Although many intellectual and literary magazines have come under scrutiny lately for a lack of female bylines (yes, again; it’s an annual event), two of those publication’s blogs have become visible launch pads for female writers: The New Yorker Book Bench and the Paris Review Daily.
Last week, the Paris Review Daily blog lost web editor Thessaly La Force to a fellowship in fiction writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. “She kept it a secret from us!” editor Lorin Stein told Off the Record. “I didn’t even know Thessaly did that kind of writing, although knowing her literary sensibilities, it doesn’t surprise me.”
Ms. La Force is being replaced by senior editor Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn, fresh from a gig as assistant editor at The New Yorker. She joins senior editor Sadie Stein, who was hired from Jezebel in April.
Ms. Foley-Mendelssohn and Ms. La Force are friends dating back to their overlapping tenures at The New Yorker, where Ms. La Force was a web producer and one of four young female staff members on the Book Bench. “The year I came to The New Yorker,” Ms. Foley-Mendelssohn recalled, “they dressed as the Heathers for Halloween, with colorful blazers and massive brooches and croquet mallets and these hilarious pleated ’80s skirts they’d found in thrift stores.” That this new Internet literati are attractive, young and in most cases female did not escape the attention of Paper magazine, which named Ms. La Force, Ms. Stein and Paris Review Daily contributors Emma Straub and Maud Newton members of the “lit it-crowd” and ran a dreamy photo of the group inside a bookstore. (There was a male in the picture too.)
Asked why they’d ditched The New Yorker for the scrappier Paris Review, Ms. La Force and Ms. Mendelssohn agreed that more autonomy was a major draw. Given that The Paris Review has traditionally been a stepping stone on the way to The New Yorker‘s fiction desk, it’s natural to wonder if the women’s trajectory signals a disruption in the established hierarchy.
“The New Yorker will always get what it wants,” Ms. La Force said.
“All of my friends at The New Yorker have been ladylike and gentlemanly when it comes up,” said Mr. Stein.