A Commentary–Spring 2023

D. W. White

Lately, I’ve been thinking about point of view. This isn’t so unusual a situation, I suppose, but specifically in the context of the challenge and power of a certain type of fiction, and of art, and when it comes across that ill-defined and ill-refined creature we call the marketplace. “POV” is a term often used in casual discussions of writing, from elementary school all the way to Lit Hub, and seems to defy easy, or standard, definition. Point of view, as the engine of literary fiction, is the angle from which a narration views a given perspective—but this is A Commentary, not an essay (more of those in the pages beyond). What is the point? That, much like “stream of consciousness” (about which I will refrain from discussion, and won’t dive into how strangely that Calypso phrase often is used or how—), POV is a term found in both the most general, lighthearted chats on literature and in the most (self-)serious, scholarly essays on criticism and theory. In short, it is a meeting place where both the marketers and the rogues may be found. What else might we find in so ominous a locale?

In this Issue, our second full length number, we have a remarkable range of writing. Jessica and I have had many conversations over the last few months about how many strong submissions we’ve begun to receive, making for some very hard choices both here and in Issue Three. No doubt, and happily-if-vexingly, we’ll have many more to make in the months and years ahead.

Issue Two sees the first ever L’Esprit Featured Writer, Michael Nath, who made an appearance in our Winter Quarterly and who’s here with a conversation and an extract from his new novel, Talbot and The Fall. We once again have stories and nonfiction from around the world, from Canada to New Zealand, Iran to Australia, New York to England. We have our first critical essay to appear in an issue written by someone other than me (finally!), in Nicole Blair’s excellent piece on Woolf and Literary Impressionism. And, we have a truly remarkable extract from Hormoz Shahdadi’s Night of Terror, translated by Rebecca Ruth Gould and Kayvan Tahmasebian. 

Rebecca sent in the extract back in January, and we were able, with Kayvan’s tireless help, to secure scans of the book in the original Persian to appear alongside their translation. Night of Terror was published in Iran in 1978, and has very infrequently appeared in English. We are very excited to be able to feature this piece, not only for its history and legacy, but for its literary merit—it is an excellent example of fearless, risk-taking writing, both on and beyond the page.

And that, I think, is at the heart of what I find in my mind of late, in the form of my old protean friend POV. There will always, always, be space—in the literary world, on bookshelves, in agents’ inboxes, on publishers’ wishlists, and in those enlightening Ten Best Lists—for conventional writing, well-written or mostly so. As an editor, here at L’Esprit and in my role for West Trade Review, I find it is not my job, so much, to champion accessible, traditional, risk-adverse writing, because it so infrequently requires such aid. There is much conventional writing that I quite admire—The Great Gatsby, perhaps the most conventional novel in American literature, is among my very favorite books. I do not wish to keep such traditional styles and approaches out of the literary world, what small portion of it over which I have influence. It is not about closing doors, but rather opening them.

Because the unconventional work, the work that takes chances, that asks, demands, challenges, and trusts its reader, the writing that experiments with form and style, with technique and content—this is the work that needs a champion. It is the role of the editor to see the power and the importance of such writing, of literature that pushes us, that perceives and illuminates the world in new and difficult ways, and to carve out space for it to breathe. There will always be room for Jay Gatsby and his accessible voisin; it is Lily Briscoe, Lenore Beadsman, and Erin Adamo who need their seat saved—after all, they’re probably running a bit late.

We hope you find the collection of exceptional, revolutionary work that we’ve been able to compile for Issue Two engaging, illuminating, and above all, challenging. Thank you for your support of fearless writing, et à la prochaine.

D. W. White, 8 April 2023

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