Behold the bourbon barometer
Raise a glass to The Food Section's sustainability drive
If you’re set on skirting celebrity, becoming an editor is a decent way to start. While editors may be heroes to the writers who depend on them, very few of them have become household names—to use a cliché which any editor would cross out.
Anderson hasn’t been completely forgotten: She was the subject of a documentary short nominated for an Oscar in 1992. But the only way I could see the movie was to order a copy from DePaul University through Interlibrary Loan and borrow a DVD player from a neighbor whose kids graciously put off their Kung Pow: Enter the Fist screening. That’s about as close as you can get to obscurity without tripping on it.
As Wendy Weinberg’s documentary tells it, Anderson chafed at the parochial thinking that was the pride of 1890s Indianapolis. She dropped out of college in 1906 and two years later left for Chicago, intent on “publishing the most interesting magazine that had ever been launched.”
Just as she imagined, Anderson’s brilliance and audacity attracted the foremost avant-garde thinkers: She ran work by Emma Goldman, Carl Sandburg, Marcel Duchamp, William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, and T.S. Eliot in The Little Review, first published in 1914. And when none of the stories submitted by contributors met her standards, she treated her readers to 12 blank pages in protest of bad art.
What Anderson didn’t attract was advertising. Chicago’s big department stores were wary of her anarchist politics (and perhaps didn’t picture Hart Crane’s fans queuing up for eau de toilette.) Rather than continue to court them, Anderson made up her own display copy for nonbuyers, telling The Little Review’s subscribers that Carson Pirie Scott feared change, as was evident from its women’s clothing department.
In other words, The Little Review didn’t have much money or massive circulation. But it had the best slogan, coined by poet Ezra Pound, who helped coordinate the serialization of Ulysses in The Little Review before he became a vociferously anti-Semitic fascist:
The Little Review was “the magazine read by those who write the others.”
I first came across that epigram at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas, which this spring opened an exhibit about Anderson and Jane Heap, her personal and professional partner. I’ve been quoting it ever since.
Looking at The Food Section’s subscription numbers led me to conclude last month that this newsletter isn’t about to blossom into a full-fledged media organization. But there’s no reason it can’t continue to inform, entertain, and challenge a small audience of influential cognoscenti—so long as the audience doesn’t remain quite as small as it was on May 23.
You may recall from the newsletter sent that day that The Food Section then had 468 paying subscribers, falling short of its sustainability target by more than 200 paid subscriptions. Since then, the subscriber count has increased by four: Many thanks to those new supporters! (As well as the paid subscribers who may have goaded them along.)
But that means the newsletter still needs to pick up 208 more paid subscriptions before my Substack Local grant runs out in September. Ergo, allow me to introduce The Food Section’s bourbon barometer, indicating the number of subscriptions we still have to sell to reach our short-term goal and remain afloat.
Friends, I believe we can drain this thing.
In this all-important race to the bottom, I plan to keep doing what I can to win: Namely, I’ll continue reporting meaningful Southern food stories that you won’t read anywhere else. I am committed to making sure The Food Section’s paid subscribers receive the news and analyses they need to enhance their dining experiences and understand the region responsible for them.
Yet there’s no way I can empty this bottle all by myself. I’m relying on subscribers to help spread the word about The Food Section, whether by wearing a logo t-shirt or mentioning the newsletter to a friend.
(As a reminder, The Food Section is contractually barred from selling advertisements or sponsorships, so this newsletter is wholly dependent on subscription revenue to cover the travel costs, research fees, and administrative expenses associated with producing independent and original food journalism.)
So, anybody thirsty?
p.s. The preview of Marion, North Carolina’s Livermush Festival in Wednesday’s newsletter, reserved for paid subscribers, stoked some chatter among readers about making the trip on Saturday for livermush sandwiches. If you end up going, send your best pix to email@example.com for inclusion in a future newsletter.