n+1 Goes to College

Reading n+1—the buzzy, high-minded literary magazine launched three years ago by Ben Kunkel and his friends—has often felt like participating in a particularly erudite, if slightly self-important, dorm-room bull session. So it makes sense that the magazine’s editors last night chose to distribute 170 copies of a new pamphlet, What We Should Have Known—in which they join other literary intellectual types to discuss the books they “read too late” “mistakenly read” and the books which they regret reading—by walking around the Columbia campus and placing it in front of unsuspecting students.

Iconoclasm is usually the point of these exercises: One discussion participant describes The Catcher in the Rye as “good…fine…but I could take it or leave it.” And another calls British Romantic poetry a “very bad influence on a writer at a young age.” But there are also more traditional judgments. Among the books recommended: Crime and Punishment, Middlemarch, and Moby Dick.

Mark Krotov, a Columbia senior and n+1 intern who was doing the distributing, admitted that the project would be easy to make fun of, since we live in a world in which “people make fun of everything.” Still, he told The Observer, “I know that this would have blown my mind if I had read it as a freshman.” And Hannah Goldfield, a Columbia junior, had the kind of response that the editors must have been hoping for: “I feel like it might change my life.”