New York – The "Evergreen Review" (ER) is considered one of the greatest literary journals that has ever come out of the US. Founded in 1957 by legendary New York publisher Barney Rosset, ER published writing that challenged the literary, sexual, and social status quo of the country for the next sixteen years.
Among its contributors were a considerable amount of writers who, while at the time their first pieces ran in ER were virtually unknown outside their own circles, went on to become members of the Pantheon of world literature: Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Edward Albee, Richard Brautigan, to name only a few. From the outset, what was then the literary vanguard of America was joined by a great number of international writers and illustrators: Samuel Beckett, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Octavio Paz, Kenzaburo Ōe, Marguerite Duras, again to only name the most prominent. In 2016, acclaimed writer and critic Dale Peck (whose latest work "Visions and Revisions: Coming of age in the age of Aids" has been published this year by SoHo Press) is setting out to revive that tradition and spirit by, together with veteran publisher John Oakes of O/R Books, relaunching the "Evergreen Review" as an online literary magazine in 2016. The Wiener Zeitung talked to Peck about his plans for the new ER, its place in the literary landscape of the 21st century and the true role of the "New Yorker".
"Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead" surely still sounds nice, but what does the term counterculture mean to you in 2015, especially in regards to literature?
Thats one of the questions Id like to answer with Evergreen. Like you said, its 2015. Capitalism has shown itself to be remarkably adept at assimilating movements or cultures or even ethnicities that once would have been considered anathema. Theyre still marginalized, but theyre also commodified. Its a win-win for the status quo, and maybe its a win-win for gay or black people, or urban primitives or ravers or what have you, although I think that depends on your point of view. But Im definitely interested in exploring what it means to conceive of yourself outside of the mainstream in the age of the internet and the unfettered marketplace. How extreme do you have to go? Are criminals – murderers, rapists, pedophiles – the only real counterculture left?
In the age of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook a literary magazine, even one with a legacy like ER, seems like a hopelessly idealistic venture. Why are you on board regardless?