I don’t think I was the only one who was surprised by Meanjin’s new website, which went up today. Literary magazines are in a bad way in Australia. There aren’t many of them, and the few that have survived are tired, dusty and fearful of change, clinging to the same old formats, topics and writers with shockingly short-sighted arrogance. This is a sad state of affairs for those of us who care about writing.
Readers no longer need to support literary magazines that don’t inspire them. Rather than wait for the local newsagent to import a three-month old copy of The New Yorker or Harper’s, we have the world at our fingertips and have rightly become more discerning and critical of second-rate local publications.
So a round of applause for Meanjin for creating such a fresh, inviting and spunky website. I even see a few names with which I’m unfamiliar, which is thrilling. I hope The Monthly – such a dull, smug and small-minded magazine – can learn from Meanjin and spread their net wider, that Quadrant realises how desperately it needs a makeover (looking like an academic journal doesn’t impress your readers; it angers and alienates them), and that other people feel inspired to consider creating their own literary magazines. I’m sure there are scores of talented writers, designers and photographers in Australia whose work I’ve never seen. I’d pay for the chance to do so.