A Brief History of
This MagazineFor five glorious years, The Fessenden Review bemused literary America. As we said in one of the issues of the magazine, "What we do is not namby-pamby stuff." Our reviews were the subject of articles by media writers at The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and on National Public Radio --- among others.Michael Parrish, editor of the Los Angeles Times Magazine said, "I don't know how you do it. We love The Fessenden Review." Pat Farren of Peacework, said, "It has to be the most compelling, outrageous, readable review of books there is."
Judson Jerome, late editor of Poet's Market said, "A lively and highly original publication." Writer Herbert Gold said, "I enjoy your quirky take on things, although you don't seem to review my books."
The editor-in-chief of G. P. Putnam's Sons wrote, "Great balance to the New York Times Book Review." Patricia Holt, book editor of The San Francisco Chronicle said, "I love your magazine."
The late Max Lerner said, "The reviews break all conventions and are the stuff of life." Howard Junker of ZYZZYVA said "It's a strange and terrific review..." Gary Indiana called it "A New York Review of Books for the living."
Other encomiums came in from The Bloomsbury Review, The New England Review/Bread Loaf Quarterly, Yellow Silk, The Generalist, Writer's Digest, Broadcasting Magazine, The Sun, American Libraries, and Daedalus. And, of all people, Norman Mailer said, laconically, "It's worth having around."
From the many letters that came to the magazine, we suspect this affection had much to do with the fact that our writings were unashamedly honest, crusty, and, at times, downright quirky. We reviewed books as they should be reviewed: with wit, humor, insight and unflinching zeal. If we encountered a book that was sappy and boring, yet being undeservedly lauded by the pendragons of New York's Literary Set, we were quick to say so.
We regularly lambasted many of the dubious stars of the East Coast Publishing Establishment --- so much so that we were accused of being juvenile, self-serving, overbearing, judgmental, and "unremittingly meretricious." We admitted to all these charges, for ours was a reaction --- long-overdue --- to those who have for so long squatted on the body of American letters.Still and however, we weren't there just to pillage and plunder. We also sought to bring to the world obscure and unknown publishers and writers. The Fessenden Review featured scores of books that were being ignored because they had been issued by small operations with minimal budgets, or by university presses. We felt it our duty to support those who did not have the financing for huge printings, garish mailings, and fancy-dan advertising blitzes.
We also paid serious attention to books that were self-published, being mindful of the fact that the novels of Virginia Woolf, the poems of Walt Whitman, the poetry and art of William Blake, the writings of Gogol, Bukowski, Orwell, Keats, Melville, Yeats, Pound, Henry Miller, Upton Sinclair, and William Morris had all been first published in so-called "vanity editions."
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Unfortunately, after five years, the Reginald A. Fessenden Educational Fund --- the founding publisher of The Review --- ran out of money, and so we took our sad leave. We did so, however, shaking our fists at the sky, and vowing, some day, to return. That day has arrived.
Because of the economics of the cathode ray tube vs. paper, electronic imagery vs. ink printing, the World Wide Web vs. web press, we have been able to reactivate The Review here. However, because the name The Fessenden Review was constantly being misspelled, and because we spent altogether too much time explaining the source of the name (Reginald A. Fessenden was an obscure radio pioneer out of turn-of-the-century Canada) we have chosen to rechristen the magazine as The Review of Arts, Literature, Politics, and the Humanities, or, more succinctly, if not more vulgarly,
We are especially taken with this nickname --- a fine, tacky phrase out of the 50s. To ralph means, in medical terminology, to toss one's cookies. If we were to say that the magazine should have its readers doing just that, it might be self-serving, if not inaccurate. But we like the hint of vulgarity being brought to the otherwise sententious world of publishing, letters, poetry, literature, literary arts, and artistic reviews.Go to the