NWR Issue 88


This year's Academi Conference was held in February. New Narratives looked to explore the various ways in which fresh engagement with form by both writers and their audiences is taking hold, challenging the notions of what literature may, should or eventually could be as the twenty-first century progresses. It was a fascinating and stimulating two days - and prompted as many questions as it did answers. Which is what it's all about.

Among the themes explored? Adaptations - from ancient myth to the shaping of more modern meaning; from the pages of the paperback to the flicker of the big-screen moving image. The matter of boundaries - where does the full fact stop and the partial fiction begin? Or vice versa? What is fact or fiction in any case? And what about the seemingly utterly contemporary trend towards the short short short story or else the prose poem or 'proetry': a breathless, elliptical, no toothbrush-included approach that, we might almost believe, could not be more perfectly tailored for the online, fragmented age in which we live, were it not that the form is, in reality, an ancient one.

As ever when debating the new, one wonders how much really is that new. And how much a simply endless repackaging. Is there anything new under the sun? Publishers seem to think so, and they think we want to believe it, too. The book blurbs continually assure us that we are reading the next new new thing by the best new writer (often shorthand, of course, for a very good book by a promising young writer). Cannily-placed profiles of debut authors from major commercial presses in the arts broadsheets trumpet novelty as if that were a value judgement in and for itself, And what are often sold as - and may seem to the contemporary eye to be - ground-breaking narratives, are, whatever their merits, less a discovery than a recovery of sorts. An endless cycle of rehabilitation and reworking of forms and approaches that fell from their moment only to find their time again in the future present. Redux, remixed. As it happens, the new is very often the New Old.

Admittedly, the New Old is a hard sell. The insistent New New means sexy - a limitless avenue of possibility that lasts as long as it is still new. Tradition, by contrast, is that great cathedral that reminds most of us how painfully far we will never come. And, of course, editors are not immune. Earlier this year, The Observer underwent a well-publicised rebranding. The paper's ailing fortunes have demanded an all-round makeover. And so its arts supplement becomes The New Review. Perilously close to the New Welsh Review, I thought for a moment. Ah! Without the Welsh. It was difficult to distinguish the content and leaning of the pages, or the contributors, from those of its previous incarnation. But then, new is an easy word to throw around. Partly because such is the cachet of the new, many are too intimidated to inquire what precisely the new may be, in case they have unwittingly missed it. They often have.

That said, new plays a very big part in my thinking. It has to. Unlike the marketing masterminds at The Observer, I didn't invent the new of the New Welsh Review. I inherited it. And it is, somewhat paradoxically, set in stone. Each editor of New Welsh Review has found their own way to interpret what new may or could possibly mean set against their time. In our own ways, we have all come up against its opportunities and difficulties. But what puts the new in New Welsh Review is, I believe, a strong commitment to the preoccupations of our writers now, above all. A belief that where the writers lead - or to wherever they choose to return - a readership and a criticism will follow or, in the process, even, be created. Hybridity, slant approach, collage... Freedom of direction, and openness. Return. It's not exactly new, that's true. It's the New Old. Old New. You'll find it here.


previous editorial: Here and There
next editorial: What Kind of Day Has it Been?


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