In the Cleveland arts & culture media landscape, there’s Scene — hello there — the alternative news and entertainment weekly; there’s Cleveland Magazine, the service-oriented monthly glossy; there’s CAN Journal, the visual arts quarterly produced by the titular network; there’s Belt, the online destination for essays and reporting of a certain regional sheen; and there’s the PD’s Friday magazine, the print destination for mainstream reviews and arts listings.
But there’s no outlet, says Billy Lennon, founder and editor of the new Cleveland Review of Books, for what he informally calls “upper middle brow” cultural coverage and analysis.
Lennon, a 24-year-old University School alum who studied at both Swarthmore and Oberlin, says he intends to publish an inaugural issue of the journal by year’s end, but that there’s no rush.
“I’m more concerned with quality than quantity,” he says.
Lennon cites both the Brooklyn-based n+1 and the Los Angeles Review of Books as inspirations and says he envisions publishing rolling content online with one or two issues per year, featuring the site’s premiere content.
He says he wants the journal to be home to thoughtful criticism of Cleveland-centric art and literature; essays and reflections on culture and politics; and reviews of contemporary fiction and nonfiction from niche or adventurous publishing houses. The first issue, Lennon says, may also include a piece of short fiction or poetry.
“The overall goal of the journal is three-fold,” reads the mission statement, “to shed light on the important and interesting work of artists and writers in our city, to encourage people to have an intelligent critical attitude toward culture, and to cultivate community through creating, reading, thinking and writing.
Lennon works by day as a paralegal and will soon begin a Master’s program at John Carroll, where he’ll serve as a graduate assistant in the fall. He plans to devote a few hours per day shepherding the first issue toward completion and says he’s receiving strategic advice from CWRU Philosophy Professor Jeremy Bendik-Keymer. The journal is actively seeking to build a board of advisers.
“To me,” Lennon says, “this doesn’t feel like work.”
He says he recently commissioned an essay on “the weirdness of Pinecrest and Crocker Park,” and expects it to be included in the inaugural CRB. He says the funding picture is predictably small-scale, but contributors may expect “a tiny amount of coin” for their efforts.
Lennon describes himself as part an emergent local literary scene engaged with coastal journals and contemporary writers. He says that two other “more explicitly literary” local journals are in their early stages as well: Barnhouse Journal (“sincere”), and the Long Long Journal (“Brooklyncore hip”).
Cleveland Review of Books is on Twitter @CleReviewBooks. Tonight, alongside Barnhouse, CRB will host an event at Mahall’s showcasing local poets and writers. CRB will be officially open to pitches and submissions beginning July 15.