With FREEMAN’S, John Freeman Sets a New Standard for Literary Journals


FREEMAN’S, the new biannual literary journal edited by former GRANTA editor, John Freeman, is an ambitious publication. The debut issue (which premieres this October) is over 320 pages long, and features established writers such as Lydia Davis, Tahmima Anam, Haruki Murakami, Etgar Keret, Laura van den Berg, Aleksander Hemon, and more. Published through Grove Atlantic Press, each issue is bound like a keepsake.

In his eloquent forward, editor John Freeman marks the tone for the debut issue of his titular biannual literary magazine. He tells the tale of a rocky airplane ride with his mother, that singular golden chemical rush of anxiety, hope, and fear blending together in the bloodstream and tickling the brain, and the ephemera of life. It should come as no surprise that following this savory introduction, we make a descent into a fecund land of beautiful stories, ripe with passages that cling to the brain and linger there for days.

Some notable stories from the FREEMAN’S debut include:

Richly layered, “Drive My Car” is Haruki Murakami at his best. Centering on the unique relationship between the stoic Misaki and everyman Kafuku, Murakami plumbs the depths of blind spots in relationships. Following a car accident and a recent diagnosis of glaucoma in his right eye, Kafuku, an aging actor, employs the “homely” Misaki as his driver. Misaki and Kafuku’s dead wife are paramount Murakami women. Kafuku’s wife acts as a talisman, a Laura Palmer-esque character full of mysteries. What drives the story is the climax, when Kafuku opens up to Misaki about his wife’s affair with fellow actor, Takatsuki. “Drive My Car” is a verifiable pillar to the FREEMAN’S debut issue.

“In Search of Space Lost” by Aleksander Hemon, is a bittersweet essay of his parents’ diaspora. Relegated to Hamilton, Ontario (a small steel mill town and the birthplace of Spelling Bee champion, Veronica Penny), Hemon recounts the tales of their days as the tenants of an apartment complex and eventual move to Canadian suburbia. Hemon’s essay is rife with humorous anecdotes, including (but not limited to) his father’s battle with raccoons. Most importantly, and most eloquently, Hemon examines the importance of making one’s space their own, even if it includes buckets of honey and old Jane Fonda photographs.

Etgar Keret’s “Mellow” is rife with his signature wit. Keret recounts getting stoned with his driver on the way to his first paid reading. Blazed out of his mind, Keret indulges in a piece of cheesecake, schucks the book he was supposed to read from, and goes on a weed-induced diatribe for three hours.

“Garments”, by Tahmima Anam is a poignant and heart-wrenching short story about Jesmin, a woman struggling to make ends meet working at a factory in the third world. When she is offered a marriage proposal she leaps at the chance, hoping for transformation, only to discover a wealth of unhappiness and a rocky life ahead.

FREEMAN’S sets a new standard for literary journals. It’s a welcome addition to the ever-growing roster of publications out there today. It’s refreshing and full of nuanced stories that will linger with you long after you finish them. I can’t wait to see how this publication takes off.

4/5 Stars 

Edited by John Freeman
320 pages 
Grove Atlantic Press 
October 2015