The White Review, Benjamin Eastham and Jacques Testard
The White Review is a fairly new quarterly arts journal that is published both online and in print. Its focus is artistically and educationally meritorious works created by new or emerging artists. Its aim is the promotion of the arts and literature and of advancing education in arts and literature. It takes its name and some inspiration from La Revue Blanche, a Parisian magazine which ran from 1889 to 1903. The White Review’s head editors are Benjamin Eastham and Jacques Testard. The magazine is based in Knightsbridge, London and accepts work from anywhere and anyone. FUSE interviews The White Review head editors, Benjamin Eastham and Jacques Testard.
The White Review is a fairly new arts journal (about 2 years old, I believe). There has always been a good number of literary magazines, and the Web has brought even more venues for artists and writers to share their work. What do you think makes The White Review stand out?
It’s the third anniversary of the launch of our first issue this week, in fact. We’d dispute that there ‘have always been a good number of literary magazines’, or at least that there has a been a number of good ones. Among the reasons that we started the journal was to provide a platform for young writers who we didn’t feel were being given the proper opportunities by a conservative literary establishment (at least in the UK). Similarly, we felt that conservatism expressed in the insularity of literary publishing here, which has showed little effort to engage substantially with other art forms, including the visual arts. We wanted to change that.
I’ve noticed that many of your fiction pieces seem to be of a borderline erotic nature (“Letters from a Seducer,” “Leg Over Leg”). Your statement of purpose includes the line “to experience art and literature in a sensuous, delectable form.” Are these related? Do you ever get any negative feedback or controversy over this? How do you deal with that?
Eroticism isn’t part of our editorial line, no. Did we say ‘delectable’? That doesn’t sound like us. It’s important to us that we publish art and fiction that isn’t circumscribed in its choice of subject matter by what is tasteful or ‘literary’. You could say we like things that are marginalized from mainstream discourse. The erotic might be among that, but it’s not something we, err, specialize in. I can’t remember any complaints either and I don’t imagine we’d pay them much notice.
The world is rapidly becoming digital. The White Review straddles the line between print and digital, offering online exclusives but also print exclusives. What is your reasoning for that? How is it working for you? What can you do online that is not available to a print journal?
The website allows us to reach more people, to take more risks on what we publish, to work in multimedia content (we’re eager to expand this function) and to react more quickly to things that are happening elsewhere. The print and online magazines are conceived of as complementary.
Since your journal features artwork, fiction, interviews, and criticism, you obviously think they work well together. What do you think is the link between art and writing? How does criticism fit into that?
Nico Baumbach wrote a good piece on art and philosophy recently in ArtForum in which he cited Ranciere’s idea that philosophy is the analyst to art’s analysand. Art looks to philosophy for answers, philosophy looks to art for a subject. Saying that, we don’t really carry criticism per se; the essays we carry tend to be broader in scope than the phrase criticism allows and we shy away from treatments of particular works or figures, which quickly becomes insular.
The list of interviews from various types of artists is quite remarkable. How do you choose who to interview? Or are interviews submitted like other writing and art?
We have a long wish list of people we want to interview and then we pester them until they allow us to. Thomas Pynchon, if you’re reading, get in touch.
I personally am very interested in translation, particularly of literary works. I was struck by your decision to have January 2014 be an issue of translated works. Why? What do you think is the benefit of reading works in translation? How did you work through the difficulties of finding translators/getting rights?
We’ve always read and published literature in translation – and the fact is that Anglo-Saxon publishing has marginalized translation over the years, even if things are getting a little better. So we decided to do a translation-only issue to give exposure to writers and translators who are seldom published in English, and to make a broader statement in support of a diverse literary culture in English. We didn’t coordinate the issue though – it was put together and edited by our contributing editor Daniel Medin, who is possibly the most knowledgeable person we know on literature in translation.
The submission page says that “we are open to publishing work unconstrained by form, subject, or genre.” What is the quirkiest submission you have ever received?
I remember our poetry editor, James Tennant, saying that he’d received something Josef Fritzl-related. Didn’t make the cut but that shouldn’t discourage people.
Benjamin and Jacques, how did you come to this position? What avenues led you to become editors of an online arts journal?
We were young and stupid.
What advice do you have for undergraduate editors and writers?
Take a law conversion course. If you really can’t bring yourself to do take a law conversion course, then try and find a three day a week job that pays the rent and spend all the rest of your time reading and writing. Make your writing exciting to read. Don’t moan. Then, when you hit twenty-eight, take a law conversion course.