Dazed's ultimate guide to US creativity
The literary magazine is an artistic institution in flux. Stalwart journals once known for challenging convention and pushing boundaries have become the status quo they used to rail against; the rise of online reading has changed not only the way we consume literature but also the way we write it, but too often does an old-school editor turn up his nose at interesting, important work because it doesn’t adhere to standards now inapplicable, misguided or out of touch. The closest these old-guard publications get to the cutting edge is by writing about the people on it. (Okay, we realize this might be veering into dangerous territory – we, too, are writing about literature’s new and now – but we can’t help but feel we’re a bit different.) While the Internet has by no means rendered the magazine – in either physical or digital form – obsolete, it has changed the way people understand both what it is and what’s inside, and some publications are riposting with innovations of their own.
Self-aware, unafraid, and experimental without being gratuitously so (or taking itself too seriously), Hobart is an advocate of alt lit and a tireless publisher of contemporary voices in fiction, poetry, and the essay. The journal’s annual set of baseball content is about as American as it gets, but while many mags would get sickeningly red-white-and-blue about it, Hobart’s take draws out the dark side of America’s pastime, with pieces that are as much about resentment, irreverence, and ambivalence as they are the more obvious baseball-y themes.
Printing in black-and-white isn’t exactly what anyone would call cutting edge, but the Philadelphia-based Gigantic Sequins somehow makes what would ordinarily seem like dull nostalgia feel fresh. The bi-annual magazine manages to be striking without the slick look of production, and the work inside is always new in a way that feels comfortable, each issue a natural progression into the future of publishing.
Founded in 2012, the bi-annual The Atlas Review calls Brooklyn home, and although its ethos feels rooted in New York, it’s the perspective of a New York that knows the world doesn’t revolve around it. The (beautiful) magazine’s first issues featured interviews with Sheila Heti and Etgar Keret, and contributors have included intelligently edgy up-and-comers like Chelsea Hodson and Catherine Lacey.
Sex! And, like, some other stuff, but mainly: sex!
More out of Brooklyn, but it’s OK: the magazine’s list of contributors is impressively international. After a 2013 hiatus, the journal dropped its fourth issue featuring a formal breadth that went from erasure to collage to short fiction to scratchboard illustrations of the contributors, as well as a diversity of translations.
While certain literary scenes eschew (or more accurately claim, loudly, to eschew) all endeavors that fall under the vague umbrella of “marketing,” the editors at Paper Darts embrace the inevitability of branding through the magazine’s creative consultancy. Still, with new fiction, poetry, essays, and miscellany almost daily – and always accompanied by original (and indeed often bizarre) artwork with a voice as strong as the writing – the online magazine – which started as a zine the editors stitched together in their living rooms – is not to be scoffed at by those aforementioned literary scenes; the work in it is some of the sharpest and most innovative around.
Many magazines boast that they publish “emerging” writers alongside established ones, but Slice’s approach is somehow different. Each of their issues has a theme that unites what may have previously seemed like disparate or unconnected voices, but even un-themed work seems to have a cohesion that, we guess, can only be chalked up to being really good.
Stephen Tully Dierks is a generous champion of his friends and fellow alt lit writers, and he brings that spread-the-love spirit to the magazine he edits. Published earlier this month, Issue 5 features characteristically quixotic cover art by Tao Lin and work from Dazed contributor Crispin Best, as well as other names, both American and international, you’ll recognize: Steve Roggenbuck, Ana Carrete, Guillaume Morissette, Chelsea Martin, Mike Bushnell, etc.
Atlanta’s awesome indie press Publishing Genius (formerly of Baltimore) has an online literary magazine, and its Monday-Friday content hits every possible point along the prose-to-poetry spectrum. With a different editor every month (except some months), they’ve published what feels like everyone even vaguely associated with the alt lit scene – the press’ sprawling list of writers, employees, and friends definitely included – and the community surrounding the little indie empire feels less like a publishing house and more like a party…though the work’s not slacking at all.
With a seven-point manifesto that goes:
1) Language as Act
2) Alternative venue
3) An object no more permanent
Gigantic’s brand of “short prose, interviews, and art” is one we can really get behind. Call it experimental, call it the vanguard, call it alternative, call it it: Gigantic is doing something truly original, and looking great while it’s at it.
Follow Lauren Oyler on Twitter here @laurenoyler
Read more from the State of Literature