The newly redesigned Ploughshares is one of my favorites based on its policy of having each issue guested. This recent issue was compiled by author and memoirist Kathyrn Harrison and anthologizes 20 essays, of which Harrison writes:
What connects these narratives is that they are true, and represent a struggle, a particular struggle whose value I can't overstate. The author of each labored to put words to his or her experience. To articulate it, to speak it, to write it honestly, which requires something more than effort. Each made a commitment essential to writing about one's own life, a promise that goes far beyond the act of writing.Open City continues to offer offbeat gems and a variety of unorthodoxies. The Summer 2009 issue by editors Thomas Beller and Johanna Yas contains fiction by Vestal McIntyre, Eva Marer, Zachary Lazar, and A.M. Homes, with nonfiction from Bryan Charles, Patricia Bosworth (on Lois Gould), and Edmund White (on Harold Brodkey), plus poetry by Billy Collins.
Is the personal essay a narcissistic form? Not when it succeeds as art. Narcissus perished because he fell in love with his reflection. The twenty writers whose work is collected in this volume pushed past the masks all of us present to the mirror, the neighbor, the spouse. The commitment they've made is to report what they find under the surface of their lives no matter how disappointing, threatening, or admirable. Because our virtues are difficult to own, perhaps even more than our faults.
The venerable Paris Review contains its trademark mélange of literary nuggets, including an interview with Gay Talese on the art of nonfiction. You can also read my conversation with Gay Talese here.
A Public Space, which is a somewhat recent entry into the literary fray, publishes wonderful writing, some by familiar names like Samantha Hunt, Yiyun Li, Adrienne Rich, Matthew Zapruder, and Carl Phillips--and many more by names that will become familiar.