Letter From the Editor, March 2021
As editors, we believe ourselves capable of wrangling words to suit ourselves. We highlight, pick apart, rearrange, punctuate. We break sentences down and train their letters to perform little tricks when we parade them across the page. We ask the most arrogant of questions: “What is this line doing for me?”
Having read, re-read, and re-read the works in our March issue, I’m finished asking myself such questions. I could reverse the inquiry and ask what I can do for the line. Indeed, I’ve thought this way when handling our staffers’ writing, with (I hope) worthwhile results. But the real conclusion I’ve drawn from long nights of word-wrangling is that our magazine isn’t a magazine at all: It’s music.
The language I use to talk about language is really the language of melody. I press structure, arc, phrase. Tone, texture, impulse. Feeling, color, voice. Cadence. Of course, we have our technique, our practice. Our proverbial scales, the building blocks of spelling and mechanics with which we build our opus. And still it’s difficult to introduce a symphony with words. They always fall short. Recalcitrant bastards.
So the movements can speak for themselves. As always, we start with the cheerful, sprightly Allegro—our Blue Notes section. Bounce among Alice Tecotzky’s rendition of cringeworthy library seat-stealing incidents, Willa Neubauer’s portrait of the current scene outside Tom’s, and Becky Miller’s account of the Covid test vogue. And enjoy a lighthearted yet profound conversation between Sandra Goldmark and Elizabeth Jackson about sustainability and theatre.
Slow your pace in the Andante section, where Claire Shang’s wistful musings on dispo culture settle readers into the hazy space between nostalgia and art. Savor Sophie Poole’s feature on Substack newsletters, in which she explores the future of the writer-reader bond. And what would a symphony be without its rollicking Scherzo? Dance through the mysterious Dante’s new advice column, peruse our timeless caricature Verily Veritas’s application to join our humble staff, and let Gabe Garon and Nicole Kohut lead you on a quest for answers to one of life’s most pressing questions.
Finally, the fireworks of the last movement, where we show off a bit. Peruse eight probing features on everything from fossil fuel divestment to the tuition strike, housing insecurity at Columbia to Kamala Harris in the White House. And revel in Bernard Harcourt’s penetrating insights on abolition and critical thought on campus and beyond.
I hope you hear the harmonies this orchestra of writers, artists, and editors have tuned for your ears. We launched this new website, designed by Managing Editor Lyla Trilling, to honor their virtuosity. Peruse its pages and enjoy!