A Party of Latecomers


Francis Mulhern in New Left Review:

A magazine, if it is not doctrinaire, should have a character rather than a programme—so wrote Roberto Schwarz in 1967, launching a new publishing initiative for the left in Brazil. His preferred comparison was ‘a good essay’, something both surefooted and unexpected, clearing an uncertain path by the light of interest and strict reasoning, and certainly not without guiding convictions. [1]Recall of this prospectus is prompted by the record of the New York-based n+1, which has now completed ten years of publication as a magazine devoted, in its own phrasing, to ‘literature, culture and politics’, establishing itself in that time as a distinctive presence on the intellectual left, in the United States and beyond. Convention alone suggests that this is a good time to make a provisional assessment of the project—or more aptly perhaps, to appraise its ‘character’.

An outline description of the practical ensemble called n+1 gives a first indication of the unfolding scope and spirit of the undertaking and at the same time suggests the necessary modesty of a small-scale account of it. The magazine itself is dual-platform, combining a print publication that has so far seen more than twenty book-length issues, and an online supplement that expands and also diversifies editorial capacity, creating space for special subject streams, accommodating shorter or more time-sensitive contributions, and in all ways enhancing the ability to manoeuvre. n+1 has spun out a book series under the same name, some but not all of the material originating in its pages, and also publishes a sister magazine, Paper Monument, devoted to contemporary art. These print and online manifestations take on immediate, face-to-face form in occasional panel discussions, public launch parties and other convivial events [2] —all this miniaturized, as it were, if only for a time, in a Tumblr-based personal ads service. More than a publication, n+1 is a micro-culture, a whole way of intellectual life.

For all that, the magazine, including its online supplement, amounting to an archive of texts in the high hundreds, will be the main reference in what follows. More programmatic ventures, being more tightly focused and (inevitably) more repetitious, offer interpretive economies. Here, the case is otherwise: in n+1, the essay has been foremost, and even paradigmatic, with all that implies of mobility and surprise—and for a reader, the counterpart risks of reductive generalization.

More here.