John Freeman Appointed Acting Editor of Granta

In a terse note released this afternoon, the British literary magazine Granta announced that editor Alex Clark has left the publication after 18 months and has been replaced by its American editor John Freeman. (He joined the staff in December 2008.)

I caught up with Freeman by cell phone as he was running to the Javits Center in New York to moderate a panel on "buzz" at the publishing industry's giant BookExpo convention.

He refused to make any comment about why Clark left her position, but he said the rest of the staff is "pretty much the same."

"Alex has left, but everybody else is there. And they're excited. Granta has a long history of taking risks and discovering new writers and challenging form, and I think, moving forward, that's what we want to be doing."

Although he doesn't foresee any format changes, he does hope to "reconnect with the vibrancy of American writing, which has to some extent fallen by the wayside. There's so much happening here that we can showcase."

"Our goal is to make Granta the world's premiere international literary magazine, to find more work in translation, to publish the best work around the world no matter what the sales opportunity is. We want to get back to publishing great writers that people might not have heard of."

And he's committed to the visual arts as well. "Photography and art are just as important as the writing. The combination of visual and text is something that Granta has always been involved in."

Unlike editors at almost every other publication, Freeman is sanguine about his budget situation. "We're in a very lucky position," he admits. "The proprietors of Granta are committed to keeping it a dynamic cultural space that lives outside the pressures of the market or worrying about what sells."

He's also less convinced than his peers that print is dead. "We're going to continue to do what we've been doing everyday, which is to get a new piece up on our Web site everyday. We have an expanded budget to do that -- to show readers things that may not fit in print but are still exceptional. But our primary interest is to get people to read the magazine in print." (Granta has about 50,000 subscribers worldwide.)

He's panting now as he runs down a Manhattan street. I can hear sirens and kids laughing in the background. Clearly, Granta has a new editor who's going to jump into the job aggressively. He'll begin living half the year in England. "I want to take full advantage of this position to find the best writing in the world. It's exciting -- that chase."

-- Ron Charles

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By Ron Charles |  May 28, 2009; 3:38 PM ET Ron Charles
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This is truly John Freeman's dream job. There's just one glitch - the Swedish billionairess who finances Granta (I can't remember her name, just that she sort of looks like an intellectual version of Agnetha from Abba) is said not to like Americans very much, even in this new era. I'd like to see Freeman get the "acting" out of his title, so I think I'll send our President a telegram telling him not to pardon Dick Cheney (as some Beltway pundits like Lanny Davis have suggested, should the left keep clamoring for a trial). Maybe that'd soften her up.

Posted by: estoe1 | May 28, 2009 10:15 PM

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