Sunday, July 06, 2008

Anonymous publication??

Here's a new one on me: a brand new literary magazine, The New Anonymous, is calling for submissions of fictions, prose and poetry which it will publish anonymously. This gave me pause. I am still pausing. Here is their mission statement:

Approximately thirty years ago, Roland Barthes proclaimed the death of the author. But there was no funeral. No “author” was buried. And thus its inky body has been left lurking above ground, dotting our libraries, overshadowing the essence of Barthes proclamation: the birth of the text.

Until now.

The New Anonymous is an annual literary journal that not only publishes all work anonymously but also blindly screens and edits its submissions, i.e., the submission, editorial, and publishing process is anonymous from beginning to end. At The New Anonymous we celebrate the text. We are at once a literary journal and a literary act.

To that end, we endeavor to challenge writers (and editors)—both up-and-coming and well established—to question what it means to publish in a landscape in which, predominately, the writers are the readers. By freeing the prose and poetry from their nominal ties, we free writers from their own generative forms and creative dispositions. The New Anonymous is, in effect, a safehouse where writers can not only question the creative process, but also, in the words of Freud, “play.”

The Italics are my own addition. Hmm. This brings to mind The Economist, the weekly current affairs magazine which is entirely written by anonymous writers and has been since its inception over a hundred years ago. Here is how they explain this:

Why is it anonymous? Many hands write The Economist, but it speaks with a collective voice. Leaders are discussed, often disputed, each week in meetings that are open to all members of the editorial staff. Journalists often co-operate on articles. And some articles are heavily edited. The main reason for anonymity, however, is a belief that what is written is more important than who writes it. As Geoffrey Crowther, editor from 1938 to 1956, put it, anonymity keeps the editor "not the master but the servant of something far greater than himself. You can call that ancestor-worship if you wish, but it gives to the paper an astonishing momentum of thought and principle."

Food for thought. This may work with a current affairs publication where the journalist has already found their vocation, they have a job writing what they want to write and they are, perhaps, not so concerned with - or not so needing of - building a personal reputation tied to their name. Anonymity by its nature does away with the ego, you can't write in order to receive praise or censure for your writing. You really do become "something far greater than yourself" - the magazine receives the praise or the censure. Only you know that it is because of you.

But for a writer of creative writing, the end in most cases, what we are all striving for, is not publication in a literary magazine - the end or goal is one's own publication, a book. And how does a writer work towards this goal but by establishing a reputation, building a portfolio of published work that is identified with her or him? If all literary magazines were to follow the New Anonymous' lead, where would we be? Would we as readers be guessing who wrote what? Or would we as readers somehow be also freed from something by not knowing the "name" attached, by bringing fresh eyes to each piece? And would the writer also benefit from this lack of expectation that comes with reputation or non-reputation, from these fresh eyes?

Personally, while I fully believe in a blind screening process and am intrigued by anonymous publication and would possibly try my luck with the journal once, I am assuming I would not even be able to link to a published story from my website because that would destroy the objective. And what proof would there be that this was my story? I won't deny the thrill I get each and every time I see my story and, crucially, my name attached to it. Because each story is a piece of me, a small piece of me, that I release to the world. How would it be if it was released there untethered to its creator? I don't know. I really don't know. Good luck to the New Anonymous, I am looking forward to hearing more!

1 comment:

Women Rule Writer said...

Hrmmm, this is a funny one. I mean, a writer's name is their brand, really. I guess, like you say, as a once off, it would be OK.