Founded by Margaret Anderson in Chicago in 1914, The Little Review was an experimental literary journal that published many famous and would-be famous names that we still know today, including T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. It became most well known for publishing James Joyce’s Ulysses in installments from 1918 to 1920, for which they were taken to court by the Society for the Suppression of Vice over obscenity charges, which TLR lost.
I recently found this copy in the free bin at my local library here in San Diego. I’d heard of the publication but never read it. What first caught my eye was Ernest Hemingway’s name on the dust jacket. He has two pieces in it – the short story Mr. and Mrs. Elliott and a satirical poem called Valentine. The rest of the work is mixed. While I’m pretty familiar with the literature of the period I’m not too familiar with other art movements at the time and so a number of the 150+ excerpts are simply lost on me.
My conviction in founding the Little Review was that people who make Art are more interesting than those who don’t; that they have a special illumination about life; that this illumination is the subject-matter of all inspired conversation; one might as well be dead as to live outside this radiance. – Margaret Anderson
That all said, it was well worth the read and well worth the price, as I’m 99 percent sure that this copy is autographed by Anderson herself. I can’t find any examples of her autograph online but the inscription, dated January 21, 1953, Riderwood, MD, would be where she was at the time, according to this letter she sent to Ezra Pound. That all is fascinating enough, but in the circles she ran in, I can’t help but wonder who Mark and Diane were. (If anyone can confirm this as her autograph or knows who Mark and Diane may be, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
But back to the substance of the book.
Anderson left the Review in the hands of Jane Heap in 1924 and in 1929 they decided it was time to call it a day. As Anderson writes in the Anthology, “Our mission was accomplished; contemporary art had ‘arrived’; for a hundred years, perhaps, the literary world would produce only: repetition.”
In lieu of a more straightforward review, here are some quotes I liked. Anyone who finds them interesting should hunt down the magazine, a number of which are available for free online. My only complaint about this anthology is that there aren’t dates for most of the entries, and as such I don’t include them with the quotes.
In the trade of writing the so-called new note is as old as the world. Simply stated, it is a cry for the reinjection of truth and honesty into the craft; it is an appeal from the standards set up by money-making magazine and book publishers in Europe and America to the older, sweeter standards of the craft itself; it is the voice of the new man, come into a new world, proclaimed his right to speak out of the body and soul of youth, rather than through the bodies and souls of the master craftsmen who are gone. – Sherwood Anderson
Triumphant revolt is only for martyrs and artists. It is the losing force in normal existence. – Ben Hecht
Is it because violins are made of living things – word and catgut and mother-of-pearl and hair, – that they make the most beautiful music in the world?
Everybody has imagination. The things we do are nothing. Imagination is the only thing over which Will has no power.
In sex as in everything else people are not what they are doing; they are in that vortex of what they imagine themselves…Those frank-spoken people who think they know sex are puritans on the other side. They have no imagination. – Jane Heap
If you could persuade yourself to read something, if you could persuade yourself really to find out a little about the art you dab at… you might at the end of five years send me something interesting. The fact that you like pretty things does not distinguish you from 500,000 other people – Ezra Pound (advice to a young poet)
And a final one from Pound, which is applicable today as it was then:
We act in spite of the public’s utter impotence to get good literature for itself, and in despite of the efforts of the “trade” to satiate the public with a substitute, to still their appetite for literature by providing them, at a cheaper rate and more conveniently, with a swallowable substitute.