Green Hills Literary Lantern



What hath God wrought?


I don’t know, but I wanted some suitably momentous phrase to launch the first issue of GHLL’s digital incarnation. I have often imagined Morse sending those words from Washington in 1844 with reverent awe (a little self-indulgent and pretentious, actually, considering it was his own handiwork he was attributing to the Almighty), and somebody in Baltimore reading the same words in a gloomy tone. “What’s to become of writing letters?” I can imagine that person asking. In fact, they did ask just that. They asked it about the telephone, too. And to some degree, they were right. My mother, slightly anachronistic St. Louisan that she was (though not quite Amanda Wingfield) had a little silver tray in the front hall for calling-cards. I never saw anything in there but the odd key, two nickels and a quarter, and maybe a Jolly Rancher: yes indeed, the telephone killed the carte de visite. But then, VOIP now has the telephone on the run, and Western Union sent its last telegram on January 27 of this year. Life is a great letting-go.

And still we write letters as well as emails, and we go to people’s houses as well as phoning them. We can reach friends and relatives across the globe in a way we couldn’t before.

 Oh, I like the printed volume, the look of it on the shelf, the feel of the slick cover, the heft, the smell. The fetish object, charged with desire borrowed from some other object, with the accumulation of 500 years’ mythology. Printer’s ink runs in my blood (actually, the traffic occasionally ran the other way: my granddad lost his pinkie in a press about 1930. He used to creep us out with it, deliberately, wiggling the stub at us. But that’s another story). Print culture is not over. Of the making of many books, we have not yet seen the end, nor anything near it. But we do have something new here. For GHLL, no lies now, the shift was economically motivated (aren’t they all?) – our funding dried up, and though there was some possibility of restoration in future years, we determined that if we were going to make this change, we would not do it grudgingly, but affirmatively, embracing new possibilities rather than hanging our harps on the riverbank willows.

 The digital journal is not merely a cheaper way of providing a venue for writers to meet a public (&vv); it is an entirely different kind of economics. The cost of producing a 300-page annual with a four-color cover in a 1000-copy press run and sending it out (the dirty little secret, most of the copies freebies, with crates of extras piling up in my office) was approximately . . one helluva lot. With costs like that, the number of journals is kept small, and so there is a scarcity of places to publish, therefore high selectivity in what sees the light of day, and so market principles being what they are, only the best that has been thought and said, etc…right?

 Maybe. But there’s a lot of talent out there, and at least some dimensions of the scarcity were artificial. Every journal editor knows that you turn away lots of things you’d very much like to publish, because there just isn’t room. Well, now maybe there’s room. We’re on the edge of finding out, aren’t we? And maybe that is a little scary.

 A couple of our writers chose not to follow us into this new phase, and I fully understand. Those who did, may their tribe increase, offer us the usual fine reading: William Eisner’s physician finally gets around to contemplating that “heal thyself” advice; Gary Fincke traces the natural history of a psychological explosion; Jennifer Hurley offers a subtle, sexily extended metaphorical meditation on tango; Tamara Pavich takes us deep into the psychology of restitution and redemption; Anis Shivani and Jason Sublette treat us to stunningly individual narrators who understand a great deal, but whose irony proves inadequate to the task of containing the world, while D.A. Roisler puts a gun on the mantelpiece. And that’s not all the stories we’ve published this time, but the reader’s attention is also a limited commodity. In poetry, we have tender parents and children, sodden barflies, saints and sinners, and a mail-order-bride. There are closely-depicted turnings of seasons and undifferentiated eternities, a salute to Whitman, tributes to aquaria and to PBS fundraisers, and the moon is measured from two angles. Yes, there’s also a poem on angles.

 Join us then, for this first cyberissue –

 What to make of a diminished thing?

 Plenty, Plenty, Plenty.