Section: Features

Kenyon Review rings in anniversary by looking to the future

Kenyon Review rings in anniversary by looking to the future

by Cora Markowitz

Color and consolidation were the mark of changes for the Kenyon Review’s 75th anniversary. This is also a special year for editor David Lynn, who is also celebrating his 20th year as editor of the Review. This year’s celebrations begin with a birthday bash in the Gund Gallery Community Foundation Theater, which will feature readings by the Review’s two new fellows, Melinda Moustakis and Jamaal May.

“We really do hope that the birthday party [tonight] will be a really big, fun event and people will want to come,” Kenyon Review Managing Editor Abby Serfass said. “We will be having birthday cake, and both of our new fellows are really dynamic people and they’re great writers and readers, so hopefully that’ll be a draw as well.”

Ellen Priest, who is in charge of designing the 75th anniversary covers for the Review, worked to make a special change to the magazine to help celebrate its milestone.

“We thought that that would be a fun way to commemorate the 75th, to break out of our black-and-white covers and make them all color,” Serfass said.

Serfass has been with the Review since 2006 and initially served as associate programs director, working on the Young Writers program and other initiatives. These programs involve the Review working with a community of writers, going beyond just publishing literature in the magazine, and they have all been founded by Lynn.

“I think 20 years ago we were just a magazine,” Serfass said. “With David’s tenure, we’ve really become an overall arts organization. We do have the magazine still but we also have a huge online presence, we run all these programs for young writers and adult writers, we have this literary achievement award, we do the literary festival. … Our mission is much bigger.”

Lynn began working at the Review 25 years ago and planned the 50th-anniversary issue in 1989, never expecting he would still be at the Review to celebrate its 75th birthday. 

“When I was a writer-in-residence for one year, the then-editor of the Review, Terry Hummer, unexpectedly left for Middlebury and they asked me to stay on as acting editor for one year, and this was back in 1989,” Lynn said. “I expected I would be leaving soon afterwards, but chance intervened, as it often does in life, and so I’ve been the editor since 1994.” Lynn has now surpassed John Crowe Ransom, the founder of the Review, in longevity as editor. He called the 75th anniversary a “big deal” both for him and for the magazine.

With 75 years behind it, the Review is embracing the future with a major change to the publication. Rather than publishing four issues a year, it will now publish six issues, in a smaller, more portable format, closer to the size of a novel than to the size of a coffee table book. The planning for this change coincided with the 75th anniversary purely by coincidence.

Tory Weber, associate director of programs and administrator of the Kenyon Review fellowships,  said, “The timing is great, I think, because whenever you have a big milestone that you’re celebrating, it is a chance to look back at all you’ve done and think about where you want to go.”

Lynn had toyed with the idea of a change in format for years, figuring out the issues of cost and how this new, smaller size would appeal to readers.

The change from four issues of 200 or 220 pages to six issues a year of about 120 pages costs approximately the same, according to Lynn.

With this smaller size, he hopes readers will find the Review more accessible.

“I want people to be able to put it in their bag or their pocket and take it with them,” Lynn said.

Despite these design changes, the Review maintains a connection to its past.

Weber, once a Kenyon student and KR associate herself, said, “When I was an associate, there were literally maybe a dozen students working for the Review. And now we have about 70 and they’re students who continue to stay in touch with us, work for us, and come back years later to do things in our various programs.”

Lynn believes that these programs are essential to Kenyon’s character.

“Great writing and the study of literature are a part of Kenyon in a way that is not true of any other school I know,” he said. “The fact that our English department is so strong and so large and that we’ve got the Review is a mark of how all of this really does matter to who Kenyon is and how it sees itself and how the students see themselves.”

The Review welcomes the entire Kenyon community to join in celebrating this milestone at its birthday party today at 7 p.m., as well as at its annual literary festival, which runs from today through the weekend. The festivities end on Saturday with novelist Ann Patchett’s book signing in Rosse Hall.

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