There is a Neil Young song that starts with the line, “There is a town in North Ontario . . .” I used to play guitar and sing this song for my friends and replace “North Ontario” with “South Louisiana.” It doesn’t scan properly, but I made it work. I’ve worked at LSU Press and The Southern Review for over thirteen years and it has also become a home for me, “with dream, comfort, memory to spare,” as Neil wrote.
The opportunity to work with contemporary writers who are the leaders in their respective fields—poetry, fiction, literary criticism, and more—has been a blessing in my life. I read the poetry and essays and stories that we publish in the journal during proofs, after our editors have selected and then edited the work. Our authors all seem very brilliant to me. I suspect that is because my colleagues, Jessica and Emily, are rather brilliant themselves, and have pulled together such a superb cross section of contemporary literature.
Jessica’s passion for poetry and English grammar have had a profound impact on me. It is very intimidating to write an e-mail to her. And yet, she is the one who worries when she is composing e-mails to our authors. I remember many years ago she was editing a poem and asked me if I thought she should bother the writer with a particular question about grammar and intention. I said, “Jessica, you are one of the guardians of the language. It is your job, nay, your duty, to ask these questions.” I was only half joking.
In addition to being a brilliant editor, Emily has a vision for our work that includes taking it out into the world and talking about it. In sentences where I tend to use placeholders, like “stuff” and “doodad,” Emily always comes up with the exact word to focus the meaning. If only I were as articulate and practical as she is, perhaps I’d be president of the United States by now or at least governor of Louisiana.
I don’t really have political ambitions, but part of my job here at the journal and at LSU Press has been to be politic. When you have one foot in the literary world, with all its ideas and passions, and one foot in the world of being essentially a civil servant—well, you tend to run into a bit of cognitive dissonance. People ask me what I do, what is my job. I sometimes answer business manager for The Southern Review; sometimes I give my official title, associate financial operations manager for LSU Press. Neither of these titles accurately reflects what I do and have done. Sometimes my job seems like that of the character The Wolf played by Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction. No, of course, I haven’t had to clean up any murder scenes, but I do regularly make things run more smoothly for everyone else. That has been my job.
My sanity would not have remained intact over these years had it not been for my friend and colleague, Barbara Neely Bourgoyne. She is our fantastic designer, but she is also in my line of work. She has the ability to think creatively and nimbly about the many problems encountered in everything that we do. I suppose some of that can be attributed to her training in art and design, but I think it is mainly due to her sharp mind.
I have focused here on the people who are specifically involved in the work of The Southern Review, but we also are part of LSU Press. Jessica, Emily, and Barbara will readily tell you how incredible it is to be a part of the Press and to have the friendship and support of our colleagues. I also work very closely—in collaboration and office proximity—with our financial operations manager, Becky Brown, who has tolerated the messy stacks of paper in my office just as I’ve tolerated the incessant sound of her adding machine carrying across the hall. Our director, MaryKatherine Callaway, works tirelessly to promote the good work of LSU Press and The Southern Review.
Most people who visit our offices find it to be a very quiet place. We sit silently at our desks very focused, reading and writing. But as a work family, we have experienced together Shakespearean-level comedy and tragedy; marriages and divorces, births and deaths, and even a few tempests.
Speaking of endings, I am leaving my job here to pursue a new career outside of publishing. I will miss attending the annual AWP Conference and seeing all of my writerly friends there. I will miss Becky’s adding machine. I will miss the books. I will miss the quiet. I have spent an important portion of my adult life working with these people in this place. To borrow from Neil Young again, “I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way.”
Leslie A. Green