JT Lachausse, the Editor-in-chief of Matador Review, agreed to engage in a chat about the alternative literary magazine he co-founded. Here’s our conversation.
Tiegan Dakin: So here’s my first question– how exactly did you come up with the idea to start a literary magazine like Matador Review?
JT: The idea for The Matador Review first came around last November (2015) when I had been submitting to some literary magazines. My friends and I made an off-handed joke about which magazine is the “evil twin” of The Paris Review, and since we couldn’t think of one, we decided to make one. We wanted to find a way to channel all of our fondness for museums and magazines into a creative enterprise, and an online magazine made perfect sense to us. It still makes perfect sense for us.
TD: How exactly did you arrive at The Matador Review as the name for a literary magazine? It’s quite a strange name compared to the other ones out there.
JT: Magazines and journals are often named for what they represent; for The Paris Review, it was named after where it was established; for The Adirondack Review, it was named after the founding editor’s relationship with the Adirondack Mountains; and with magazines such as The American Poetry Review, they are named for the content they tend to publish. Our rationale behind the Matador name is a bit more complicated, however, though I feel that it is similarly justified.
The art of bullfighting was once reserved for the nobles, who would stride in on horseback with their lances and their cloaks of embroidered gold. At the time, these performances didn’t create as much controversy as it does nowadays; it was an honour sport of great spectacle; a chance to prove an individual’s deftness and power against a wrathful beast. Commoners on foot would accompany these maestros in their grand production, often assisting the torero (bullfighter) to succeed in the challenge. Eventually, however, these commoners began to gain enough importance to become the main act. Men and women began to leap from the audience – illegally, I might add – to challenge the beast on their own. This became a way for those that were poor to gain fame and fortune, by proving that they are truly a maestro, a matador de toros (killer of bulls).
The evolution of the matador is what we embody; not the animal abuse, not the frenzied celebration of blood-sport, but rather, the idea that this art belongs to no one, and anyone can join the fight. We look at humankind’s obsession with the man vs. beast conflict – from Mithra’s vanquishing of a bull to Theseus’s slaying of the Minotaur – and strive to embody a similar spirit of spectacle and controversy. This title, The Matador Review, it represents all of what we want to put within our magazine: the thought-provoking and the unconventional. And, of course, it sounds nice.
TD: As it seems your magazine supports the unconventional- as it says on the Matador Review website, and so your eccentric history suggests- what are your thoughts on the Antioch Review controversy that happened recently (assuming you’re familiar with it)? Has it in any way shaped the sort of work you’ve accepted since?
Perhaps Antioch Review, in wanting to publish something unconventional themselves, shot themselves in the foot.
JT: Good question. I was recently asked about this same controversy, so I’ve got some ammunition on this one.
The fallout that came of that publication decision was, in my opinion, befitting for the offense, and I believe that despite whatever academic purposes that Antioch College found in featuring the essay, it is not worth the pain that it serves, nor the peculiar perspective it offers. That may be perceived as a slight against academic freedom, or an attack on free speech, or whichever, but the case remains: a good publication must select work that is mindful of the human spirit. We want the radical, and we want the bizarre, but we aren’t interested in work that escapes a creative enterprise to hoist up a scandalous persuasion. Yes — bring on the questionable, and bring on the counterculture, but do it in a way that is charged by an artistic or informative purpose, rather than intolerance.
As for our editorial decisions, I think that we will receive a lot of positivity, and I think that we will receive negativity. Just a few weeks ago, we received an email that read, “Your Satan worshipping garbage is completely disgusting. Try Jesus!” And although I can’t fathom what brought that on, aside from our red logo, I’ve decided to find the humour in it. There will be good reasons for criticism and there will be bad reasons, and we will just have to face them as sincerely as we can, because sometimes, as I’ve mentioned, the criticism is well-deserved.
TD: Every literary magazine does, of course, receive its fair share of criticism from the sensitive writers and artists they reject.
After starting Matador Review, have you gained a better understanding of the difficult decisions which editors have to make?
It must have prompted you to make a different approach to lit mags when submitting to them yourself.
JT: We have grown a lot, and we’ve learned that most of our decision-making is rooted in listening and learning from others. We like to work with our writers and readers, rather than tugging them toward our own desires.
As far as submitting goes, we haven’t been doing as much. We’ve taken a step back to work on longer work, especially between Shayne (acting as illustrator) and I. However, we’ve narrowed the field of interest when it comes to where we want to submit; this is especially because we’ve become more familiar with the community.