When The White Review was founded in 2011 by editors Benjamin Eastham and Jacques Testard, it was intended as a “space for a new generation to express itself unconstrained by form, subject or genre”. The White Review sought to fill Britain’s blank void when it came to critical art and new writing publications, a genre that the US is well catered to with titles like n+1, Cabinet, the Paris Review and Bomb.
In the UK in 2011, we of course had long-established magazines like Granta and The London Magazine around – yet there was nothing obvious you could find in Foyles that mixed radical writing, long-form interviews and deft art criticism with that same genre-defying energy that you find in American publications. The history of England’s popular literary journals is a traditional one, steeped in 18th Century pamphlets and Shelly, not free-wheeling Hunter S. Thompson and the critical eye of Susan Sontag.
The White Review set out to change and challange the more rigid literary publishing scene in London. It took its name from La Revue Blanche, a Parisian magazine that ran in the late 1800s, and then was established on a non-profit economic model and funded by the Arts Council.
Now onto its 17th issue, the journal has succeeded in its mission of including a diverse range of interviewees and writing. It’s achieved that sense of fluid interdisciplinariness that makes its American counterparts so tantalising. The White Review has featured long-form interviews with and writing by the likes of Chris Kraus, Sophie Calle, Tom McCarthy, Marina Warner and Elmgreen and Dragset. The quarterly, designed by Ray O’Meara, also carries poetry, fiction, art and photography.
Then there is of course the journal’s instantly recognizable design, where each fold-out cover wraps around a simple white cover and opens into a poster. This issue’s striking wrap-around image is called Mirage and was taken by photo artist Anthony Lepore (below). In many ways, The White Review is a lesson in contemporary literary magazine editorial design – just because you are dealing with a lot of text doesn’t mean you can’t make a publication feel sturdy and powerful. Many contemporary titles slip up on this and underappreciate the impact of the right paper and the difficulty of simplicity.
In issue 17, you’ll find an interview with popular short story writer George Saunders (above), gorgeous photo art by Batia Suter (also above), an intriguing set of sculptural works by Benoit Maire (below), and a selection of short stories, essays and poems. It’s our magazines of the week this week because it continues to strive and shift the status quo of UK publishing.
Hear Jacques Testard, co-founder of The White Review, at our next magCulture Meets evening on 11 August. Book now.