Roger D. Hodge has been named the new editor of The Oxford American, a much-acclaimed quarterly that has been based at the University of Central Arkansas since 2004.
From 2006 to 2010, Hodge was editor of Harper’s Magazine, where he was originally hired as a fact-checker in 1996. Since leaving Harper’s, he has published a book, The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism (Harper, 2010), and has written for The Texas Monthly, The London Review of Books, Book Forum, and other publications. Hodge succeeds Marc Smirnoff, who founded the quarterly in Oxford, Miss., in 1962. Smirnoff was ousted by OA publisher, Warwick Sabin, this past July amid allegations of sexual harassment.
Via e-mail, The Chronicle asked Hodge about his plans for the magazine.
Q: What is your vision for the OA in coming years?
A. Since its founding The Oxford American has occupied a unique place in American letters. I plan to build on the OA’s tradition of literary excellence and to broaden its scope with more feature reporting. We’ll also devote more pages to fiction.
We have an extraordinary publisher in Warwick Sabin, a talented and devoted staff, and an amazingly supportive board of directors. All of which means that the magazine has never been in better shape. We also happen to have an extremely loyal readership. My job is to put out a great magazine.
Q: How will your experience editing Harper’s shape your leadership at the magazine?
A. How will it not? My whole approach to editing and writing was formed by my long collaboration with Lewis Lapham, Ben Metcalf, and other colleagues at Harper’s. Even so, the OA is a very different magazine, so don’t expect to see a Southern clone of Harper’s.
Q. Any plans for any special, themed issues?
A. The 2012 music issue, devoted to the music of Louisiana, will be published in December under the guest editorship of Alex Rawls. And we’re already planning for next year’s music issue.
Q: What do you see as the OA’s role in literary and intellectual life?
A. The Oxford American has been the champion of a Southern literary tradition in which names such as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, and Cormac McCarthy loom very large. But literature is not a museum; new writers emerge and the tradition evolves.
The OA differs from other American literary magazines in its focus on the South but in my view the OA need not insist too stridently on its Southern identity. The OA should be a forum devoted to the expression of Southern culture rather than a fanzine about the South.
Q: Are you working on a new book?
A. My current book project is a literary investigation of life in the Texas borderlands, loosely structured around my family’s migration from Tennessee into Texas, by way of Missouri, in the early to mid-19th century.
Q: Will you be relocating to Arkansas or commuting from New York?
A. My family is in no hurry to pull up stakes and leave Brooklyn, so yes I’ll be commuting back and forth. I’ll also be traveling all over the South. Next week I’ll be in New Orleans for a forum on the demise of the Times-Picayune, and next month I’ll be attending the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. Fortunately it is very easy these days to collaborate across great distances.