To begin the first number of Whistling Shade I should probably say something about the name. It is an odd title, even for a literary journal, and it reflects the rather odd state of literature here at the beginning of the third millennium. I believe I was drunk when I thought it up—I was musing on modern American culture, now dominated by television sitcoms, Hollywood films, rock concerts. Yet the older, more imaginative art forms remain. How many of us, after all, haven’t written a poem, and at least thought about writing a story or novel. And there are odd moments, at parties and such, when we still talk about Chekhov and Sappho, even if we haven’t read them. The word well spoken, the story well told, still allure us—they live in the back of our mind, like some whistling ghost or shade, muttering deeper meanings about our everyday world.
Literary journals tend to be hidden, rather misanthropic creations, pedaling their obscure contents to a few thousand subscribers, most of whom are connected to college English department s. The idea of a popular literary journal, cheaply or freely distributed in cafes or book stores, has never been tried in Minneapolis or Saint Paul, as far as I know. This is strange, because it is such an inexpensive and childishly easy thing to do. Whistling Shade is an attempt to bring poetry and short fiction to a wider audience. I christen it with one firm conviction: that the literature capable of captivating such an audience is out there. It is in these very pages, in the lyrical poetry of Sandy Carlson and the raconteur fiction of Braxton Younts. Now that I have set it adrift, I am not sure of the exact course this magazine will take. But I hope that every three months it will allow you, the reader, to converse a little with that whistling spirit in the back of your mind.
- Joel Van Valin