chaos and Beyond: The Best of Trajectories (1994, Robert Anton Wilson), among other one-man publications. The distinction of Mallarmथऊ on Fashion (2004) is that he wrote all the contents of the short-lived fashion magazine La Derniथउre Mode (1874) under several pseudonyms. A comparable distinction of Loose Watch (1998), drawing from John M. Bennett’s Lost & Found Times, is that many of the contributions are Bennett’s collaborations with others.
The highly literate satirical Journal of Irreproducible Results has been strong and unique enough to deserve not one or two but four anthologies (1986, 1993, 1997, 2008), implicitly raising the question of why other satirical magazines haven’t been as good.
It is indicative that The Kenyon Critics (1951) should have appeared more than a decade before Gallery of Modern Fiction: Stories from The Kenyon Review (1966), because the magazine was always more important for publishing considered literary criticism.
The Bedside Lilliput (1950) is one of several not to acknowledge an editor. It doesn’t have a preface either, not even from a celebrity third party.
London Magazine 1961-1985 accounts for why this magazine has always had far more presence in England than America--it scarcely publishes Americans. Of the two dozen contributors’ names featured on its front cover, only two are Americans—Paul Theroux and W. H. Auden. This anthology also includes avant-garde work while deprecating it, this selection acknowledging in its preface that includes “none of the Concrete Poems, nor representatives of the Pop, Kinetic or Typewriter Art that surfaced, briefly, in the Seventies and brightened up our pages.” What makes such omissions doubly unfortunate is that the magazine’s founding publisher, Alan Ross, has a good sense, as quoted in the epigraph to this survey, of the functions and opportunities unique to cultural magazines, especially with regard to more experimental literature.
Until 1979, The London Magazine published under its own imprint annual anthologies of stories previously appearing in its pages. My book collection includes only the volume from 1964, probably purchased around that time.
London Review of Books: Anthology Two (1982), contains materials so short and slight that it is reasonable to question, as I do, why they were reprinted at all. There is “a story” here that someone no doubt knows, though no sign it can be found in the book itself.
Is Mad a cultural magazine? I think so, certainly for generations of critical teenagers for several decades by now. So much of American culture, beginning with comic culture, would be different without it. That’s why my collection includes three decade-long quality paperback retrospectives (1960s, 70s, 80s), in addition to not only the first edition but the “50th Anniversary Edition” of The Mad Reader (1954 & 2002), which is identified in the latter as the first book retrospective ever from a comic book. The 2002 Mad reprints include not only that title but The Brothers Mad (1955) and Mad Strikes Back (1953), which might rank as the only retrospectives to be reappear intact, albeit in a slightly broader format, several decades later. Compared to the Mad self-retrospectives, that from a higher-brow imitator, The Monocle Peep Show (1965), seems derivative and was, indicatively, never reprinted.
The back cover of Harvey Kurtzman’s The Humbug Digest (1957), a mass paperback in format, declares “this is an original publication—not a reprint,” which led to believe it was not a self-retrospective, until I discovered on a Kurtzman website that the periodical Humbug was a “newsprint satire monthly [that] died with its eleventh issue in 1958.” In retrospect, Humbug was perhaps the most personal and intellectual of all Kurtzman’s satire efforts,” which incidentally included many contributions to Mad and implicitly demonstrates how much more sophisticated Mad could have been (were its publisher as smart as his sometime star contributor). Another self-retrospective of a Kurtzman magazine is Second Help!-ing (1961), likewise a mass paperback, in this case selecting from a periodical titled, simply, Help!. Over the past few years different publishers have announced the publication of the complete Trump, another Kurtzman publication, this lasting for only two issues in 1967 before Playboy’s Hugh Hefner folded it; but this hasn’t yet appeared, while the webpage for it at Amazon.com announces that such an attractive would-be book is “currently unavailable.” Incidentally, just as Kurtzman was commonly regarded as better than Mad, so are his anthologies richer and more various than the Mad self-retrospectives.
Following Playboy, Hustler issued The Best of Hustler # 1 (1975), whose sequels in print are hard to find, though more recent examples of the title, such as # “XXX” (1999) appear as unashamedly “hardcore” DVDs. This first volume I value, nonetheless, for nude photographs of Jacqueline Kennedy unavailable elsewhere.
Though Henry Luce’s Life magazine died in the year 2000 and then again in 2005, its corporate publisher has since issued rich retrospectives featuring its greatest large photographs, many of which are iconic, of course, some images reprinted more than once: Life: The Platinum Anniversary Collection: 75 Years of Extraordinary Photography (2007), Life: The Classic Collection (2008), and Life 75 Years: The Very Best of Life (2011). In the second, which has the best reproductions, but also reprinted in the first, is a striking collective picture of the magazines star photographers. Among the three dozen are one black and only two women, which is to say no Asians of any color. Aren’t such biases customarily hidden by the 21st Century?
Though Mad magazine has licensed its rich storehouse of materials to several publishers over the decades, resulting in many books, the richest self-retrospectives were those issued by Mad itself—Mad About TV (1999) and Mad itself About Movies (1998). Perhaps respecting Mad’s organizing its selections by decade, the several sections of Marvel 70th Anniversary Collection reprint within a single volume selections from each decade, incidentally in gorgeous color with hard glossy paper better than the original soft newsprint.
In addition to many collections from Mad Magazine, ranging in formats from hardback volumes to mass-market paperbacks, I also have The Cracked Reader (1960), the only retrospective from a short-lived imitator that is nonetheless so much more sophisticated, both politically and culturally (and so much more adult, to be frank), that its value lies in implicitly suggesting what Mad could have been. Cracked, I gather, continued into the 1990s, invisible to me, never again publishing a self-retrospective.
Sometime a magazine will represent itself by reprinting only from a single recurring feature, which indeed epitomizes the publication at its best. From The Magazine of Art, published by the American Federation of Artists, I have Painters and Sculptors of Modern America (1942), which draws only upon a feature in which twenty-eight artists wrote about their own careers.
Just as my collection includes retrospectives from popular cultural magazines, I also have those from more obscure journals by and for academics: Philosophy and Analysis (1954) from Analysis, Aesthetic Inquiry: Essays on Art Criticism and the Philosophy of Art (1967) from the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Aesthetics in the Modern World (1968) from The British Journal of Aesthetics, New Directions in Literary History (1974) from New Literary History, The American Literary History Reader (1995), Two Decades of The ALAN Review (1999), History of Physics from Physics Today (1985), The Beckett Studies Reader (1993), and Parnassus: Twenty Years of Poetry in Review (1996).
McSweeney’s is a literary journal I’d not seen until reading its first self-anthology whose witty departure, curiously published initially in London, is called The Better of”इ (2006). The second departure here is a witty small-print history of the magazine beginning behind the half-title page for three pages and continuing in lines too long for such tiny type on several back pages. Otherwise, none of the selections here or in its successor (Volume Two, 2010) were particularly original or distinguished. More than once I sensed that many of these fictions were first submitted to The New Yorker, reflecting its limitations without transcending them. May I assume from this anthology that the magazine itself doesn’t deliver on its inventive framing?
Glimpses of Medford (2007) reprints from the Medford Historical Register that is published by the historical society of a Massachusetts town. Since comparable periodicals are published in other self-consciously proud American towns, may I assume that more self-retrospectives from such publications must exist?
Stories from The Midland is one of three books in my collection from 1924. How this coincidence happened mystifies me. The Midland was based in Iowa City, initially serving its immediate community. Many of the stories here were initially written, according to John T. Frederick’s preface, in a course taught at the local university. Whereas his book reprints Ruth Suckow and Frank Luther Mott, the others from 1924, The Freeman Book, reprinting from its initial four years (as a cultural magazine), and Stories from the Dial, originating from New York, reprint Thomas Mann, Arthur Schnitzler, and D. H. Lawrence. In 1928 appeared The America Book of Verse, its title misleading, as its selection appeared only in the venerable Jesuit magazine America.
Monks Pond: Thomas Merton's Little Magazine (1989) is not a selection but a complete reprint, once again of a journal whose individual issues were scarce at the beginning and unobtainable now. Among other complete reprints in my collection are Wallace Thurman’s Fire!! Devoted to Younger Negro Artists (1982) and The Hasty Papers (1999), both of which reprint a potential periodical that had only a single issue; Neurotica (1963), The Objectivist Newsletter (1967), Clipper: A Western Review (1968), Experimental Cinema (1969), Work & Where 1965-1966 (1970), New Challenge (1970), Circle (1974), Joglars (1974), New Individualist Review (1981), Black Mask & Up Against the Wall Motherfucker (1993), Bananafish (1994), and all of which reproduce every page of those magazines. The first is the slightest as a 48-page direct saddle-stitched offset of its 8 1/2” by 11” pages and cover (1926) abetted by a 4-page insert mostly by the small reprinter, Thomas H. Wirth, about the one-shot magazine and its impact. Zero 1949-1956 (1974) reprints all issues except one, the last, which appeared in 1958 as a hardbound book.
The Best of Broadside 1962-1988: Anthems of the American Underground from the Pages of Broadside Magazine (2000) remembers a legendary folk-song periodical not with a book but as a collection of compact discs of songs originally published in its pages—a retrospective in another medium, so to speak.
Since Narrative Magazine began as a website, most of us would expect a departure from conventional tastes. Forgetaboutit. The principal theme of its first retrospective, Selections (2005), is its editor’s favoring prominent writers doing conventional works that were, may we guess, rejected by print magazines.
Whereas several periodicals, among them Fortune, have published retrospectives solely of their covers, National Lampoon issued in 1993 a selection of 100 covers, backed by sample texts, on small cards (3” x 2”�), the format itself a satire of the physically larger picture books.
The tenth anniversary issue of Out (2002) includes along with new material some 18 pages of self-retrospective, more of images than words, while the tenth anniversary of Islands (1991) includes 95 pages of excerpts, likewise with more pictures than words. For its 40th Anniversary issue in 1995, National Review reprints only sixteen pages mostly of book reviews, implicitly slighting itself with such a paltry retrospective. My hunch, knowing nothing, is that all these magazines would have preferred to have their monumental anniversary celebrated with a stand-alone book but lacked either sufficient money or a book publisher.
One curious fact of the retrospective from New Letters at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, Decade: Poetry & Commentaries 1980-1990 (1990), is that its editor, the poet David Ray, had three decades before edited the first retrospective from the Chicago Review.
Two volumes titled New Irish Writing (1970, 1976) select not from a periodical per se but from the single weekly literary page in the daily newspaper titled The Irish Press, incidentally creating a good example, unknown in the US, for publishing short stories and poems in a national newspaper.
Since New Music Box is distributed gratis over the Internet to those requested it, its 10th Anniversary self-retrospective appeared first on its own website. For my collection, the publisher sent me a CD-rom that, like the magazine itself, contains both texts and images. Other “on-line” periodicals may have already compiled comparable self-retrospective files that can be archived as discs; more surely will.
Credit The New Republic with retrospectives appearing over the greatest length of time--one in 1934, another in 1994--though the magazine of later decades, under different owners, scarcely resembles that from earlier times. I have several retrospectives from its companion/competitor The Nation, most of them partial. Both The Best of the Nation (self-published, 1952) and Henry Christman’s A View of The Nation, An Anthology: 1955-1959 (1960) select from only a few prior years, while Cinema Nation: The Best Writing on Film from The Nation, 1913-2000 (2000) covers only film and Brushes with History (2001) collects only art reviews. On neither of these subject have its reviewers been particularly good (i.e., worth reprinting).
The theme of Through the Lens: National Geographic Greatest Photographs (2009) is the magazine’s lush photographic style, apparently enforced for a century, of showing people and sometimes animals in exotic circumstances. So primary are the photographs that nothing is said on any prefatory page about the writers introducing the various sections, some of them prominent. Another peculiarity of this book is its odd size, roughly 6” square, and thus smaller than the traditional page of the magazine.
Of the several selections of this magazine’s pictures, the best were done by Jane Livingston, herself a distinguished art critic, the first for an exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. More than one choice NG photograph appears in more than one book, sometimes in a different size; so that I can imagine that whoever purchases a second NG picture collection might by upset by the duplicates.
Of the 16 essays collected in Ideology in Social Science (1972), edited by Robin Blackburn, 11 come the New Left Review, which Blackburn edits, while the remaining five, likewise about “Marxism and avant-garde bourgeois social theory,” read as though they might have (perhaps should have) appeared there as well, implicitly making this book a sort of extended retrospective of Blackburn’s journal.
While Penguin Books published John Lehmann’s New Writing, the retrospectives Poems from New Writing 1936-1946 and Pleasures of New Writing: An Anthology (1952), likewise edited by Lehmann, were published by an imprint bearing his own name, the editor showing respect for his own editorial work by self-publishing a selection from it.
I have three anniversary issues of the New York Magazine. That from its 20th Year reprints the opening paragraphs of 20 articles, one for each year. Another section reprints illustrations and captions from each year among current ads. All this suggests a magazine with limited respect for its past. The 30th Anniversary issue reprints on its cover reductions of 16 previous covers. Instead of selections from previous articles, this has interviews with people once featured in its pages and a time-line history with small visuals and captions perhaps drawn from New York’s pages; perhaps not. While the last technically falls outside the mandate of my collection, I keep it for its distinction. The only genuine self-retrospective is New York Stories (2008).
The New York Observer’s single self-retrospective, The Kingdom of New York (2009), suffers from pages that pages that make it look not as it has always looked, as illustrated on pages 10 and 11, but, inexplicably, like The New York Magazine. From its page size through its placement of illustrations to its typography, this book reminds the reader, inadvertently perhaps, of its competitor, likewise a weekly. In this respect, I have no other retrospective quite like it. How such a self-screwing design happened is a mystery that might someday be explained, or might not.
The New York Review of Books prepared for 1992 a self-published 30th anniversary self-celebration that lacks a publication date, because, I’ve been reliably informed, there are several versions with different contents. I have both a set of bound uncorrected proofs and a published book that, indeed, have different contents. Why?
The New York Times anthology of obituaries (1997) oddly seems more substantial than the selections from its Magazine (1960) and Book Review (1954, 1964, 1969, 1998), perhaps because no other periodical publishes obits as full as those in the Times while many other publications print stronger cultural articles and book reviews. While Assignment America: A Collection of Outstanding Writing from the New York Times (1974) collects from features published only in the decade before, I found richer history in longer time spans of America’s Taste (1960), which reprints mostly reviews of cultural events, and Sports as Reported in the New York Times (1976), even though the last smells under-edited. One peculiarity of the Times’ self-anthologies is the absence of biographical notes for the contributors, as though they had no identity apart from their connection to the venerable institution. (Perhaps this aspiration of individually indistinguishable writing accounts for why more stylish newspaper writers, such as Murray Kempton, Pete Hamill, and Jimmy Breslin, work for other NYC newspapers.) I can’t tell whether Raymond Sokolov’s Recipes from the New York Times (1973) is an anthology of either previously published texts or fresh stuff exploiting the Times moniker. Nothing within the book tells, while a query sent to Sokolov never got an answer. The New York Times Book of Verse (1970) is another swan song. Soon after it appeared, its editor retired and the Times stopped publishing poetry.
Most anthologies from newspapers reprint not the short pieces favored by the Times’s self-anthologies but longer features that, indeed, survive better in books. Among those in my collection are Bookshelf Free Press (1956) from the Winnepeg Free Press in Manitoba, The Best from The Wall Street Journal (1974), The San Francisco Chronicle Reader (1962), Done in a Day: 100 Years of Great Writing from the Chicago Daily News (1977), Fifty Years in Pictures: The New York Daily News (1979), and A Penny a Copy: Readings from The Catholic Worker (1995). One problem with 25 Years of USA Today (2007) is that, since the color photographs in the large format book are superior to the smaller originals in newsprint, the anthology as a representation is fictitious. By contrast, Daily News 90 Years of New York News and Pictures (June 21, 2009) is a slight selection published with current advertisements as a separate section in the Sunday newspaper.
Whereas some of these self-retrospectives have more respect for their contributors than others, a few even printing their names on the dust-jacket, the editors of The Vineyard Gazette Reader (1996) fail to put any contributors’ names on the title page or even to give them biographical notes.
I resolved at the beginning not to collect the anthologies issued regularly by The New Yorker, which has recently made a small industry out of memorializing itself trivially, only to recant. Since I have The New Yorker Scrapbook (1931), along with Album of Art and Artists (1970) or Book of Verse, 1925-1935, even collecting a 1965 box that includes softcover reprints of the Stories anthologies from 1940, 1949, and 1960, I can register in, say, Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker (2000) a decline in the editorial level of self-anthologizing. I can also find it peculiar that The New Yorker Album of Sports and Games (1958) reprints only cartoons, implying perhaps that prose in its pages about those subjects weren’t worth reprinting. Retrospectives from this magazine suggest that it is smugly peculiar.
In the thick The New Yorker Book of Poems (1974), the poems appear with titles in alphabetical order (discounting their articles), which, here and elsewhere, is a sign of under-editing, which is to say a reluctance or inability to discover a sequence reflecting editorial intelligence evident, say, in the magazine itself. (Alphabetical order by authors’ names reflects under-editing as well, as does any chronological order by authors’ birthdates or initial publication.) A second problem with this Poems is that the texts are jammed together in continuous typesetting, sometimes with several poems to a page, which is visibly so different from spaciousness marking their initial appearance in the magazine itself. Third, the admission in the preface for only “original versions printed in The New Yorker” makes me wonder how many and which poems appeared differently in the poets’ own books. Fourth, many of the better poets appearing in the magazine’s pages are barely visible here (e.g., Ogden Nash, Elizabeth Bishop). Fifth, even in this self-selection, particularly excellent poems are scarce. For one measure, consider that few of these hundreds appear in general anthologies of poetry. The secret revealed in this self-selecting “by the Editors of the New Yorker” is that, even though this magazine probably pays better for poetry than any other, little first-rank poetry appears in its pages. Indicatively perhaps, never again has The New Yorker published an anthology selecting from its poetry.
On the other hand, one distinguishing mark of The Complete New Yorker (2005) on DVDs with a modest print anthology is that perhaps one hundred of the contributing authors’ names appear on the back cover, indicating that it remains a writer’s magazine, so to speak, even if many (perhaps most) of those writers aren’t particularly good (and wouldn’t survive anywhere outside its pages).
The importance of Gems from Judge (1922) is remembering a weekly magazine that influenced The New Yorker (b. 1925) as it preceded it, not just in its page designs featuring cartoons but its mix of light and heavy short pieces. Indeed, the later magazine’s founding editor, Harold Ross, has worked at Judge for a few months in 1924.
The first truth of Fierce Pajamas (2001), subtitled An Anthology of Humor Writing from The New Yorker, is it is printed on cheaper paper than any of the earlier retrospectives I have (though perhaps not all). A second truth is that the earlier selections seem considerably funnier than the recent ones. Indeed, too many of the latter aren’t funny at all. Why this should happen is a question left for more considered criticism. Are humor writers in general not as funny as they used to be? Or is The New Yorker so insular it can’t see beyond its mostly leaden regulars. The latter hypothesis would account for the omission of so many of my favorite contemporary humorists beginning with Paul Krassner Lenny Bruce, Don Rickles, Robert Klien, David Sedaris, Art Buchwald, Sarah Vowell, and even (curiously?) Wally Shawn! Perhaps other recent New Yorker anthologies reveal a comparable neglect of best of a particular kind.
The title of The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker (2006) is misleading, because while the thick and large book represents a selection from its entire history, only on the accompanying DVD can every published cartoon be found. Much as the current editor David Remnick suggests in his preface that most subscribers read the cartoons first, remarkably few in the book to be classic to me, perhaps because of the over-editing that Remnick inadvertently acknowledges.
I’ve resisted other New Yorker self-selections with more specialized monikers--love stories, cats, dogs, and other trivia—and the 2005 box of DVDs promising the complete run from the very beginning of the magazine, ads and all, decades ago. From the critical point of view, The New Yorker might be the only magazine that would benefit from fewer self-retrospectives, if not none.
The periodicals issuing self-anthologies prolifically include Fantasy & Science Fiction in over two dozen volumes, each with a numerical title, and Mad in nearly countless books, each with a witty title: The Portable Mad, Swinging Mad, The Dirty Old Mad, The Vintage Mad, Hopping Mad, The Fifth Mad Declassified Papers on Spy vs. Spy, etc. In addition to the Mad retrospectives mentioned before, I also have an anthology exclusively of Mad covers. Indeed, The Very Best from Fantasy & Science Fiction (2009) reminds us that its self-anthologies have been appearing since 1951, which was 58 years before, representing a monumental world’s record of sorts.
Other periodicals prolific at repackaging themselves are National Lampoon and Paris Review, the latter indicatively favoring for reprint not fiction and poetry upon which the reputations of literary magazines have been traditionally based but compilations of its extended interviews.
The value of extended literary interviews remains an important question. Either Paris Review should be considered first-rate for publishing so many selections of them or second-rate for a continuing dependence upon featuring them. My own opinion holds interviews inferior to an extended critical essay because, especially in Paris Review, they focus more upon the personality of the interviewee than the significance of his or her work.
From the NRF: Essays from the Nouvelle Revue Franथईaise (1969) is one of only three books I have in English from a single French publication; the others are Situationist International Anthology (1981) and a Tel Quel Reader (1998). The XUL Reader: An Anthology of Argentine Poetry 1980-1996 (1997) is the only book from a Latin-American publication. Though English is the only language I can read easily, I have as well the complete reprint (1975) of the German magazine Akzente that I first saw in the libraries of Berlin intellectuals in the early 1980s. Then and there I also saw another box whose twelve volumes reprint the complete run of Karl Kraus’ Die Fackel (ca. 1980), which I’m pleased to have too. Also in my collection is an anthology, almost entirely in German, from Aufbau (1972), the principal German-language Jewish magazine in New York, where the retrospective was also copublished.
Two parodies of such periodical self-retrospectives are The Best of Hook & Bullet (1996) of sportsmen’s magazines in general and Snooze: The Best of Our Magazine of, in particular, The New Yorker (1986).
The Ohio Review: New & Selected (2000) and 30 (2012) from the Mississippi Review are compendious anthologies that appeared after the demise of the literary periodicals from which they select. Both are memorial volumes, so to speak. Neither seems selectively edited. With nearly 160 contributors in 869 pages the latter is remarkably thick and populous.
One way to measure to importance of Cid Corman’s The Gist of Origin: An Anthology (1975) is that copies of this book can be found on the Internet, while individual issues from the scarce magazine are less obtainable. (Also credit Corman and/or his publisher with an original euphemism for a self-anthology, even if decades later “gist” hasn’t caught on.) Don’t Just Do Something: A Collection of Articles from The Center Magazine (1972) likewise survives copies of the magazine, which was published for a limited audience by the Center for Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, CA. Since I’d not heard of Guinea Pig Zero before the appearance of a self-anthology in 2002, I suspect that it too benefited from its publisher’s collecting the best of itself into a book.
The self-anthology in A Return to Pagany, 1929-1932 (1969) is only incidental to a fresh history and the reprint of editorial correspondence, indicating perhaps that thirty years later little originally appearing was worth reprinting.
The Picture Post Album (1989) selects from a large-format British photo magazine that began in 1938 after the comparable American magazine called simply Life, the retrospective implicitly demonstrating why the London publication scarcely competed with the American model that, indicatively, isn’t mentioned in it's retrospective pages.
My hunch is that Hugh Hefner called an early anthology from his pages The Bedside Playboy (1963) because The Beside Esquire (1940) had been so popular, both incidentally creating the preconditions for the Bedside Mad (1973).
While most of Malaparte: A House Like Me (1999) is devoted to the Italian writer’s remarkable architectural designs, one chapter of the book recalls his magazine Prospetttiva (Perspectives) with reproductions of choice pages in Italian, thus offering a mini-retrospective in the context of something else.
Family: A 25th Anniversary Collection of Essays about the Family from Notre Dame Magazine (1997) and Notre Dame Review: The First Ten Years (2009) reflect different ambitions of a unique American university.
One sensible departure in Fiona Sampson’s A Century of Poetry Review (2009) is placing critical essays amidst the poetry selections, rather than segregating poetry from prose, in an otherwise chronological scream. However, from a magazine that has employed many editorial chief’s over its hundred years, I would have appreciated the anthologist’s identifying which editor was responsible for each selection.
Owning two editions of The Psychedelic Reader, the first done in 1965, which I obtained at the time, the reprint in 1997, I cannot think of another retrospective from a periodical that was strong enough to warrant reprinting intact more than three decades later.
The American edition of The Best of Punch Cartoons (2009) comes emblazoned with this encomium from “The Times,” apparently London’s: “A New Yorker cartoon might tickle you, but a good Punch could draw blood.” While I doubt that claim, I did note in this collection of “2,000 Humor Classics” longer captions. No doubt, any thorough comparison between Punch and its American competitor would need to start with a comparable book. One gaucherie of this Punch selection is that while the book’s editor, Marion Wasalek, is credited on the title page, her name does not appear on the dust-jacket, the jacket flap, or the spine. Within the book itself she is identified as the magazine’s librarian.
Two different decisions behind Purple Anthology are opening with a large-type alphabetical index, instead of any title or half-title page, both omitted here, and closing with tiny reproductions of covers for every issue along with name credits for everything inside from the cover designers to artists, photographers, and writers. What could not be discovered is who edited this anthology? Perhaps it was Martynka Wawrzyniak, identified only on the final page as an editor.
An American Reader (1938) celebrates the 100th anniversary of G. P. Putnam’s Sons with selections not only from the firm’s books but from such periodicals as Putnam’s Magazine and Putnam’s Monthly.
One quality I noticed in the three anthologies from The Quarterly Review of Literature (1975, 1975, 1993), aka QRL, is inferior work from prominent writers, making me think that its editors were choosing people rather than work, probably inviting them to contribute whatever they wanted and rarely rejecting them for fear that subsequent invitations to the favored writers might be tossed aside.
Recalling Cyril Connolly’s division of literary magazines between coterie, which intends to publish only a group close to their founder(s), and eclectic, whose editors want to draw from a variety of sources, I suggested a decade ago the existence of a third kind that I called butt-kissy, because they were designed to impress Important People most of all, incidentally eschewing anything that might offend or challenge VIPs, even if such strong work might attract new readers.
The editor of The Best of the Progressive Magazine 1909-2009 (2009) boasts that he edited and condensed the selections, many of which apparently needed such help to survive in reprint. Some self-anthologies, not only this, are so devoid of anything memorable that they raise doubts about whether they should have been published for anything other than sentimental reasons.
One initial reason to be pleased to have Ravan: Twenty”�Five Years 1972-1997 (1997) and Ten Years of Staffrider Magazine 1978-1988 (1988) is that I have nothing else from South Africa. Quadrant: 25 Years (1982) is the only book in my collection from an Australian magazine; The Best of Ariel (1993), the only retrospective from an English-language literary magazine in Israel. Another book from a unique source is Selections from The Quill (1947), which reprints writing and visual art from a periodical published by British officers (and only officers) who were prisoners of war in Germany (and only Germany) during WWII.
Ray Gun: Out of Control (1997) is appropriately subtitled, because the theme of the magazine is audacious, excessive design that is fully reproduced in these pages.
The Reader’s Digest, once a uniquely successful magazine, issued self-retrospectives for its 20th anniversary (1941), 30th anniversary (1951), 40th Anniversary (1961), and even a 50th Anniversary (1972). Though the magazine has continued to appear, if less auspiciously, later anniversaries haven’t merited any books. Not unlike The New Yorker, the Digest has also published topical self-anthologies limited to one or another of its regular feature, including two volumes from Getting the Most Out of Life (1948, 1956), and a self-published single volume collecting The Best Jokes and Quotes (2008), which is a thick book in turn incorporating earlier collections of Human in Uniform (1969), “Quotable” Quotes (1997), and Laughter, the Best Medicine (2006). The Digest printing machines also issued Ten Best Books: A Selection of Memorable Book Condensations from The Reader’s Digest (n.d., c. 1960), which were in their time a kind of RD periodical. The Best of Twenty-One Years (1960) is a Reader’s Digest self-anthology available only in England, published to celebrate the magazine’s “twenty-first birthday in Britain,” though it contains selections also appearing in the US.
The Reporter seemed inconsequential in its time--the toy of an immigrant “intellectual” with a wealthy wife with a dollop or two covertly from the CIA. The retrospectives drawn from its pages (1956, 1960) make it seem even less consequential.
“The Special Anthology Issue” (1987) of the anarchist magazine Retort (1942-1951) reprints a story by S. G. Bellow (aka Saul B), “Mr. Katz, Mr. Cohen and Cosmology” (June 1942) that, as far as I can tell, has never been reprinted elsewhere. One charm in collecting self-retrospectives from obscure magazines is discovering pieces by literary VIPs unavailable anywhere else.
The Rock & Roll Confidential Report is at once a retrospective and expansion of its source, The Rock & Roll Confidential containing dated reprints, new materials written for the book, and articles from elsewhere complimenting the others. Surprised I remain that few retrospective in my collection extend their editorial mandate.
Rod & Custom in the 1950s (2004) reprints not just choice articles but their whole pages intact, including the ads, which are often as representative as the editorial content.
The implicit theme of the Saturday Evening Post’s anthologies, especially of its fiction, is that superior writers, such as William Faulkner and William Saroyan, published inferior work in its pages.
One difference between The Bachelor’s Companion: A Smart Set Collection (1934) and The Smart Set: A History and Anthology (1966) is that the latter makes the magazine seem less frivolous. The National Review Treasury of Classic Children’s Literature (2002) is a uniquely curious anomaly, drawing almost exclusively for another magazine that died long before TNR was born—the St. Nicholas Magazine, which had previously been anthologized. Though this book’s dust-jacket says “selected by William F. Buckley, Jr.,” his name does not appear on the book’s title page. As far as I can tell, all the selections except one come from the historic magazine, and the author of that exception is, to no surprise, Mr. Buckley.
The out-sized Canadian literary journal Rampike celebrated its 20th Anniversary not with a full-retrospective but, on its inside back cover, a single page of "Quotable Quotes from 20 Years of Rampike Magazine." For that distinctive move alone it belongs in my collection.
I am pleased to have Reinventing Anarchy, Again (1996), which draws from Social Anarchism (and incidentally includes me), in addition to A Decade of Anarchy (1961-70) and a set of fourteen annual self-retrospectives from the British anarchist magazine Freedom (1951-1964).
One unique mark of Creed Culture, a retrospective from Touchstone magazine, which wants to unite conservative Christianities, is contributors’ notes that mention large numbers of children.
As a libertarian, I obtained the complete run, acknowledged before, of the New Individualist Review in a single volume, in addition to Years of Reason (1993), Anarchy!: An Anthology of Emma Goldman’s Mother Earth (2001), and Toward Liberty: 25 Years of Public Policy from the Cato Institute (2002), which reprints not from a regular periodical but occasional papers. Selections from Benjamin Tucker’s classic Liberty (1881-1908) appeared as The Individual Anarchists (1994). What is unique about Bagatorials (1994) is that its fundamentally libertarian contents were first printed on a certain Northern California’s store’s grocery bags. The four Loompanics self-anthologies (1986, 1990, 1993, 1998) are drawn not from a magazine but from its highly readable annual catalogues of an anarchist-libertarian bookseller, indicating that it considers these reprinted essays, incidental in their original publication, are important enough to be remembered. As indeed they are.
Radical magazines are reprinted only when they published substantial critiques: The I. F. Stone Weekly Reader (1973), "Yours for the Revolution": The Appeal to Reason, 1895-1922 (1990), Censored: 108 Astounding Suppressed Stories Published Only by the Spotlight (1991), Popular Alienation: A Steamshovel Press Reader (1995), and Writing the Revolution: Cultural Criticism from Left Review (1998). I’d mention here Mother Jones’s The Anniversary Issue: The Best of Our First 25 Years (2001), were it not so slight—less a book than a promotional flier.
If only because I think sports to be part of Culture (and that genre of mass culture that I for one take most seriously), I have several books selecting from Sport Illustrated (1957, 1963, 1967, 1970, 1973, 1990, 1993, 1996, 1998, 2003). Three of them have a title almost identical—The Best of S.I.; but the difference between that from 1973 and those from 1996 and 1999 is that the first has the numeral 1 as a kind of sub-title after a colon, because it selects only from pieces published in 1972, while the later two come from different publishers, all these books selecting photographs better than texts. The implicit theme of the large glossy pages of The Wonderful World of Sports (1967) is that SI’s photographers could take pictures worthy of the Luce companion Life, even if the magazine itself with its smaller format and thinner paper couldn’t reproduce them as well.
Nonetheless, my favorite among those from SI has only texts, Baseball: Four Decades of Sports Illustrated's Finest Writing on America's Favorite Pastime (1993), which I treasure initially for reprinting the earlier, superior version of George Plimpton’s great satire about a pitcher with a supersonic fastball. (Ever the hack who didn’t need money, Plimpton expanded it into a full-length book that does not work as well.) Among the other sports magazines are Al Silverman’s The World of Sport (1961), The Best of Sport (1962), and The Best of Sport 1946-1971(1971); Great Moments in Sports: A Sport Magazine Anthology (1964), Lowell Ridenbaugh’s Baseball 100 Years of the Modern Era: from the Sporting News: First Hundred Years 1886-1986 (1985), John Thorn’s The National Pastime (1988) from The Baseball Research Journal, The Best of Spitball: The Literary Baseball Magazine (1988), Joe Hoppel’s Archives of the Sporting News (2001).
I also have anthologies of skiing and cricket magazines. At the limits of this enthusiasm is The Golden Age of Flyfishing: The Best of the Sportsman 1927-1937(1997), The Best of Trout and Salmon (1994), The Best of Joe Weider’s Muscle & Fitness (1982), and Chess Explorations: A Pot-Pourri from the Journal Chess Notes (1996).
TV Guide: Fifty Years of Television (2002) reprints a selection of covers along with choice photographs, here enlarged, but only a few texts from its history, implicitly suggesting that its texts are less worthy of reprint, as indeed they probably are.
When a self-retrospective lacks the name of an individual editor, such as Bestial Noise: The Tin House Fiction Reader (2003) and Cooking and Stealing: The Tin House Nonfiction Reader (2004), the suspicion is that something is being hidden. Perhaps an employee got fired before the book went to press, the glaring omission on the book’s title page leaving behind evidence of publishing miscalculation.
A Saturday Night Scrapbook (1973) differs from other historical self-retrospectives in reprinting more ads than texts, in both design and content evoking earlier times to be sure, but perhaps misrepresenting the editorial achievements of the Canadian magazine.
Uncommon Sense (2009) is perhaps the first selection of a personal Internet periodical, customarily called a Blog, in this case published by Gary S. Becker, respectively a University of Chicago economist and a prolific Chicago jurist, Richard A. Posner, who contribute weekly to their “ Becker-Posner Blog,” as they call it. As gatekeepers of their own outlet, in the contemporary style, they made their own selection from their first 2+ years. May we assume that other selections of comparably strong blog writing will soon appear as printed books not just from university presses, as did this, but smaller publishers.
One ulterior function of a self-retrospective of a current magazine is introducing the publication to potential readers, if not subscribers, previously unaware of it. So did The Vice Guide of Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll (2003) succeed with me, though I’d not previously read the periodical enticingly titled, yes, Vice. Since I’d not heard of Guinea Pig Zero before the appearance of a self-anthology in 2002, I suspect that it too benefited from collecting the best of itself into a book.
Some editors get to redo completely the retrospective of their magazine, so different is his two-volume Thus Spake the Corpse: An Exquisite Corpse Reader 1988-1998 (1999, 2000) from The Stiffest of the Corpse: An Exquisite Corpse Reader issued a decade before. In contrast, Evergreen Review Reader: A Ten-Year Anthology (1968) appeared from three different publishers in twenty-five years without changing its contents.
I have retrospectives from Partisan Review, Hudson Review, Kenyon Review, and Sewanee Review, which were the most prominent literary magazines when I first began to publish forty years ago, all of which published me by 1965. By now, these magazines are best remembered not for their new issues but their retrospectives, none of which includes me. Partisan has been more successful at getting other publishers to do their retrospectives—over fifty years from Dial, Harcourt, Avon, Holt, Routledge & Kegan Paul, and Columbia University. Only the last two in 1996 came from Partisan Review Press.
The importance of Inside CIA's Private World: Declassified Articles for the Agency's Internal Journal 1955-1992 (1995), which selected from Studies in Intelligence, is making publicly available selections from a periodical that was not publicly available.
Sometimes a magazine’s self-published self-retrospective short-changes the sponsoring magazine by reprinting so little, so thoughtlessly, that perhaps the book shouldn’t have been published, A Century of Poems (2002) from the TLS is an example. Somewhere I read that the TLS also self-published A Century of Stories that cannot be found in the usual places and that, given my sense of the predecessor, I would not purchase blindly.
Though Top Stories was a modest periodical edited in New York in the 1980s by Anne Turyn, Top Top Stories (1991) gets from me a prize for one of the wittier titles for a self-anthology.
I’m pleased to have Vogue's First Reader (1942), because later selections from the magazine, including a large format book with an abundance of photographs about 1960s, as well as an anthology solely of Vogue covers, were too expensive for my budget.
If only because I own and have read the complete run of Eugene Jolas’s great transition (1927-1938), I can judge that none of the three anthologies from its pages fully reproduce its avant-garde character. What makes this critical impression curious is the fact that two of those books were respectively edited and co-edited by Jolas himself. (Indeed, I’d someday like to edit a fourth transition anthology that would feature the more radical works.)
Unexpected USA (2010), selecting from Travel + Leisure, is such an insufficient book, even if well-illustrated, that one wonders why the magazine didn’t have more respect for itself. Far more critical than anything I might say was this reader’s review on Amazon.com: “There is absolutely nothing unexpected about the content of this book. Wilderness in Alaska? Skiing in Aspen? Lobster in Maine? NYC? LA? Well, duh! The title of the book suggests it's going to be loaded with hidden gems that the reader has never heard of. Instead, it's cover-to-cover repeats of the same ol' travel mag mentions. I swear, 90% of the content in this book is stuff I've either read about before, or can find in the travel books I already own. This book is a total disappointment from start to finish, and if it wouldn't cost me more to ship it back than I paid for it, I'd return it.” Enough said.
Verve: The Ultimate Review of Art and Literature (1937-1960) (1987) was the most expensive book in my collection when I got it, costing me $60.00 plus New York City sales tax. One factor making the price reasonable is that the book at 11” by 17” also has the largest format; another factor is brilliant reproductions of its covers. Originally published in both French and English, Verve was meant to be the most beautiful magazine in the world; it surely ranks among the most opulent. I’ve since purchased for one hundred bucks a reproduction within one volume (itself within a box) of the complete run of The Best of Flair (1996), the most imaginatively designed American periodicals of the early 1950s, the new edition even reproducing not only the colors but some of the die-cut printing. Dreaming in Print (2007), opulent at 12” x 16”, is meant to be a sampler, costing a few hundred dollars, introducing the fashion/art magazine Visionaire still appearing, whose subscription costs several hundred dollars.
The point of Disorderly Conduct: A VLS Fiction Reader (1991) and War of the Words: 20 Years of Writing on Contemporary Literature (2001) is demonstrating how weak the selections appear apart from their original context in the narrow columns of The Village Voice. Curiously perhaps, other Voice anthologies (1962, 1983) collect articles that stand out from the weekly’s pages. Its self-retrospective for its 50th anniversary (2005) appeared not as a discrete book but as selections within a regular issue, which is a more feasible format, I suppose, when a book publisher cannot be found.
Obtaining books mostly over the Internet, from antiquariats around the world, I could belatedly discover that self-anthologies with different titles and even different publication dates were really identical, such as Vogue’s Fireside Book (1948), which is the later British edition of Vogue's First Reader (1942).
The Washington Times: Two Decades of Dedication and Distinction (2002) is less a retrospective than an oversized self-congratulatory narrative accompanying, almost as illustrations, single historical front pages whose headlines are legible on the book’s tall pages though their texts are not.
The distinctive departure in The Weekly Standard A Reader: 1995-2006 (2006) is the briefest bio notes, even for contributors with rich careers, most of them identifying only each writer’s connection to the magazine (as though they did nothing else!).
Though Weird Tales was published from 1923 to 1954, it inspired more than a generation after its demise at least three anthologies with different editors and different publishers (1976, 1979, 1988). I don’t have a fourth from yet another publisher with yet another editor. Discriminations among them are beyond my critical powers.
Some of my favorite anthologies from a single source revive the reputation of a magazine long forgotten, usually because it died too soon or a competitor captured common memory, such as The Best in the World (1973), edited by John K. Kutchens and George Oppenheimer, which memorializes a magazine titled The World that ran only from 1921 to 1928.
Though Legends of Literature, selecting from Writer’s Digest magazine, appeared in 2007, only one item reprinted here dates later than 1986, and that appeared in 1995. (Others go back to 1920.) The suggestion, in fact false, is that the magazine must have folded, the book implicitly misrepresenting its continuing life.
At 1140 pages, The Youth’s Companion (1954) ranks among the thickest in my collection. Elsewhere I’ve question whether any anthology of more than one thousand pages can represent a selection of flowers.
One unusual move in the two numbers of Yale French Studies (1999, 2000) devoted to its fiftieth anniversary is a richly cross-documented 115-page index to all 95 previous issues.
Another nineteenth century self-retrospective is The Spectator: With a Biographical and Critical Preface and Explanatory Notes (1854), selecting from that London magazine in four volumes. A later retrospective from the same venerable magazine, Spectator’s Choice (1967), is limited to material published between early 1962 and late 1965. The earlier date closed the choice in Brian Inglis’ Points of View: A Selection from the Spectator (1962).
Given its august history, among the most disappointing, if not self-deflating, self-anthologies is Turnstile One: A Literary Miscellany from the New Statesman and Nation (1948), edited by V. S. Pritchett. Far better by the latter magazine is Stephen Howe’s Lines of Dissent: Writing from the New Statesman 1913 to 1988 (1988).
One departure within the score of my collection are the two DVDs selecting 5-minute episodes from the WWII weekly screen magazine Army-Navy. I suspect other selections from film periodicals exist, but I don’t yet know what they are.
Some anthologies from a single source appear to be selective self-retrospectives but are really something else. The selection informing More Poetry Please! (1997) from a BBC Radio 4 Programme reflects less anyone’s editorial judgment than popularity with listeners.
About many magazine retrospectives, nothing substantial can be said. They simply fail to establish any sort of identity that would distinguish them from others of their kind. I was reminded of this insufficiency when the editor-for-life of Salmagundi challenged me to write about the two anthologies selected from his pages. Since I couldn’t say anything above a platitude, in return I challenged him. No reply came.
Now that I’m remembering my book collection, I should acknowledge several retrospectives I know about but do not have, including Wilbur Schramm’s from American Prefaces (1937); the second from October; and two earlier selections from the Harvard Crimson (1906, 1948). I own A Second Pagan Anthology (1919) but not the first (1918). One antiquariat is advertising The Broom Anthology (1969) edited by its founder decades after the publication folded. I remember considering the complete reprint of the San Francisco Oracle when it first appeared for a few hundred dollars. The last time I looked this book sold for well over a thousand. For a few hundred dollars I can purchase four volumes printed in 1811 selecting over 500 articles from the Gentleman’s Magazine.
I should also register my surprise that several major cultural journals have not been retrospectively selected, beginning with T. S. Eliot’s Criterion (1922-39), Dwight Macdonald’s Politics (1944-49), and Arlene Croce’s Ballet Review, including Margaret Sanger’s Woman Rebel (1914) or her Birth Control Review.
Nearly all these books were discovered at used bookstores, over the Internet, or in catalogs of remainders. The first book of this kind that I reviewed was the Complete Neurotica in 1963; I’ve written about others since. Around 1990 I realized that I had unwittingly amassed a de facto collection of a genre scarcely noticed elsewhere. I’ve since added volumes not because I intended to read them, which is my customary reason for purchasing books, but because they belonged in the apparently unique collection that I’m pleased to have and write about.
I’ve also added a supplementary collection of book publishers’ self-retrospectives, often for the entire history, as in Fifty Years: A Farrar, Straus and Giroux Reader (1996) or A New Directions Reader (1964). The publishing firm of Alfred A. Knopf has issued three of them, all within the eponymous founder’s lifetime—1920, 1936, 1965. Other self-retrospectives are confined to only one series within a larger publishing program, such as two of poems published by Wesleyan University Press (1969, 1993) or Consolidation: The Second Paperback Poets Anthology from the University of Queensland Press in Australia.
Proceeding in unfamiliar bookmen’s territory, I always wonder: What else should I know about? Perhaps such new information or intelligence will be acknowledged in future editions of this memoir, or which an exhibition happens.