My Minnesota: The creative class is feeling a bit restless

  • Updated: September 8, 2012 - 5:35 PM

Esther Porter

A moping economy, print in decline, culture reduced to "Honey Boo Boo" marathons. Hey, it's a great time to launch a literary magazine!

When news came out about Revolver, a new mag devoted to showcasing writers who deserve a big broad audience, one could be excused for thinking the creators are completely daft.

But Esther Porter, one of the magazines' founders, sounds as sane as you can get -- cheerful and laughing, but not in that "they're coming to take me away, ha-ha" sense.

A Minnesota native, she went from the U to Coffeehouse Press, eschewing the usual routine of going to New York and living four in a room to work in publishing. A few years ago she struck out on her own to do editing -- and to write for Best Buy's website.

Huh? From editing a sensitive memoir about being raised by goats in the 1950s one moment to hawking laptops the next?

"I get the fun stuff! Music and movies. Having the balance of digging into a novel and then working for Best Buy is really great. It's surprising to realize how ad copy editing can be like editing a poem. 'Where are the line breaks? What's the reader thinking here?'"

Well, what are you guys thinking, starting a magazine?

"Yes, quite a few literary journals have started up," she chuckles. "People say 'this is the worst idea possible,' but I think it sounds like a pretty great idea."

The obligatory parochial question: Does Revolver have a Minnesota sensibility?

"Yes, but it wouldn't be what you'd expect. The stuff that we're drawn to isn't confrontational, but it's work with a real clear take. Hits the brain, slaps you in the face. It's really immediate."

Well, that's different. C'mon, we're the people who supposedly wait 10 years to criticize someone's hot dish. Is that us?

"Yes! The literary community in Minnesota is so passionate, and we neglect that side of ourselves. It is a true part of being a Minnesotan."

So our ids have cabin fever, perhaps. She says the bright literary scene in Minnesota has to do with the solitude of winter, the time inside to work, but that passion really comes from a particular demographic:

"It's being young in Minneapolis, trying to find a job, working in bookstores and cafes for years. So many young people in the cities just live for their passion."

Passion helps; so does capturing the spirit of age, as Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis did. Might we see a Large Name come from this new crop of scribblers? What are the chances of attaining that level of prominence and prestige?

"I would hope that we have far more chances because so many more people are able to build their skills. We might just have far more riches now than any other time."

JAMES LILEKS

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