In September’s ABR (Australian Book Review) there is a full page ad for the new issue of Griffith Review. The headline reads:

We’ve always been smart – now we’re sexy too.

It goes on: ‘Presenting Griffith REVIEW 25: After the Crisis, the first edition with our new partners at Text Publishing and featuring an elegant redesign. (etc etc)’

I so didn’t write that headline, but I will admit to authoring the redesign (ok, this is a somewhat self-serving spruik but, I’d like to think, also telling you about A Good Thing). Griffith Review is ‘a quarterly of writing & ideas’ from Griffith University in Brisbane – in other words, one of Australia’s treasure trove of “little magazines”.

Left, a pile of previous GRs; right, the new GR cover
Left, a pile of previous GRs; right, the new GR cover

They seem to have been around forever, but the oldest, Meanjin (based at Melbourne University), is “only” 68 years old. Melbourne has a bunch of them – Meanjin, Overland, ABR, Eureka Street, Arena, Quadrant. Sydney delivers Heat and Southerly. Westerly from the west, and the venerable Island from Tasmania. And for six years now, Griffith Review from Brisbane (the women’s issues Hecate also comes out of Brisbane).

All of them all adopt a national, if not international position, but there’s no doubt their place of origin inflects their interests and contributors, and a good thing too. Island is not named that for nothing. GR is one of the most idea-driven of the lot with its themed issues on everything from ‘In the Neighbourhood’ (Oz-Asian engagement) to ‘Essentially Creative’ (the place of arts in the national agenda) to ‘Family Politics’ (have a guess). As Phillip Adams says, ‘Griffith Review is a wonderful journal. It’s pretty much setting the agenda in Australia and fighting way above its weight.’


The redesign

The new design is “simply” a scrubbing down and a polishing up of the vessel in which the material is served. Well, yes, I also did break up the original vessel – that’s redesign for you. Not so much a renovation as a de- and then re-construction. Page margins, typefaces, line leading, folios, footnotes et al … the long list of “furniture” that goes into a house design. And of course, that ever contested ground – the cover. (Like homepages on websites, all the different departments want their bit of dedicated real estate on a magazine cover.) But that’s what editors are for, and Julianne Schultz has ensured that the cover is as sleek as a tailored jacket. Incidentally, Julianne, the driver of this idea vehicle, has recently been appointed to the ABC board of directors (which has its irony because a bit before that ABC Books had decided to give up publishing GR, thus necessitating a new publisher, and thus a new design). Onya Schultz!

Among my preferred bits of the new “elegant” interior are the Fiction pages, which I think are cool and fresh but classic (as an ex-editor of mine used to say). And the year-end issue of GR will be the Fiction number, so that will be something to go with your martinis, and Negronis, and Cinzani on ice.

The new Fiction page design
The new Fiction page design
Article ending and article start
Article ending and article start

PS: The Reportage opener above is for a piece by Barbara Gunnell on historical high finance in London and the GFC. I mention this because I met Ms Gunnell recently (I suspect we were underintroduced) and within two minutes she had winkled out where I was coming from, what I was doing and where I was going, before the penny dropped. I subsequently read her piece in the new GR and it is superb. Barbara turns out to be comment editor of the Observer (UK) and a contribuitng editor of the New Statesman. I had been micro-grilled by a laser-focused London reporter.


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