In spite of all the popular misconceptions, writers do seem to have one characteristic in common--they are individualists. This was borne out in an advanced writing class last Fall, when one Radcliffe member pulled out a huge pipe from her handbag, piled it high with aromatic tobacco, and started smoking with all the guest of an old salt. The ten male writers sitting around the table were left gaping for only a second; from then on they refused to blink, and so the class ended happily.
The College literary magazines have also noticed this individuality, but they have an occasion blinked, and sometime even wept. They find that the better short-story artists around here just won't turn in their stuff to be printed, preferring to assail the most invincible national markets. The quality of the magazines goes down, subscribers and prestige begin to dwindle, and still fewer writers care to contribute. And all because of individualism.
The Advocate, with a long history and plenty of contacts, has on occasion broken the vicious circle in its issues since the war. But Signature, now conducting a forum on "What is Wrong or Right with College Writing," has not been so fortunate. Believing at least partly that the reason they receive little good writing is that little is written, the editors prefer to set their hopes for succession drives for subscribers, when the main drive should be for contributors.
With the one exception of the last number of the Advocate, the standard of the fiction in the two magazines is far below that of much of the material written for the College's advanced composition courses. The magazines, which exist as an outlet for student writing, are crying for the good material that is left to languish on a shelf or on the desk of some New Yorker secretary. Student readers and editors both suffer; while every literary hopeful is losing a unique chance to publish and be read, even if only by a small following.