Like a good idea that just won't go away, the Oxford American is back.
The magazine, which bills itself as "The Southern Magazine of Good Writing," was founded in 1992 in Oxford, Mississippi by Marc Smirnoff. It lasted only two years, folding for the first time in 1994. Author John Grisham, who was living in Oxford, resurrected it. While the critics loved it, it was a money loser. Grisham support ended, and so did the magazine, in 2001. By that time I was subscriber.
Having moved editorial offices to Little Rock, Arkansas, the magazine reappeared in 2002, only to fold again a year later. Now operating as a non-profit (not much of a stretch) it is enjoyed its fourth trip to the plate courtesy of the University of Central Arkansas, which has made a three-year investment of nearly $500,000.
With an editorial mission to "explore the American South," it has published original writing by many fine writers, including Donna Tartt, Charles Portis, Barry Hannah, Roy Blount, Jr., Tony Earley, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Wendy Brenner, Steve Martin, and Susan Sontag, not to mention William Faulkner, Walker Percy, James Agee, and Zora Neale Hurston. Its Southern Music Issue, complete with a CD, has been featured on NPR three years in a row and has won two National Magazine Awards for Best Single Topic Issue, most recently in 2004.
Smirnoff loves the south as only a "come here" can. I have just finished reading the latest issue, the first food issue, cover to cover. I laughted; I cried; I got hungry. The music issue is next. I can't wait.
If you care for the south, not the Southern Living version but the real one, the one that matters, and enjoy good writing, the Oxford American is for you. Subscribe to help ensure the magazine survives, or pick up issues that look interesting from a well-stocked magazine stand. Better hurry, ya hear?