The guest post comes to us from Scott Esposito. Scott is the editor of The Quarterly Conversation and the host of the literary blog Conversational Reading. His writing on books has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Chattahoochee Review, and the Rain Taxi Review of Books, among others.
The day a website redesigns itself, it’s an admission of something. Exactly what, I think depends on the site itself, but inevitably it’s a statement, a statement that is the product of a lot of thought. With all the work involved in a redesign, nobody would undertake one without good reason.
We’ve just redesigned The Quarterly Conversation, and I think I know what we’re saying. One of the exciting things about this redesign is that we have an RSS feed, which now enables us to publish reviews and interviews in between issues. To kick things off, we just published a review of Monsieur by Jean-Philippe Toussaint and a review of Tom McCarthy’s Tintin and the Secret of Literature. Later, in August, we’ll be publishing an interview with a very innovative, fun author that promises to be quite interesting.
In addition to publishing more interviews and reviews, the RSS lets us send out regular news updates to readers of the site. So now we can share our pride at having been included in this year’s Best of the Web anthology from Dzanc books; we’re also alerting readers and potential contributors to a special section we’ll be doing for the Winter issue.
The one thing you won’t see change is our mission to publish high quality literary criticism. We’re dedicated to giving our writers the space they need to write an in-depth book review, or to write a challenging, rewarding essay. We also remain dedicated to giving our writers the kind of close editing and feedback necessary to ensure that their piece is as good and substantive as can be. At a time when more and more old-media periodicals are openly proclaiming their belief that people want dumbed-down, superficial literary coverage, we remain steadfast in the belief that these exists a large audience that wants in-depth literary criticism that can be read by intelligent laypeople.
When we publish our 13th issue in September, we’ll have been around for three years, and in that time the journal has gone from something some friends and I did on a lark to something with a solid foundation, four editors, a budget and production schedule, and writers from all over the globe who read and write in numerous languages.
In other words, the site has become a whole lot more professional; it’s much less the vision of one man and much more a structure built and held up by many hands, and in acknowledgment of that, we’ve managed to develop – again with help, this time from two excellent web designers – a site that reflects the quality we’ve come to put into each issue.
The Quarterly Conversation is far from alone in this greater professionalism – many literature sites that originated around the same time have gone through similar developments, a fact that should please anyone who loves literature. In fact, it’s appropriate that I write about this topic on The Millions, as it’s developed into one of the most professionally run book blogs that I read.
I think what’s going on in sites like The Quarterly Conversation and The Millions is something very timely and also something largely inevitable: many of the people who contribute to and operate these sites started out with nothing more than a blog and a simple desire to write about books. Bit by bit these people took what they were doing and made it better and better, and now the litblogosphere has produced some valuable resources and some intelligent critics who promise to become even better with time.
Of course, there has long been a dedicated literary scene, one that predates the emergence of blogs and online book reviews. What I’m happy to be observing is greater interaction and cooperation between the two. This is reflected in The Quarterly Conversation – a lot of our writers cross over between these two venues, and as time passes we’re developing better and better relationships with some of the literary institutions that have been around for a while. Now that we’ve redesigned the site, this is something we’re planning on focusing more energy on.
If you’re new to The Quarterly Conversation, please drop by and see what we’re all about. If you’re already familiar with us, then come on over and see our new look. And make sure to let us know what you think and what you’d hope to see in future issues.