Better ‘Lit’ Than Never

Nassau Weekly (4/18/85)


By E. Randol Schoenberg (Randy) (’88), Staff Writer

The Winter issue of the Nassau Literary Review, after many long delays, is expected to come out some time next week, editors say. With that said, the obvious question arises, “Why has it taken so long?”

“This is the latest we’ve ever been,” admits Charles Robbins, Editor-in-Chief for the Winter Issue. “It’s the fault of the Dean of Students office for cutting our money, but maybe it’s our fault, too,” Until this year, the Lit received $11,000 from the Dean of Students office, but new Assistant Dean Muriel Whitcomb was told to reduce her office’s budget, and the Lit could get only $10,000 this year.

“Their funding was disproportionate to what [other student groups] get,” Whitcomb says. “We’re trying to be even-handed.” Drum, the other literary magazine funded by the Dean of Students office, receives a tenth of what the Lit gets. Whitcomb foresees further cuts for the Lit in the future. “There’s real inequity, and we’re gradually going to rectify that,” she says.

Although she regrets the cuts, Robbins does understand why they were implemented. “Money was short all around, and there was a cutback.” The Lit was a natural choice because of its large budget. Robbins feels, however, that the money was deserved. “We get more money than any organization campus. It’s nice, but I think it is somewhat appropriate.”

The reduction caught the staff unaware, and they were forced to cut back on some of the amenities they had enjoyed in the past. Instead of sending the prose, poetry and graphics to the printer and having it laid out there, they had to produce camera-ready copy themselves. Most of the delay was due to the difficulty of getting people to type. Robbins, who had to do much of the typing himself, recalls, “It was a nightmare; we’re not experts.”

Stephen Culhane, former business editor under Robbins and the new Editor-in-Chief for the upcoming spring issues, describes the difficulties the staff faced. “It was a learning process—doing typesetting and production on our own.” Culhane was responsible for bringing in more money to make up for the $1,000 loss. “We made up the loss with advertising without much trouble,” says Culhane, but he is unsure of the future which Dean Whitcomb has suggested will entail more cuts. “This year we were able to handle the budge cuts by doing more of it ourselves. Next year, I don’t know how we’re going to do it.   By upgrading the business staff we doubled the money we took in, but we’re limited by how much the staff can do because we only come out twice a year.”

“Putting ads in a literary magazine really fouls it up,” Robbins says. “We were forced to be a business. The Lit is not a money making venture. It can’t be here or anywhere.” With the Lit facing further cutbacks, Robbins fears that much of the innovation he has added to the magazine in his two issues will be lost. “We tried to be a little imaginative in our layout, and a lot of it just costs money. It will go back to being what it was, boring and bland.”

The Nassau Literary Review is the oldest continuously published college literary magazine in America. At its high point, it reached 300 pages in length, and can claim Booth Tarkington, Woodrow Wilson, John Peale Bishop, and F. Scott Fitzgerald as past contributers (sic). The present issue is 80 pages long, an increase from last years 64 pages.

The Lit has faced increasing competition from other campus literary magazines sponsored by the residential colleges. According to Robbins, many people have been turned off by the fact that the Lit only accepts eight stories from over fifty submissions. But Culhane doubts that the colleges pose a threat. “I don’t think that [the college magazines have] much of an effect. They are much more localized. We reach a much larger audience, and get different kinds of submissions. We get more from the Creative Writing, Visual Arts, and Architecture Programs than they do.” Still, the existence of college literary magazines has threatened the Lit’s position as Princeton’s main literary publication. As Robbins says, “It’s too bad the residential colleges have taken people away.”

Robbins sees advancements such as a three color cover and this year’s silver border as important in his efforts to rebuild the review. “Without all the trim it could be stapled; it could be a term paper.” Although the Lit is coming out very late, Robbins is proud his work. “If people will only read us, they’ll see that it’s not the rag it used to be,” he says.

Because of the budget difficulties, the Lit’s future is uncertain. “It’s a shame Princeton University can’t support this as it should be,” Robbins laments. “If they can’t afford it at Princeton, then where can we do it?” Culhane reports that he has already finished production of the spring issue, which should be delivered toward the end of the reading period. The spring Lit features interviews with novelist John Irving and poet Galway Kinnell. And next year? Culhane says, “The winter issue will be out in December.”