More numerous than ever, and less consequential--that's the first conclusion to emerge, perversely, from this latest self-scrutiny by the little magazines, a behemoth that loosely updates Frederick Hoffman's The Little Magazine of 1946. Everyone, it appears, thinks that too much is being published--and few think there's much worth publishing. Internecine squabbling over government grants has wrecked the apparatus set up to distribute them. The independent littles resent/dismiss the fat university-supported quarterlies; the evanescent little-littles disdain the established biggies, like Partisan Review and Hudson Review. Robie Macauley, who went from Kenyon Review (now defunct) to Playboy, wonders if the quarterlies haven't been outmoded as developers of new talent by ""the quicker receptivity of the commercial press."" Reed Whittemore, once of Furioso (1939-52), sees the present generation as not only self-involved but isolated and directionless: ""determined to stay in the woods and like it."" But before deciding that the movement is living on spiritual capital and government largesse, read Whittemore's own funny, wistful recollections of postwar life with Furioso, ""a magazine oddly dedicated to incapacity."" Or Jack Conroy, champion of midwest proletarian literature. Or James Boatwright, editor--still--of Shenandoah, based at Washington and Lee, in a bemused account of beating the academic system. Or Peter Michelson's discovery of grandfather Max--furrier, poet, ""incurable paranoid schizophrenic""--in the pages of Poetry magazine. True, there are too many, and especially too many that go on too long, with an issue-by-issue recital of authors published and coups scored. But notice how often Ezra Pound answers a blind query with a nutty postcard and a contribution; how often regular-contributor William Carlos Williams expresses appreciation. See how certain careers, like poet Louis Zukofsky's, subsist on the attention of the little mags; how several, interlinked in the Fifties and Sixties--Origin, Black Mountain Review, Neon, Yugen, Kulchur--form a mini-movement. Consider that, as Peter Michelson writes, the vitality of a small magazine may depend on a short life span. And that all it requires is a ""community of writers,"" bent on publishing together, to start one. Take in, too, the annotated bibliography of 84 that have come and--mostly--gone since 1950; and take hope.