For four glorious years -- 1985 to 1989 --The Fessenden Review bemused literary America. As we said in one of the issues of the magazine, "What we do is not namby-pamby stuff." Our reviews were the subject of articles by media writers at The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and on National Public Radio --- among others.
Michael Parrish, editor of the Los Angeles Times Magazine said, "I don't know how you do it. We love The Fessenden Review." Pat Farren of Peacework, said, "It has to be the most compelling, outrageous, readable review of books there is."
Judson Jerome, late editor of Poet's Market said, "A lively and highly original publication." Writer Herbert Gold said, "I enjoy your quirky take on things, although you don't seem to review my books."
The editor-in-chief of G. P. Putnam's Sons wrote, "Great balance to the New York Times Book Review." Patricia Holt, book editor of The San Francisco Chronicle said, "I love your magazine."
The late Max Lerner said, "The reviews break all conventions and are the stuff of life." Howard Junker of ZYZZYVA said "It's a strange and terrific review..." Gary Indiana called it "A New York Review of Books for the living."
Other encomiums came in from The Bloomsbury Review, The New England Review/Bread Loaf Quarterly, Yellow Silk, The Generalist, Writer's Digest, Broadcasting Magazine, The Sun, American Libraries, and Daedalus. And, of all people, Norman Mailer said, laconically, "It's worth having around."
From the many letters that came to the magazine, we suspect this affection had much to do with the fact that our writings were unashamedly honest, crusty, and, at times, downright quirky. We reviewed books as they should be reviewed: with wit, humor, insight and unflinching zeal. If we encountered a book that was sappy and boring, yet being undeservedly lauded by the pendragons of New York's Literary Set, we were quick to say so.
We regularly lambasted many of the dubious stars of the East Coast Publishing Establishment --- so much so that we were accused of being juvenile, self-serving, overbearing, judgmental, and "unremittingly meretricious." We admitted to all these charges, for ours was a reaction --- long-overdue --- to those who have for so long squatted on the body of American letters.
Still and however, we weren't there just to pillage and plunder. We also sought to bring to the world obscure and unknown publishers and writers. The Fessenden Review featured scores of books that were being ignored because they had been issued by small operations with minimal budgets, or by university presses. We felt it our duty to support those who did not have the financing for huge printings, garish mailings, and fancy-dan advertising blitzes.
We also paid serious attention to books that were self-published, being mindful of the fact that the novels of Virginia Woolf, the poems of Walt Whitman, the poetry and art of William Blake, the writings of Gogol, Bukowski, Orwell, Keats, Melville, Yeats, Pound, Henry Miller, Upton Sinclair, and William Morris had all been first published in so-called "vanity editions."
Now, thanks to the glory of digitization and the earth-circling reach of the World Wide Web, no matter where you are, you can page through The Fessenden Review -- all 13 spectacular issues -- in life-like facsimile form, just as it was, just as if you were curled up with Tuffy and Rex on a blustery winter evening, fireside with a bit of brandy...oh, OK, the whole frickin' bottle. Click on any cover to see and hear The Noisiest Book Review in the Known World.