Tuesday, 7 October 2008

In praise of Granta

Granta magazine. It's just plain brilliant. And I'm a devotee. A fan. An adoring long-time admirer.

And 'magazine' is what it persists in calling itself, although that is not the word which springs to mind when one holds one of its book-shaped, book-sized, book-weight issues in one's eager hands.

As revealed by the photo above, a little group of older Grantas has even, by some miracle, ended up side by side on the disorganised shelves in Musings Mansions. This is purely accidental and not by design, as those familiar with my 'library' in real life will testify.

Here's how Granta is described on its 'about' page:

'Since 1979, the year of its rebirth, Granta has published many of the world’s finest writers tackling some of the world’s most important subjects, from intimate human experiences to the large public and political events that have shaped our lives. Its contributors have included Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Saul Bellow, Peter Carey, Raymond Carver, Angela Carter, Bruce Chatwin, James Fenton, Richard Ford, Martha Gellhorn, Nadine Gordimer, Milan Kundera, Doris Lessing, Ian McEwan, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jayne Anne Phillips, Salman Rushdie, George Steiner, Graham Swift, Paul Theroux, Edmund White, Jeanette Winterson, Tobias Wolff. Every issue since 1979 is still in print. In the pages of Granta, readers met for the first time the narrative prose of writers such as Bill Bryson, Romesh Gunesekera, Blake Morrison, Arundhati Roy and Zadie Smith; and have encountered events and topics as diverse as the fall of Saigon, the mythology of the Titanic, adultery, psychotherapy and Chinese cricket fighting.

Granta does not have a political or literary manifesto, but it does have a belief in the power and urgency of the story, both in fiction and non-fiction, and the story’s supreme ability to describe, illuminate and make real. As the Observer wrote of Granta: ‘In its blend of memoirs and photojournalism, and in its championing of contemporary realist fiction, Granta has its face pressed firmly against the window, determined to witness the world.’

'A belief in the power and urgency of the story' absolutely sums up what makes Granta so exciting and so necessary. The current issue, No 103, is entitled The Rise of the British Jihad and contains not only the eponymous investigation by Richard Watson but a remarkable selection of other writing and photographs. Perfect train-reading stuff (and I have some nice long railway journeys coming up soon - hooray!).

And as if it weren't enough that one can buy and own and keep these hugely desirable, re-readable publications in the time-honoured way, there is also now, of course, Granta.com. A beautifully clean, clear, no-frills website which is a joy to meander around. There are highlights from each issue to be had for free and the Online-Only features include What We're Reading and Photography.

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And for anyone interested in book cover design, this slideshow of 30 Years of Granta Covers will keep you glued to your screen, going 'ooh, that's a good one', 'ooh, that's another good one', 'ooh, that one's excellent' for really quite a long time. Especially if you start at the beginning again once it's finished. Which is what I'd recommend.

1 comment:

TeresaP said...

I love Granta - you just never know what gems you will be getting whether it be poetry, essays or short stories. Great reading. Teresa