Perhaps the vehemence of the response suggests just what an exception this piece was to Rain Taxi's typical fare. The journal does indeed publish negative reviews, but it does so sparingly, and none are outright diatribes. The journal is not argumentative in tone. As Lorberer explains, "The reason that the majority of the reviews are positive is that the process of selection itself is an aspect of reviewing--we're trying to select the best of the best. My hope is that the reviews are substantive, and that they're not just cheering the writer on."
Rawson agrees. "There are so few avenues in the reviewing press for praise for books from small presses, independent presses, it's hardly worth wasting space on books nobody should be reading anyway."
Yet not everyone believes that treating lesser-known works with kid gloves does the literary scene any favors. In a trenchant (and characteristically bombastic) broadside on his Web site www.cosmoetica.com, local gadfly and poet Dan Schneider argues that Rain Taxi's "puff pieces" ultimately add up to nothing more than a "magalog." "These 'supposed' journals," Schneider writes, "have become--in effect--mere book catalogs. They give title, author, publisher, price, a rosy review, and sometimes even ordering/contact information."
Many of the contributors to Rain Taxi are either published or prospective poets or writers of fiction, and this may inform the occasional gingerly handling of others' work. The right of a particular book to exist--or the value in its existence--is rarely questioned. A Rain Taxi review doesn't argue.
A journal reflects the tone of its editor, and like Lorberer himself, these reviews are sure in their presentation of the facts--not smug, but so assured they feel no need to protest. Which raises the question of whether it is possible to have a dialogue when both sides agree. After all, when we imagine Rawson's evocation of "writers in another time and another place," staying awake long into the night, we imagine them arguing. Surely a literary community could be created from vigorous dissent, no?
Don't ask me. I'm not about to risk my livelihood on that assumption. Eric Lorberer, however, relies on his ethos for groceries and the mortgage. And it's a belief he's been laboring to disseminate just about anywhere people discuss contemporary literature. Which is why Lorberer doesn't have to make an argument for his editorial position. Until Lorberer gives up or the money runs out, his vision will continue shipping four times a year.