The Milan Review of the Universe

We talk to founder Tim Small about his semi-annual book of short stories and handmade artworks

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This beautiful new book of short stories and handmade artworks is the second issue of The Milan Review, a semi-annual literary journal based in Milan, Italy. Using the universe as a thematic launch pad, the book is divided into twelve Zodiac-inspired chapters, and combines fiction, drawings and paintings of many different genres and styles. Reading this book will almost definitely make you a better person. And it will make you laugh, too.

My dream is that a few years from now, when The Milan Review will have published enough books to fill a small bookshelf, that every book is completely different in size, shape and content, and they will all be books I can be proud of

The lit-mag is the product of a new independent Milanese publishing house, also called The Milan Review. It was founded by Tim Small, a brilliant, fast-talking, smiley guy with thick glasses who also works as head of content at Vice Italy, and as Vice’s global fiction editor, and his partner, Riccardo Trotta. To date they have only published the first two issues of the journal - the inaugural issue was entitled The Milan Review of Ghosts - but they have big plans for the future. Upcoming publications include a novella by Clancy Martin, an Italian translation of Johnny Ryan’s comic masterpiece Prison Pit and of CF's Powr Mastrs, a photo book edited by Jennilee Marigomen and another by Jerry Hsu, as well as art books, fiction, non-fiction, and lots of other fun stuff.

Dazed Digital: What is your main ambition as a publisher?
Tim Small: I want the Milan Review to reflect my taste: I like short stories, but I also like novels and comics and art and photography. My dream is that a few years from now, when The Milan Review will have published enough books to fill a small bookshelf, that every book is completely different in size, shape and content, and they will all be books I can be proud of.

DD: Even the The Milan Review of the Universe is hodgepodge in itself. Its content it quite diverse for a literary journal.
Tim Small: Yeah. Something I want The Milan Review to signify - if I’m not being too arrogant - is that if you’re interested in culture, then you shouldn’t just be interested in one ghetto of culture and exclude everything else. And I think that’s a problem within the fiction world, especially: it doesn’t communicate with other worlds as well as it should, or as well as it did in the past. In the pre-war and post-war eras, experimental fiction - or underground fiction or whatever you want to call it - went hand in hand with art. Writers, painters, poets and musicians all hung out. Now there’s these cliques - musicians hang with musicians, writers hang with writers, illustrators hang with illustrates - and they end up smelling their own farts.

DD: Do you read a lot of modern fiction?
Tim Small: I try to. I read a bit of everything. I feel the same way about writing as I do about women, or food: there are extremely sexy larger women with beautiful curves, and there are extremely sexy waifs. I like burgers as much as I like risotto with artichokes. I’m not the kind of guy who has “a type”. I like variety. I get bored quickly.

DD: Do you read books more than once?
Tim Small:  Sometimes. Short stories more often. There are stories by Donald Barthelme that I’ve read like forty times. I love that feeling you get when you finish a story - like a punch to the back of your head. If you read the same story again and that still happens, then you know it’s a great story.

DD: What are some of your favorite Barthelme stories?
Tim Small: The classics, like “The School”, "Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby”, “The Balloon”, "I Bought a Little City", "The Indian Uprising". The legend goes that “The Balloon” is the story that turned David Foster Wallace on to writing.

DD: I love his story “The Baby”, about the baby who tears pages out of books.
Tim Small: Right, and the dad locks her in her bedroom as punishment--the more pages torn the more hours inside--but it doesn’t work. And so the dad gives up and turns around completely. And it ends with this amazing line, where he says, “The baby and I sit happily on the floor, side by side, tearing pages out of books, and sometimes, just for fun, we go out on the street and smash a windshield together". I’m a big last line person.

DD: First lines are important too.
Tim Small: That’s true. There’s a story by Robert Lopez in The Milan Review of the Universe called “This Morning I Played Guitar Until I Bled”, and it has a great first line. It opens with: “The one thing I know about people is they don’t want you to bleed all over their things.”

DD: How true.
Tim Small: Followed by, “I learned this from my mother.”

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