Armchair / Shotgun, a journal of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry edited in Brooklyn, is, as the masthead states, “published occasionally, and for good reason.”
They do not lie. Issue No. 2 appeared recently and, in addition to literary work, it features a stunning selection of color photos by LA photographer Cory Schubert. Mostly shots of Los Angeles architecture, both melancholy and kitschy, the photos are drenched in blue and white, ochre and orange, are nearly devoid of humans, and together create a landscape, in Schubert’s own words, “timeless in the wash of the California Sun." There’s also a spread of photos in an archaeological vein by visual artist Sono Osato.
It should be said that the art doesn’t stop at these two photo spreads, however. Each new section of poetry or fiction is introduced by a black and white reproduction of something like a real estate plan or topographical chart. Altogether, Armchair / Shotgun is beautifully laid out and printed, a bold statement in this twilight time of print.
“The Kill Sign,” a story by Marvin Shackelford, is a weird riot about a guy named John Peters, whose dog Roscoe offends the neighbor, Angel van Gogh, by constantly humping her dog. Angel, fetching in her bad-toothed way, becomes a suspect when Roscue turnes up having ingested antifreeze. As John opines, “It’s sweet so you can bet he ate a lot.” While poor Roscoe’s fate remains uncertain, John gets his revenge and then some. An oddly delightful tale for when you’re feeling used.
Through a series of sharply etched conversations, Armchair’s editor Kevin Dugan creates a kind of living CV profile of novelist Jesse Ball, writer of the novels Samedi the Deafness, The Way Through Doors, and most recently, The Curfew. It’s a great full piece about a writer still in the early years of his career. Dugan grounds the piece with ruminations on Ball’s influences, including Kafka (“I actually find him really funny. I would be riding the subway reading The Castle, and I’d miss my stop because I’d be laughing and laughing”) and Hawthorne (“I like Hawthorne. He also has a delight in words”).
The poetry has a delight in words, too. Alanna Bailey must have been tickled pink when the journal accepted her poems: they are her first to be published and read as solid, midcareer work. They’re featured along with poems by Alicia Dreilinger, Matthew Montesano, and others, ranging from more or less traditional (Bailey’s “Pomegranite”) to Brian Morrison’s prose poem, “When the Cinderblocks Came.”
The journal’s an intelligent mix of writers from inside and outside the academy, and of newcomers and established writers, and the whole thing is packaged with an artful and comforting sense of the importance of quality. Published occasionally, and for good reason, Armchair / Shotgun is a very good buy at $10.00.