How Chicago Review Positively Deconstructed My Life and Added 200 Libra to My Dead Lift

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Author: Peter Michelson
Date: Winter-Spring 2020
From: Chicago Review(Vol. 63, Issue 3-4)
Publisher: University of Chicago
Document Type: Essay
Length: 1,621 words

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I first became aware of Chicago Review in North Dakota, around 1960, through the agency of Big Table, the first issue of which was essentially comprised of the suppressed 1958/1959 Winter issue of CR on the Beat writers. There are several accounts of this notorious event in literary journalism--including my own in TriQuarterly 43 (1978)--but suffice it to say here that, by challenging the University of Chicago for suppressing what is now recognized as some of the liveliest and most insightful writing of the time, it signifies one of the most conspicuous proclamations of the postmodern reformation of academic modernism. It took me a few years to understand that that was the implication of the suppressed issue; this is what I learned while editing CR from 1961-64. I had come to the University of Chicago to study Aristotelian literary criticism, which I did assiduously with Elder Olson. As it turned out, even as I was attempting to master the categories of that rigorous discipline I had to unlearn them to function as an editor. It was a complex, not to say precarious, posture, but it provided an incredibly instructive dialectic as I gradually got a grip on it.

When I joined the CR staff Hyung Woong Pak was the Editor. I subsequently found out that he had been the only member of the editorial board who had not resigned when the University censored the Beat issue. That had cost him and CR the loss of some trust among writers and editors, as I discovered in a latrine when I went to the second meeting of the Association of Literary Magazines of America (ALMA) in 1964. I was confronted there by an irate editor, who growled abruptly, "You from Chicago Review?' He had just delivered a peroration in support of Karl Shapiro, whose Prairie Schooner had recently been censored by the University of Nebraska. His tone implied rough road ahead, so I replied warily in the affirmative. By this point I was tending to business, and in my defensive agitation nearly turned on him in full arc. I should have. Trailing clouds of righteous glory, he began arguing that editors countrywide, obviously including me, should boycott the University of Chicago and go on strike; what kind of reptilian quisling was I, he continued, had I no pride, no morals, blah blah blah.... By this point I was drained, adangle and defenseless, when luckily John Logan, then editing...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A629970346