The Southern Review's Spring 2011 issue is devoted to Americana, and it turned out to be the last issue edited by Jeanne M. Leiby, who died in a car accident in April. A really, really sad thing, and a real loss to the American literary world. She was, by all accounts, a terrific person and talented, inspiring editor. (I did not know her personally, aside from a brief e-mail correspondence when she accepted a poem for this issue of TSR; I wish I had known her.)
At the beginning of this issue, Jeanne and Jen McClanaghan have a Q&A about the assembling of the issue and about the nature of Americana. It closes with these words from Jeanne:
"Maybe this sounds odd, but what you just said about Americana is an almost perfect articulation of what a literary magazine can be, what I hope The Southern Review is, and what I hope our readers will experience with this and with every issue -- a landscape continually resettled and redefined."
It's a great way to think about a magazine, about literature in general. And this is a terrific issue. "Americana" as a theme could easily lend itself to cliche, or at least an overabundance of familiarity. But it doesn't happen. The stories and poems and essays and photographs in this issue are unsettling, surprising, provocative. They are familiar only in the sense that once you've read them you realize they've revealed something about the world around you that maybe you've always known (or should have known) but never said aloud.... »Read more »