I must admit I’d never heard of Night and Day magazine before, but apparently it was published in 1937 by Chatto & Windus under the editorship of Graham Greene and John Marks, and lasted all of six months. The title has now been revived by Random House editors Parisa Ebrahimi and Tom Avery; the first issue (on the theme of ‘Reinvention’) was published online last week, and it is a lovingly crafted piece of work. The design is elegant, managing to feel both classic and contemporary; and the content sets a similar standard.
In any literary magazine, it’s the fiction that interests me most, so that is where I’ll start here. There are two stories in this issue of Night and Day, the first of which is ‘Hermie’ by Nathaniel Rich. A lecturer in marine biology is gathering his nerves before delivering his speech at a conference, when he finds a hermit crab in the toilets. This is not just any old crab, but Hermie, the talking crab who was one of our man’s imaginary friends as a boy. The two reminisce about old times, until the academic has to give his talk. Rich’s story is cleanly told, with no interest in making a song and dance about its featuring a talking crab; it works well as both an evocation of childhood, and as a metaphoric portrait of someone letting go and moving on in life.
I first came across Zachary Mason’s name last year, when Scott Pack enthused about his debut novel, The Lost Books of the Odyssey, which (as its title suggests) reworks elements of the Odyssey. Mason’s piece here does something similar for Ovid’s story of Echo and Narcissus, interestingly inverting the tale so that Narcissus is the one who falls for Echo, whilst she remains aloof. It’s cleverly done, and makes one think again about the myths; I really must check out Mason’s novel.
The bulk of Night and Day is given over to non-fiction, and what really strikes me about this content is how accessible and rewarding it is, even when one is unfamiliar with the subject matter. For example, one of the features is an email dialogue between the novelists Chloe Aridjis and Ali Smith; I’ve never read anything by either of them, I don’t know any of the works to which they refer – but it doesn’t matter in the slightest, because the sheer joy and exuberance of the exchange (Smith:’ Plot for me veers between the Gunpowder kind and the kind marked out in cemeteries; it can explode, it’s underhand, it can be a kind of political fireworks, it’s the perfect place for a corpse.’) makes it a delight to read.
Elsewhere, we find Adam Thorpe writing about the challenges of translating Madame Bovary, which I found fascinating precisely because (rather than in spite of) the specific detail into which it goes. Tom Morton contributes a hilarious column as Samuel Johnson, describing various types of contemporary newspaper columnists (such as the ‘Pitchfork Wielder’: ‘When he implores “thou couldst not make it up”, the righteous Reader may counter “but Sir, that is the very North-Star of yr. CRAFT”’).
There’s also a column labelled ‘From the Archive’ describing ‘The Ideal Reader’ (‘He reads books. He buys books. He buys at least one a month. He would buy more if a) he could afford to, b) he had room to house them…’), in which I (very tentatively, and perhaps more hopefully) saw something of myself; and a ‘glossary for readers of reviews’ (‘ACHIEVEMENT, A considerable: Long book’), which made the reader in me smile even as the reviewer in me cringed.
Completing the issue are: an article on the history of Night and Day, by former Chatto publisher Jeremy Lewis; poet Paul Batchelor on Rainer Maria Rilke’s French poetry; an anonymous column on bookselling; Karen Russell on her writing habits; and Roddy Lumsden on the Eric Gregory Prize for young poets. I found Night and Day to be a very welcoming and entertaining magazine, and I wish it a long and healthy future.
Issue 1 of Night and Day is available to read and download here.