Musings of a small press junkie
I was in New York over Christmas and New Years, generally trying to avoid participating in both events. Instead I bought a bunch of literary journals and here’s some of my favourites.
Gigantic – Issue 5 – Talk
A handsome mag based outta Brooklyn featuring (very) short fiction, art, and interview. The editorial statement describes the mag as an “alternative venue” and it certainly is an oddball little package, from the contributor bios (in which they each share their last three telephone conversations), the Gigantic Phone Directory (a list of numbers corresponding to complementary audio content), plus the oddness of the writing itself. The editors claim they “try to forget what we see or how we see it” and the green text and the scribblings in the margins will make your brain feel twisted and new. Brian Christian, author of The Most Human Human discusses artificial intelligence and the human impulse for art and conversation: “The text is just a middleman between two minds,” Christian says. “The arts will resist mechanization because humans will always want to know to be like other humans.”
Gigantic lays bare a cross section of human creativity.
The Believer – November/December 2013 – The Art Issue
(I lack a photo of this issue because I mailed it to my dad from the Greenpoint post office.)
The Believer is McSweeny’s super-cool baby with the most beautifully formatted interviews in the business. The annual art edition has a heavy focus on 9/11, vet art and its public role. In ‘Art Grende‘ Damaris Colhoun talks to two artists whose work expresses their military experiences: ex US Marine Ehren Tool makes and gives away clay cups decorated with symbols of war in an attempt to raise general awareness of war, to bring it into the consciousness of the general public. “War is so totally removed, totally separated,” Tool says.
I read this article the day after I caught my first look at One World Trade Centre whilst walking across the Williamsburg Bridge. It felt like I was hit with a well-cocked punch in the lungs when I saw that colossal tower in the Manhattan skyline. In that moment 9/11 was transformed from an abstract concept — too absurd, removed, separate to be a part of my world — into the utterly terrifying human tragedy that it is. Colhoun’s interview with Tool and guerrilla performance artist Jesse Albrecht — and further into the issue, the interview with artist and veteran Aaron Hughes — explores the role art can play in recording history, and in “bringing us as human beings in closer contact with the life”.
The first instalment of Lawrence Weschler’s column, ‘Pillow of Air‘ questions the 9/11 memorial and its resemblance to the Kaaba in Mecca, though it was Weschler’s introduction to his new column that struck me. He opens by unpacking that phrase, ‘Pillow of Air’: “[it’s] those moments of hushed astonishment when a pillow of air seems to lodge itself in your mouth and you suddenly notice that you haven’t taken a breathe in a good ten seconds. The sort of experience where you get lost to yourself and given over to the marvel of all creation (indeed, to everything but yourself).” Indeed, I read most of The Believer’s Art Issue in an empty carriage on a train to Coney Island and I didn’t realise until the train terminated and I got up from my seat that snow was falling outside the window.
Hazlitt – Issue 1
Hazlitt is Random House Canada’s flagship digital habitat, and this issue its inaugural print anthology, its “sampler of greatest hits.” Hazlitt “aspires to publish great writing on everything. Politics, art, the environment, film, music, law, business. Books and writers — their ideas, insights and stories — are at the heart of what we do, because books and writers are at the heart of culture, both high and low.”
There is no cohesion to be found here, but the colour design is incredibly elegant (a Meanjin kinda vibe) and there are loads of gems lurking between the covers.
Lynn Crosbie’s ‘Blood and Guts in Charm School’ is a bizarre and seductive piece in which Lindsay Lohan poses as protagonist. ‘Three Eulogies: Wendy O. Williams, Valerie Solanas and Cookie Mueller’ by Alexandra Molotkow reflects on the lives and tragic ends of the three women. Molotkow left this passage knocking about my headspace: “I like to think that moments are less important than memories — that when the best is over we’re left with something better, a fantasy our minds could animate for us as we ride out to brain death. Sadly, memories can rot, and maybe that’s worse than death. The present is a spine that orders the past and the future; when it shifts, everything does. Suicide is a way of preserving the past you’d like to have lived.”
The Common – Issue 6
A beautiful Masachussets-based journal of stories, essay, poetry, and image with a preoccupation with place, and finding the extraordinary in the common. Sounds tired, yeh, but the writing is not. The journal’s masthead states The Common is “simply, the feeling of being transported, of “being there”” and what results is a completely seductive collection. The essays in Issue 6 embody this simple philosophy in the clearest, most rewarding way. Benjaman Anastas transports the reader to Boston, 1985: listen and you can hear the Roland Juno-6 synthesiser stuttering beneath the sentences and the elegant nostalgia for a teenage dream.
Rowan Moore Gerety writes from the tiny French island Réunion, east of Madagascar. He throws the reader into the ramshackle shanty of his pot-smoking friend-of-a-friend. The story unfolds with the hints of Serge-the-pot-smoker’s criminal involvement, and the narrator’s eye for human behaviour, his ability to articulate but not understand, is near-exquisite.
“It was hard to take Serge’s claims at face value. To me, his whole universe had an air of fiction about it. There were aspects of Serge that I simply could not fathom – habits as ancient and well formed as rock formations by the side of the highway. This, I think, is how I wanted to see his enthusiasm for firearms: I wanted his quirks to be fictional in the sense that fiction is negotiable. Fictional characters are subject to a reader’s powers of interpretation, and with a mixture of arrogance and naiveté, I somehow believed that I could read Serge out of his bizarre convictions. If I could reason with him, probe his character deeply enough, I thought I’d find that Serge was different from the lines he delivered, that his internal plot could be re-written.”
I read most of The Common on buses navigating mountain roads, on stools at hostels as other girls in small shorts moved round me, and somehow I felt incredibly still.