Summer 2010

Our Lit Journal Could Be Your Life

Victor D. Infante, Editor In Chief

For me, it started as a scream. It was November 3rd, 2004 – the morning after America returned to office a president I saw as monstrous. I was overwhelmed with emotion, and had no place to put it. I tried to write, and it was all coming out dross. I stared into the face of the wars, into the ratcheting fear-mongering and escalating corporate looting, and I felt ridiculously alone.

And then, I realized, I wasn’t. So in a fit of either inspiration or desperation, I threw together a Yahoo e-mail list and invited writers of my acquaintance to have a safe space to talk about politics, literature and where they intersect. From that list came conversations, and from those conversations came an online literary journal. And eventually six years flew by, and here we are, with a different president, a different set of challenges, and a world that’s better in some ways, worse in other, and always, always changing.

This will be the last issue of The November 3rd Club. It’s ending for a lot of reasons, some personal, some artistic. It’s not ending because the quality’s slacked off or because it’s become prohibitively expensive or because people have stopped reading, like some of our more unfortunate peers. Mostly, it’s ending because it’s done.

In 2005, when we embarked on turning a series of online discussions into the crux of a literary journal, I saw two arguments against such an endeavor. The first argument was that it ran the risk of becoming rhetorical, of becoming intellectualized to the point that what’s human in the political equation is forgotten. The second was that, eventually, it was vulnerable to a sort of artistic complacency, that it could become a place for readers to visit, feel politicized in some fetishistic fashion, and then move on, with nothing changing. It ran the risk of turning political art into just another product to be consumed.

These were the perils we faced, and to our credit, I think we avoided them. To my mind, for fear of paraphrasing Auden, it was more important to concentrate on writing that was capable of changing people, as opposed to changing events. Art does not change the world, but it can change the way people see the world. It can strip away the rationalizations and the mathematics and remind the reader what is human in events that are seemingly too big to humanize, that seem so distant and far away as newspaper headlines or blips on cable news.

This journal, then, was to be an act of cartography, a map of the fractures and fissures between us all. Maybe it succeeded, maybe it didn’t. It’s the sort of map that’s never really finished, one where we keep finding new uncharted territories, new places to scribble “Here Be Dragons.”

I was asked once what I wanted to accomplish with this journal, and I replied that I wanted to break your heart, because that’s when I’d know that you were finally paying attention. I don’t know if we succeeded at that, either. I don’t know if the poems, essays or stories we’ve put forwarded touched something in you that you didn’t know was actually alive. Hell, maybe it’s simply the act of ending the damn thing that’s heartbreaking. Maybe you hoped it would go on forever. But nothing does. Not really.

Our job’s done here. If we moved you a little bit with any of this, if we’ve made you step away a moment from Apocalyptic rhetoric and ideological dogma, if we’ve in any way helped you look across at people who think different than you and made you realize that they’re human, too, and just as afraid, desperate and alone as you are, then we’ve done our job well.

But this was only ever meant to be a beginning. It was — to drag poor old Auden back into it — a way of happening, a mouth. Will it ever come back, rising Lazarus-like from whatever Internet grave it’s buried? Maybe. Who knows? There is still much, much left to be said, and billions left who need to listen.

But for the moment, our job’s done. Now it’s your turn. If this has been an act of cartography, then please, turn your attention toward the places marked “Here Be Dragons.” Gaze into these places and tell the world things worth knowing, and understand that doing so will break your heart. Don’t flinch at that heartbreak, as unbearable as it might seem. That feeling is the one thing that we – every one of us – have in common. That’s the part of all of us you need to speak to, the part that makes us truly human and alive. Take all that, all that pain and tragedy and fear, and transform it into something beautiful.

It will be worth it. For five years, the writers who’ve contributed to The November 3rd Club have shown me pain and heartbreak on a scale I had scarcely imagined, but they’ve also shown me a hardscrabble beauty, clung to and fiercely protected, held tight against chests in the darkness. Amid all this misery and rage, I am constantly reminded that it is, still, a beautiful world. I believe that with all my heart.

Every moment has been worth it. Every damn one of them.

The November 3rd Club has always been a collective effort, and I’d like to take a second to thank some of the people who have, with their hard work, friendship, support and advice made this journal the truly unique and magnificent experience that it’s been. To Carlye Archibeque, Richard Beban, Michelle Ben-Hur, Tara Betts, Pham Binh, Tony Brown, Jane Cassady, Amelie Frank, Dawn Gabriel, Gary Glazner, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Sam Hamill, Jamey Hecht, Bob Hoeppner, Bob Holman, Erika Jahneke, Amy Lawson, Ray McNiece, Richard Modiano, Richard Nash, Elizabeth Ross-Harrison, Marc Solomon, Lenore Weiss, Phil West, Tony Williams and, above all, our incredible designer (and my amazing wife) Lea Deschenes, as well as the dozens more I’m probably forgetting, thank you. Working with you all has been a blessing, and I am eternally grateful for your efforts and belief. Thank you, thank you, thank you.