What is Hazlitt?
Hazlitt is Random House of Canada’s new flagship digital habitat, a general interest magazine that examines culture and current affairs using books as the fulcrum. We’re inspired not only by books, but by the process of reading—by those epiphanies and moments of indignation, the conversational impulse that reading stokes in us. Think of it as marginalia with a mind of its own. We believe that everyone should read a lot and not be boring.
Okay, but what does the name mean? What the hell is a Hazlitt?
Englishman William Hazlitt was a nineteenth-century journalist, critic, and essayist. He lived in tumultuous, fast-changing times, marked by the French Revolution, the musical innovations of Beethoven, and the first steam locomotive—times not so unlike the uncertain world we live in today.
Hazlitt was staunchly independent. It’s said he kept bad habits (ill-advised romances, shirking his rent, a fondness for prostitutes) and had a difficult character. He’s been described as obsessive, unconventional, gloomy, and tactless in social situations; his outspokenness and liberal beliefs earned him enemies in the Tory establishment, and their attacks often made it difficult for him to earn a living. His interests as a writer were wide-ranging. Arguing that the imagination, not reason, is what makes it possible for us to sympathize with others, he wrote vociferously against the utilitarian and rationalist philosophies used to justify the slave trade. Meanwhile, he was criticized for writing about “low-subjects” such as boxing.
Though he is now almost entirely out of print, you can draw a direct line from Hazlitt’s writings to those of George Orwell, Lionel Trilling, Susan Sontag, J.M. Coetzee, Mark Kingwell, and Christopher Hitchens. Inspired by the French essayist Michel de Montagine, Hazlitt wrote a series of essays called “Table Talk” that combined the conversational with what was then the more conventionally literary. In them he replaced the personal "I" with the editorial "we." So you might call him the original blogger.
Why are you doing this?
Now more than ever it’s important to consider how books intersect with the rest of culture—politics, art, film, ideas. To make authors part of the daily conversation, to put their ideas in dialogue with the world as it happens. In a way, Hazlitt is founded on an old model of publishing—the publisher as trader in ideas. As more people read books electronically, and the entire cultural landscape shifts with the emergence of new media formats, it’s important publishers seize opportunities for innovation. As such, we also think of Hazlitt as a platform for experimenting with new forms of digital storytelling, from films and podcasts, to video games and apps.
Do you publish only Random House authors?
No. We sometimes publish Random House authors, and talk about Random House books, or use them as the starting point for conversations, but we publish a lot of other writers, too, and reference other publishers’ books—as well as producing features and blog posts on just about anything that interests us.
How often do you publish?
We aspire to publish every day. Though we may take the occasional weekend off.
Can I contribute?
Until we get settled, we are not making an open call for freelance submissions. But we will, soon enough.
What are Hazlitt Originals?
Hazlitt Originals is our new series of commissioned e-books, of varying length and subject matter, for sale at a very reasonable price, featuring both established and emerging authors from around the world. From investigative journalism and fiction, to travelogues, polemics, and interactive tablet creations, Hazlitt Originals aspire to push the boundaries of story form.