One reason I started Maisonneuve is because I want, at some point in this short life, to interview Juliette Binoche. My wife understands this, and has even generously offered to fly to France to conduct research on my behalf. What a woman.
Another purpose of Maisonneuve is to dissolve artistic borders between regions, countries, languages, and genres. We depend too heavily on newspapers and city weeklies to bring us news of the arts. 700 idly-opinionated words upon the bright surface of culture is just not good enough. With the world’s publishers courting their editors, the Big Three—Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Atlantic—are in the business of crowning winners, not beating a new path around the palace. New artists have a Huguenot’s chance in hell of landing on their pages. There is need for another venue, one that considers unestablished excellence a lot more seriously.
Why Maisonneuve? We considered other names: Plateau, Chemise, Canamericada, Zinc, Crépuscule, Stockyard Channing, Nabob, The Bounder, Peeknuckle, Greasy Urn, Chat Bizarre, Slush, Sludge, Sleet, Snow, The Golden Vulture, Quicklime, Meta-4, Prosthetic Hip, New Puritan Review, Pistachio Review, Hochelaga, Trireme . . . none of them had all the historic, geographic, and metaphoric meanings that come together under our chosen title.
The historic figure of Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve, exemplifies in many ways what this magazine is about. In 1642, at the behest of a small group of pious Jesuits, he founded a precarious colony far upstream from the established settlement and wise counsel of the governor at Quebec City. Maisonneuve was probably as virtuous a man of action as there could be—decisive, independent of his superiors, often terse in his opinions, yet generous and friendly with his fellow colonists, someone who could protect his people without feeling the need to annihilate his enemies. And, of course, a man of his time, completely wrong about the spiritual needs of Mohawk, Huron and Algonquin.
Which raises the issue of being wrong. Maisonneuve will dare to be massively wrong about who it does and does not publish. Failure is the best way to learn what we as human beings are made of. This magazine hopes to foster debate among competing aesthetics over the definition of excellence in the arts: there will be panels, substantial conversations, and essays and reviews that are intelligent, fair, and brave. If you send us work, please take note: we will reply honestly. Other magazines and reading services charge high fees for the benefit of their opinion: we will provide as much for free. We think our subjects and submitters—who we also hope will be subscribers—can take any criticism we can mete out. If we peg you wrong, write back! We will publish the best of these exchanges. Real debate only occurs in an environment where people are asked to say what they really think. Energy is a combustible commodity, hard to control, but we’re going to instil a spirit of intellectual, artistic and emotional energy within these pages, whatever the mess. If Maisonneuve fails, it will not be through indifference.
I’d like to thank playwright David Fennario for letting us name our opening section Balconville. We hope this section will become a place from which talk of the sad, the weird, and the wonderful runs across balconies, as it does in his unforgettable play. Thanks go to many others, in particular associate editors Carmine Starnino and Linda Leith, Olga Stein (editor of Books in Canada) and Joanne Larocque-Poirier of the Canada Council. Without their crucial input and timely encouragement, this issue would certainly not be in front of you now.
p.s.—This web site contains a selection of pieces from the print edition, as well as new work exclusively on-line. Future issues will include video art, audio files of readings, and a trainload of reviews across the arts. Beginning with issue 2, you will also be able to subscribe by credit card without being overwhelmed by flying monkeys.