What You Love Is Your Fate: Wendy Lesser '73 celebrates 30 years of The Threepenny Review

by Alicia Anstead

When Wendy Lesser was living at Dunster House in the early 1970s, she had yet to discover her calling as an editor and publisher. That came nearly 10 years later, when she nudged her way into the offices of the San Francisco Review of Books and proposed a gig as guest editor. She was, as she writes in her book "The Amateur," a "twenty-seven-year-old know-nothing." But she got the gig, and she got the bug. Within a year, Lesser launched The Threepenny Review, a literary magazine that gathered momentum quickly because of an almost instant pool of impressive writers, including Gore Vidal, John Berger, Paul Bowles and Robert Coles."I started it because at the time there seemed to be an absence in the Bay Area of a magazine that lived up to its high writer/reader standards -- and also to give myself something to do," Lesser says.In the process, she gave writers and readers something to do, too: think about literature and the arts on a deep and probing level.Flash forward 30 years. On March 16, Lesser, who is also a novelist, critic and teacher, gathered a stellar group of regular Threepenny contributors at Boston University to mark three decades of literary shine. Frank Bidart, David Ferry, Louise Gluck, Jill McDonough and Robert Pinsky read from their work during an evening that celebrated both the written word and Lesser's considerable achievement with her quarterly magazine, which has a circulation of 8,000. "This may be the best poetry reading I've ever been to," said Pinsky, former U.S. Poet Laureate.Is it possible that Threepenny's origins date back to Dunster in the '70s when Lesser was honing her skills as a reader and writer, and covering the arts for The Crimson? Yes, yes, very possible. See how Lesser puts it in the following video. Take the time, too, to listen to Frank Bidart reading his poem "Guilty of Dust.""What you love," he assures, "is your fate." [http://www.youtube.com/v/hnifchircnA&hl=en_US&fs=1&] Frank Bidart [http://www.youtube.com/v/oxwZdCRV4QM&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

[Caption: Wendy Lesser '73]