This interview with Jeffrey Wasserstrom, academic editor of the new LARB China Channel and former editor of the China Blog at BLARB, focuses on his plans for the China Channel’s future, and how the channel came into being.
TOM LUTZ: You co-edited a China Blog for BLARB for a few years, but now are serving as one of two Academic Editors for our new China Channel. How did that shift happen and why?
JEFFREY WASSERSTROM: Well, someone, actually you, kept suggesting that a China Channel would be a great addition to the constellation of online publications under the LARB umbrella. I kept saying that sounded like too much work, unless there could be funding for a team of editors, and that there were already a lot of good online China-related publications out there. You kept saying it could be fun, that surely money could be found somewhere, and that there was space for a China-related venture that was different from things already extant. I kept saying no, but you can be relentless. Eventually, as you know, we cooked up a plan to go in for Luce Foundation start-up funds, and some great people agreed to join an expanded editorial team, including three who would play leading roles (Alec, Anne, and Nick), and here we are.
That really doesn’t sound like how it happened, especially the role you ascribe to me…
Actually, I’ve fact-checked my memory: I described things the way I just did at a recent LARB staff meeting that you couldn’t attend and several people in the room nodded along. No one said “that sounds like Tom’s M.O.,” but I got the sense that was what several were thinking.
Okay, it does sound like my M.O. … That aside, what exactly will be — well, already is — different about the China Channel?
It’s different from the old China Blog in that it is publishing multiple posts a week, rather than just one, and more varied material, due partly to having a more varied staff. What sets it apart from the other equally or in some cases even more robust online ventures with a China focus, some of which I rate very highly and read regularly, is trickier to describe. We pay more attention to language and literature than some, and we run more playful content than others. We are also determined, as some of them are, to define the subject broadly in geographical and other terms, making room for pieces on the Chinese diaspora, discussions of texts produced in or about Taiwan, you name it.
And what else do you think the future might hold?
Thinking broadly, it would be fun to see channels devoted to other parts of Asia pop up, so we’d have a little continental constellation in the LARB universe. Thinking narrowly, the Luce Foundation grant we got just provides one year of start up funding, and while UCI’s Long Institute has generously come in with some additional support, to make this work long term, we will need more money from somewhere. For now, though, it has just been fun to see how, especially due to the efforts of the core trio of editors, things have begun taking off.