Monday, July 16, 2012

Bummer: Smirnoff out at the Oxford American

Posted By on 07.16.12 at 03:00 PM

oa_cover.jpg
Just about a year ago, wading through piles of literary miscellany at the Printers' Ball, I happened to pick up a couple copies of the Oxford American, a beautiful southern-focused magazine with offices on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas. It was attractive swag, and out of the heavy pile I took home that day it's the thing that's stayed with me—I am totally in love with it, and have bought every issue since. It's quarterly, with each issue organized around a theme: the annual Best of the South, for instance, and a music issue that each year focuses on a different southern state.

The OA is like the New Yorker's rowdier younger cousin, a little less mature both literally (founded in 1992) and in its anarchic spirit. It has a better sense of humor about itself. It is way weirder. A couple issues back, editor Marc Smirnoff, in his regular column, launched into a hilarious diatribe against an OA rival, the more well-heeled southern magazine Garden & Gun ("GAG to its foes; G&G to its partisans")—one can't really picture David Remnick doing the same re the Atlantic. The latest issue, the annual Best of, featured stories by Wendell Berry, a new column by Jesmyn Ward, a visit with Kelly Hogan by her friend Jack Pendarvis, remembrances of recently deceased southerners, and odes—one to lard, one to chicken coops, etc.

Today it looks like founder and editor Smirnoff, as well as managing editor Carol Ann Fitzgerald, are gone from the OA. Publisher Warwick Sabin, who'll take over as editor in the interim, says he won't comment on "personnel" matters." Last week Sabin had the OA staff locked out of its offices; according to the Log Cabin Democrat Smirnoff and Fitzgerald are the subjects of an "internal investigation" for "inappropriate conduct," and were advised to get lawyers. "Nobody knows what is going to happen," Sabin told the Democrat. "Everybody is proceeding as best we can."

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