What is a blog? And what is a literary review?

Andrea Berrini
Apr 22nd, 2014

Recently I heard some bad news. Chutzpah Tian Nan, a great literary magazine run by Ou Ning, shut down after its 16th issue. That was no surprise: how could they sustain themselves? Each issue had a new editor, with twenty to thirty short stories (or poems) written in Chinese or translated into Chinese from different languages. There was also an insert, Peregrine, where some Chinese stories (or poems) were translated into English for us, the international public: readers and professionals. Chutzpah Tian Nan had beautiful graphic design: Ou Ning himself started his career as a graphic designer. 

MediaCorp, the publishing company, just told them, ‘OK boys (and girls), we are losing money here.’ It was expected.

I am not surprised. I come from a country, Italy, where just one literary review on paper is still alive: Nuovi Argomenti, originally founded by Moravia, then run by prominent authors such as Siciliano and Maraini. Most reviews have now shifted to literary blogs, and when I say blog I do not mean just a website where bloggers are hosted, but real magazines online, with editors, contributors and weekly new editions. You save costs: there’s no printing, no distribution, and a graphic platform to write on once it’s been conceived and set up.

And here’s the key point: bloggers write for free.

Doppio Zerowhere I have my regular column (my blog I should say, but isn’t it a regular column?) claims to be a “not for profit cultural project”.

Well, it is not a “not needing money cultural project”. They pay for a tiny office, one editor and one webmaster (part time); and yes, someane is kindly putting up the money for that. But there are other examples where everything is given for free (a publishing house host it in their premises, a retired editor works without pay), and quality remains high.

The quality of a literary blog (or call it a literary review online) depends on the quality of the people writing for it. Doppiozero, in Italy, has writers who merely repost their articles from prestigious daily newspapers; it is a form of digest, but the magazine chooses authors, and by doing that, establishes its cultural policy. Readers know: if I wish to read something in that style, I will go to that website. What’s new? No need to surf the web for ages, here you’ll find the best selection.

Shorter articles come in the form of news posts: essentials do not need a lot of space.

And then, if you have a smart webmaster promoting you on the various social media, the job is done.

I am a writer and a publisher. I also run a microcredit company in Italy, I have too many jobs already to start a new one. But f I had the time, I would do this: I would start something similar in Asia. Good names, good articles. As usual, some short stories for free from publishers (it is in their interest to do so).

And one thing: strictly bilingual, English and Chinese: some articles translated into both languages, most not.

But these are dreams, of course. Dreams are not for profit.

Blogger

Andrea Berrini
Italy
Last blog date: Jul 18th, 2014

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