Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New Oxford American editor Roger Hodge shares plan

Posted By on Wed, Sep 19, 2012 at 11:59 PM

Oxford American editor Roger Hodge image
  • Via an Oxford American video
  • Oxford American editor Roger Hodge

Roger Hodge, the new editor of the Oxford American magazine, spoke to a full crowd tonight at the Clinton School. With prompts from moderator Jay Jennings, he talked about his time at Harper's, where he spent much of his professional career, "clawing his way to the top" from an intern in 1996 to editor, a position he held from 2006 until 2010. Lewis Lapham, long time editor of Harper's had been a mentor, he said, imparting to him the "importance and sancity and the power of the first person singular." Which I think means he believes in empowering writers (Lapham has used the first-person singular line before, including in his praise for Hodge in the OA release). Inspired by working at Harper's along with "a group of people who...have now taken over magazines," including Mother Jones co-editor Clara Jeffrey, GQ editor Jim Nelson and Texas Monthly editor Jake Silverstein, he said he hopes to foster a similar culture, where talented, if often unproven, editors and writers can flourish.

Later, after a question from someone in the crowd about the ownership structure of Harper's, he joked that he wasn't going to say anything bad about Rick MacArthur, the publisher and primary benefactor of Harper's who fired Hodge in 2010, if that's what the questioner was after. (He's been more candid elsewhere.) He also sidestepped an opportunity to be critical of his predecessor, Marc Smirnoff, when asked what he didn't like about the magazine, saying things like every editor does things differently, that he "will enter into a conversation with the traditions of this magazine with the same amount of respect I expect our writers to approach their material" and that an editor should be a coach, not a dictator. Adding more character- and narrative-focused literary journalism is a priority, he said.

Left up to him, the magazine wouldn't increase frequency beyond a quarterly. He covered all of his bases on the "is web the future of magazines?" question, embracing the likelihood of some ever-evolving, not-yet-imagined technology as the true future of magazines and talking of his love for gadgets, while expressing his fondness for the physicality of printed magazines, but noting how environmentally devastating they can be. He was less convincing when talking about the place of long-form literary journalism in a world driven by social media: "Social media is a fad. In some form its going to continue just like everything else that comes along continues, but the enthusiasm that people have for it is going to abate... Eventually you're going to have to nourish your soul, and I'm sorry, but 140 characters isn't enough." Social media and long-form journalism or fiction aren't necessarily, or even often, oppositional forces, I'd argue. They're complementary.

Though he's spent most of his adult life in New York, he has Southern bona fides. His family has been ranching in southwest Texas since the 1880s. And Texas, he said, is obviously Southern, "culturally, historically, politically." He went to college at Sewanee, The University of the South. His great-great-great grandfather was born in Tennessee. Kudzu grew all the way up to his grandmother's porch. Andrew Lytle taught him to drink bourbon. Most of that came in response to a question about his relationship with the South, though I suspect he has anecdotes at the ready for those who would criticize his CV as not sufficiently Southern (charges lamely leveled at Smirnoff and publisher Warwick Sabin in the past).

While I suspect the OA has survived at least partly on the largess of people who see it as vehicle for preserving and promoting the South, but care little of it beyond what it symbolizes on their coffee table, I'm hopeful that Hodge mostly ignores issues of Southern identity and the rah-rah South stuff. It's boring and terribly limiting. There are many more great stories to be found that happen to be set in the South than there are great stories about the South. I say this, in full disclosure, as someone who worked at the magazine almost a decade ago.

I asked Hodge about commuting to Conway, which was noted in an initial New York Times piece on his hiring. He said he has a very-strong willed family with a teen-aged son in a strong arts school in Manhattan and on the varsity soccer team and suggested that his wife might be hesistant to move, though he joked, "I think when I bring her down here and you all go to work on her, we can get something done." He plans to be in the office often, he said, but will also work remotely.

Tags: , , , , ,


Speaking of...


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

Readers also liked…

  • War. What is it good for? Tom Cotton has an idea

    Twenty-four hours after meddling in President Obama's talks with Iran, hawkish Sen. Tom Cotton scheduled an off-the-record meeting with defense contractors, who'd be happy to supply goods for U.S. armed incursions in the Middle East.
    • Mar 9, 2015
  • Foster family disputes key statements from Justin Harris

    Craig and Cheryl Hart were the foster parents of the two sisters who were adopted by Rep. Justin Harris and his wife Marsha and later "rehomed." The Harts say that the adoption was allowed to proceed over the objections of the foster parents and local DHS staff due to pressure exerted by Cecile Blucker, head of the Division of Children and Family Services, on behalf of Justin Harris.
    • Mar 7, 2015
  • Last-day filing: A minimum ACT for school leaders could disqualify one of them

    Rep. John Walker proposes to govern Little Rock by ward and to set a minimum ACT requirement for Arkansas school superintendents. That second idea has a back story.
    • Mar 9, 2015

Most Shared

  • Issue 3: blank check

    Who could object to a constitutional amendment "concerning job creation, job expansion and economic development," which is the condensed title for Issue 3 for Arkansas voters on Nov. 8?
  • Little Rock police kill man downtown

    Little Rock police responding to a disturbance call near Eighth and Sherman Streets about 12:40 a.m. killed a man with a long gun, Police Chief Kenton Buckner said in an early morning meeting with reporters.
  • From the mind of Sol LeWitt: Crystal Bridges 'Loopy Doopy': A correction

    Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is installing Sol Lewitt's 70-foot eye-crosser "Wall Drawing 880: Loopy Doopy," waves of complementary orange and green, on the outside of the Twentieth Century Gallery bridge. You can glimpse painters working on it from Eleven, the museum's restaurant, museum spokeswoman Beth Bobbitt said
  • Ted Suhl loses another bid for new trial; faces stiff sentencing recommendation

    Ted Suhl, the former operator of residential and out-patient mental health services, has lost a second bid to get a new trial on his conviction for paying bribes to influence state Human Services Department policies. Set for sentencing Thursday, Suhl faces a government request for a sentence up to almost 20 years. He argues for no more than 33 months.
  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments



© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation