Ox­ford Amer­i­can marks 25th year

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Ron Charles

Ox­ford Amer­i­can, the quar­terly mag­a­zine of South­ern writ­ing, has just re­leased a fan­tas­tic 25th an­niver­sary is­sue. It in­cludes pho­tog­ra­phy by Jack Spencer, poetry by the late Mar­garet Walker and a short story by Glenn Taylor. But the high­light is an ex­cerpt from Jes­myn Ward’s up­com­ing novel, “Sing, Un­buried, Sing,” which will be pub­lished in Septem­ber. (Two more ex­cerpts from the novel are planned for the sum­mer and fall is­sues of Ox­ford Amer­i­can.)

Se­cur­ing those pieces by Ward, who won a Na­tional Book Award in 2011 for her dev­as­tat­ing novel “Sal­vage the Bones,” is yet an­other rea­son to pay at­ten­tion to this re­gional mag­a­zine that de­fies the re­gional la­bel. Last year, Ox­ford Amer­i­can won a Na­tional Mag­a­zine Award for gen­eral ex­cel­lence, and the mo­men­tum is clearly con­tin­u­ing. All good news for an or­ga­ni­za­tion that some­times seemed like it was act­ing out its own South­ern gothic plot.

First pub­lished on a shoe­string bud­get in 1992 by Marc Smirnoff, Ox­ford Amer­i­can has been snuffed out sev­eral times de­spite pub­lish­ing work by such gi­ants as John Updike, Richard Ford and Eu­dora Welty. Best-sell­ing thriller writer John Gr­isham kept the mag­a­zine alive for a while, but it still ran out of money, suf­fered a crip­pling em­bez­zle­ment, got hit by a huge bill from the IRS and en­dured a sex­ual ha­rass­ment con­tro­versy that di­vided its staff.

For­tu­nately, the non­profit mag­a­zine, now housed at the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Arkansas, seems to be en­joy­ing a much-de­served pe­riod of sta­bil­ity.

Edi­tor El­iza Borné, ap­pointed in 2015, says Ox­ford Amer­i­can is “thriv­ing,” de­spite the gen­eral shift away from pa­per and to­ward the Web. “We re­main fo­cused on cre­at­ing a quar­terly print mag­a­zine with great writ­ing and gor­geous de­sign,” she says, but her staff also posts Web-only photo es­says, main­tains an In­sta­gram feed and dis­trib­utes a weekly enewslet­ter. The on­line ar­chive re­mains a rich trove of ar­ti­cles by well­known writ­ers such as Charles Por­tis, Larry Brown and Lau­ren Groff. And the web­site lets poetry fans lis­ten to au­dio record­ings from po­ets.

Donors con­tinue to make an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to Ox­ford Amer­i­can, which has 13,500 sub­scribers.

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