Word for Word: ‘Little Star’ journal and app shining bright

Editor Ann Kjellberg offers literary sustenance to serious writers

 

We hear often about writers, much less so about editors. Yet curatorial instinct and editorial vision are not created equally.

Little Star is an annual print journal and a weekly iTunes app, published out of New York by Ann Kjellberg. A contributing editor at the New York Review of Books, she started Little Star five years ago, at a time when no one upright would contemplate starting a print journal.

I had a story, Before Arbour Hill, about the family of a sex offender, which until Little Star 4 no editor would touch. It had been in my holding tank for seven years with no sign of the exit valve opening. I won two book prizes this year, and although they have supplied welcome financial sustenance, discovering Little Star has provided something more important: literary sustenance. The gesture of the enterprise is so encouraging.

Little Star isn’t concerned with the next hot thing or the Pavlovian single book that will conquer public appetites or bombastic blokes endlessly outblaring one another. It’s more of a century-long simmer. It acknowledges that literature exists on a continuum, in languages far beyond English; it permits a long-dead writer to be the neighbour of an unknown one and be read beside a pulse-still-beating, well-regarded one. It arranges for poetry, prose, nonfiction and visual art to consort and commingle each week.

Kjellberg explains it as follows: “I feel like contemporary literature is hewing towards this prevalent naturalism, a devaluation of style, and has kind of lost the thread and the revelations of Woolf, Beckett, Joyce, etc, which were so recently the great promise of our language.

“Serious writers are still working forward from that lineage, but they are becoming isolated from each other because they are not part of the commercial literary environment. So I wanted to create a place where that project could continue with a feeling of comradeship, not in isolation.”

Kjellberg is right about isolation. If your work refuses to afford an easy entry point or conform to accepted modalities of linear and novelistic expectation, without company it can be a lonely bus ride.

Little Star provokes literary conversations. Kjellberg “had in mind how magazines like the New Yorker and the New York Review and Partisan Review created the feeling of a circle of conversing people, even though in real life those people rarely met: they did their conve- rsing on the page. They develop a common language that is fruitful for them around a few shared aspirations, a sense of common purpose or value.”

Little Star 5 has just been published; the weekly app is available on iTunes.

Anakana Schfield is the author of the award-winning first novel, Malarky

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