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theNewerYork Book III

Being more alarming feels good.

09/13/14

theNewerYork is more than just a literary magazine, it’s an aesthetic. Chuck Young, Joshua S. Raab, and the other editors are focused on exploring “new and forgotten literary forms”, and from Raab’s erasure-style letter from the editor onward, this aim is truly the focus of the magazine in full. The theme of Book III is time, which Raab elaborates upon in his afterword: “This book shows you that quick can also be deep, for it is the quality of time, not the length, that brings meaning to life.” Most of these pieces fit on one spread-open page of the book or less. Most are, yes, a quick read, but some are funny, some dark, some nonsensical, some profound.

I read Book III in one sitting, turning each page in sequence until I reached the back cover. I like reading literary magazines this way. Some other magazines I have recently enjoyed reading from cover to cover are Illuminati Girl Gang, Plain Wrap Press’s new online journal, Quarter, and a New Zealand-based journal called Potroast. I don’t like to skip around in a lit mag. Being an editor myself, I know a good deal of effort can go into selecting the order of the pieces included in the issue, and for me, to only pick and choose pieces that look pleasing to me or happen to be written by names I am familiar with would be incautious. I think Joshua S. Raab might agree with my style of reading. At the start, Raab’s letter from the editor instructs, “Read slowly to avoid complications, read entirely. You won’t like some of this work. This is intended; enjoy the various ghosts that can inhabit your thoughts.”

While I didn’t really dislike any of the pieces in Book III, several made me feel all tingly inside (which, for me, is a mark of greatness). Gideon Nachman’s “Unheralded Monsters” (made all the much more exciting by Nils Davey’s Monster illustrations) provides descriptions, hobbies, and fears of five lesser-known monsters, all created by the attendants of a make-your-own-monster themed eighth birthday party. These monsters are beautiful and strange, and they each reveal a lot about the character who created them in a very small space.

Charles Holdefer’s “The Amazing Sticking Quarter” outlines a gruesome magic trick that involves championing the insertion of a screw directly into the magician/reader’s forehead. Divided into subsections and including a figure, Holdefer’s story is essentially made up of a set of instructions, and the beauty of this piece is that you feel you are simultaneously reading about how to put together a desk from Ikea and also peering directly into the very dark soul of one single human.

One of the most exciting aspects of Book III is its inclusion of artwork, some of which is in full color, some of which are printed on different paper qualities. Some of the art is used to illustrate stories, while others stand alone. The list of artists included in the back is as long as the list of writers. A higher percentage of the artwork than the written stories gave me the tingly feeling, “Proverbs 10:22” by Stephen Lipman in particular, which used conté crayon and ink to create new meaning from a biblical passage.

While a few of the stories in theNewerYork’s Book III look like traditional stories, most are more like “Unheralded Monsters” and “The Amazing Sticking Quarter,” in that they play, physically, with the constraints of the page and work to radically manipulate them to achieve new things within the traditional format of a literary magazine (two covers, paper pages each with equal dimensions). But what is contained within Book III cannot be guessed at by its packaging. Though these writers’ formatting decisions might appear out of place in a more traditional journal, Raab and Young’s selection process sets traditionally formatted prose as the outlier, while giving the majority of the space to unexpected forms.

If for no other reason, pick up a copy of Book III because it feels good. Matte covers feel good on your fingers. Full color illustrations feel good in your eyes. Physically turning a book upside-down in order to read a story feels good. Being more alarming feels good.

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