I suppose when I think of people starting a literary magazine I think of it with a certain solemnity, such as for the exposition of a certain literary theory, or to give audience to a certain philosophy, or for other more esoteric reasons. Extensions started a bit differently.
It was the late sixties. Joachim Neugroschel (who, alas, died in 2011) was a noted translator; I was the managing editor of Pocket Books. We were sitting around one day talking when one of us, and I have no idea who, said, “Want to start a literary magazine?” and the other replied, “Sure.” And that was the philosophical ground from which Extensions was born.
Extensions 7 (1971). Cover image by Arakawa.
Totally different as people, we worked pretty well as a team. The ground rule that was laid down was that no work was accepted unless we both agreed. That worked out well since at the extreme of Joachim’s taste were things that were superficial and coy; at the extreme of mine, work that was conventional and banal. So all that was blocked. The real principles were that work should be adventurous and that we wanted to mix up all mediums: using musical scores as illustrative material; showing the metamorphosis of a symbol over time as a visual essay—basically, giving a venue to the experimental. The name we gave it was from Marshall McLuhan’s 1964 book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Although looking back, I think maybe the primary aim was for us to be able to read more work by writers we liked.
The division of work was perfect—Joachim loved going to readings, parties, events, so he met many new writers that way who he could solicit work from. I preferred to stay home and read, so i wrote people I came across whose work I liked and asked for work for the magazine. Since Joachim was a trilingual translator, he found all kinds of European work that had never been published in English that he could translate for us. Like a small catalogue for a Dubuffet exhibition that Dubuffet gave us to publish, along with photos of sculpture that we used for our front and back covers.
Extensions 8 (1974). Cover image by Aloísio Magalhães.
We paid for the magazine out of our pockets and through subscriptions and the occasional grant. And I corralled a couple of talented designers from Pocket Books to design and lay out the magazine. We used the Print Center for printing—since it was set up for that purpose, it was a cheap way to do it. In the beginning we took it around to Manhattan bookstores and left copies on consignment. Then later we got a distributor through my connections at Pocket Books. Strange as it seems, my connections through a big mass-market publisher were useful in various ways to a small experimental magazine!
I don’t think we ever talked about ending it, I think we just drifted out of it the same way we drifted in. It went along and then it stopped. We were proud of it, though.
— Suzanne Ostro (Zavrian), New York City, January 2017