147Wendy Lesser, editor of The Threepenny Review gives a fascinating account of the financial side of  running a literary review in the “Freelance” column of the Times Literary Supplement of 15 August. Happily they seem to be doing OK.

However she tells of the recent withdrawal of support ($12,500-$15,000 p.a.) from The National Endowment for the Arts. When she asked for clarification Ms Lesser was told that the panel making the decision “though they considered our literary quality excellent, had felt that we were ‘too wedded to print’. They disapproved of our broadsheet format, feeling it would not appeal to young people”.

This despite the fact that a full set of back issues of the journal is available on-line at JSTOR while current issues are available digitally for downloading. What the NEA in effect appears to be saying is that because The Threepenny Review takes some care over the printing of their broadsheet, they must be catering to an elitist audience, which by definition shouldn’t need subsidizing from public funds. I bet that if they were to confront the issue directly in these terms, the NEA would deny any desire to militate against print. Digital is more “plebeian” than print! You can see how they’d get there, but in fact this is almost the opposite of the case. We hear lots about the problem that poor people can’t afford access to the internet, while good old democratic print is equally available to all. Of course the huddled masses are mostly not interested in either format when it comes to literary reviews. But should the NEA be conspiring against print? God knows print has got enough problems of its own.

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