The State of 文芸誌

The newsletter is online, which means so is the podcast:

This month I wrote about the 文壇 (bundan, literary world), which is most easily accessible in monthly literary journals. These journals have somehow survived in print, unlike just about every literary journal in the U.S. which are now mostly small-run projects other than the New Yorker. I looked but can’t seem to find any statistics about publishing numbers for 文芸誌 (bungeishi, literary journals). The eye test does suggest that if these magazines aren’t thriving, they at least aren’t going extinct; you can find massive volumes (several hundreds of pages each) with serious writers at every bookstore in the country, and volumes like the 120th anniversary edition of 新潮 (Shinchō) that I mention in the episode seem to be selling out online. I’d recommend running to a physical store if you’re still looking for a copy. (And it’s kind of a shame that these magazines aren’t digitized.)

This reminds me of when I was studying abroad in Tokyo. One night I was walking home from Shinjuku to the apartment where I was temporarily staying near Waseda. I came upon a stack of magazines illuminated by a street light. The one on top was a copy of 文藝春秋 (Bungeishunjū), the copy with the Akutagawa Prize-winning stories from Wataya Risa and Kanehara Hitomi that I’d just read that semester.

I took it home with me and eventually brought it back to the U.S., but sadly I threw it out while moving at some point between New Orleans, Chicago, Yokohama, and Osaka. It’s kind of nice to know that I could always get a new copy for 400 yen on Mercari if I wanted to, which seems to be the going rate.

The latest copies of Shinchō seem to be going for around 2,500 yen or so. Probably netting just a few hundred yen minus fees and shipping. I’m not sure why the 転売ヤー (tenbaiyaa, resellers) would even bother at that point. I imagine that prices will probably settle down at some point, so if you make it to a physical bookstore and they aren’t there, just give it a little time, and I’m sure you’ll get one for a reasonable price.

There are likely other magazines with 随筆 (zuihitsu, miscellaneous writing/essays) available, but even if you have to go to the library to peep some of these, it’s probably worth it.