About Ontario Review
Raymond J. Smith
Joyce Carol Oates
Founded in 1974, Ontario Review was one of the longest-lived literary journals. Conceived of as a North American Journal of the Arts, it was intended to bridge what Joyce and I, Americans teaching in Canada at the time, felt to be a widening gap between the two literary/artistic cultures. We tried to do this by publishing writers and artists from both countries, as well as essays and reviews of an intercultural nature. When we moved to Princeton, we put less emphasis on the intercultural role of the journal, though we still published many Canadians, from Margaret Atwood to Tom Wayman.
Literary journals like Epoch, Kenyon Review, and Southern Review were of great importance in nourishing Joyce's incipient career as an author in the sixties, and she and I have always seen the nurturing role as a function of our journal. Over the years, many young writers have had their first published story or poem appear in Ontario Review. Some of them, like Pinckney Benedict and Reginald Gibbons, have gone on to distinguished literary careers.
Ontario Review published original fiction, poetry, personal essays, drama, photographs, graphics, and interviews with prominent contemporary authors. Each issue was a blend of older, more established writers with promising younger ones. Stories and poems appearing in the Review were regularly chosen for national anthologies of the best fiction and poetry published each year. "Given the small number of stories it publishes, Ontario Review has one of the highest batting averages for prize-winning fiction in the field," observed DeWitt Henry in Wilson Library Bulletin.
Over the past two and a half decades we have featured over 450 different poets, writers, translators, reviewers, artists, and photographers. Among them are Alice Adams, Jane Anderson, Margaret Atwood, Russell Banks, Donald Barthelme, Saul Bellow, Pinckney Benedict, Earle Birney, Joseph Brodsky, Hayden Carruth, Raymond Carver, Annie Dillard, Rita Dove, Margaret Drabble, Stuart Dybek, Carlos Fuentes, Tess Gallagher, Albert Goldbarth, Nadine Gordimer, Eaman Grennan, Donald Hall, William Heyen, Ted Hughes, Josephine Jacobsen, Jill Krementz, Maxine Kumin, Irving Layton, Doris Lessing, Alistair MacLeod, W. S. Merwin, Mary Morris, Barry Moser, Gloria Naylor, Joyce Carol Oates, Alicia Ostriker, Jay Parini, Stanley Plumly, Reynolds Price, Ned Rorem, Philip Roth, Dave Smith, Gary Soto, Elizabeth Spencer, William Stafford, Mark Strand, Deborah Tannen, Melanie Rae Thon, Chase Twichell, John Updike, David Wagoner, Robert Penn Warren, Tom Wayman, Theodore Weiss, C. K. Williams, and Charles Wright.
About Ontario Review Books
"The Ontario Review Press, of Princeton, N.J., calls up memories of Leonard and Virginia Woolf's Hogarth Press in London, though on a smaller scale. For the editor is Raymond J. Smith, and the associate editor, his wife, is better known as Joyce Carol Oates."
—Herbert Mitgang, New York Times Book Review,
Oct. 5, 1980
Since 1980, when we published our first list, we have brought out some fifty books, many in both hardcover and paperback editions, from poetry collections by Albert Goldbarth and Chase Twichell to critical anthologies devoted to the work of E. L. Doctorow and Joan Didion. Our publications include a number of anthologies, most notably The Generation of 2000: Contemporary American Poets, edited by William Heyen; First Person Singular: Writers on Their Craft, edited by Joyce Carol Oates; and You Don't Know What Love Is: Contemporary American Stories, edited by Ron Hansen. The Letters of Delmore Schwartz, edited by Robert Phillips, appeared in 1984, and The Table Talk of W.H. Auden by Alan Ansen in 1990. Our strongest department is fiction, with an emphasis on first collections of short stories, including titles by Pinckney Benedict, Greg Johnson, and Janice Daugharty.
Ontario Review Books was a natural, if not inevitable, offshoot of the magazine. Many of the books we have published are by authors whose work first appeared in Ontario Review, some of them, like Pinckney Benedict and Jeanne Schinto, discoveries of ours. We published first books by them and many other fiction writers and poets, over the years, from Annette Williams Jaffee's widely acclaimed novel Adult Education (1981) to Jeanne Wilmot's Dirt Angel (1997). Tied in with our interest in publishing first books by previously unknown authors, has been our aim to introduce to an American audience writers from Canada and overseas that we feel are particularly provocative. Among them are the Irish poet Eavan Boland, the Swedish fiction writer Margareta Ekstrom, and the Canadians Tom Wayman and Alistair MacLeod, the latter hailed by Robert Stone, as "one of North America's masters of the short story."
The Ontario Review, Inc. acquired the reputation of being "small but select" as The New York Times put it in a "Book Note" by Edwin McDowell in 1990, the tenth anniversary of Ontario Review Books:
The The Ontario Review, Inc. publishes only three to four books a year, but one of them—On the Island, by Josephine Jacobsen—was nominated earlier this month for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. When Claude Simon of France won the 1985 Nobel Prize in Literature, his novel The World About Us was available in the United States only from the The Ontario Review, Inc. Another book from the publishing house, Letters of Delmore Schwartz, edited by Robert Phillips, was reviewed on the front page of The New York Times Book Review in 1984. And next month the The Ontario Review, Inc. will reprint Expensive People, the third of Joyce Carol Oates's 20 novels.