Hey um well there's a new issue of Alligator Juniper out for 2008.
I folded my dick in the pages a little. On the cover there's a photo of dead fish. I think they are dead.
I'm in this thing, another list, in a section called 'Genre Blur,' where we like blur genres. It's on yellow paper in the back of the magazines instead of on white like the rest, caused we are blurry.
Also here is Aaron Burch, who won the 6-word story contest they had for the issue, and others are Joshua Leavitt, Rachel Toliver, Margot Singer, Justin St. Germain, Matt Mendez won a contest judged by Benjamin Percy, a ton of other people. There is nice photography.
This is a really nicely designed magazine. Thank god for nicely designed magazines. I've been really confused lately by a proliferation of magazines that seem to either not know much about design or don't care, which is really confusing, considering it costs so much to put these out, and people aren't going to buy an ugly magazine unless their sister or bonk-partner is in it? Some journals at AWP, they couldn't give their shit away, I remember one who actually had old women standing in front of the table trying to force people to take it and no one wanted to? I took one. I don't think I ever read it.
There are presses, too, I've seen that have the damn ugliest books. Are you looking at your covers? Are you seeing that they aren't nice looking? Really, if there's any definitive self-controllable point-to on the whole 'why don't people pay attention to indie books so much?,' well, there you go.
There are even more ugly online journals, where the question of design really is inexcusable. They've got words everywhere, messy tables, weird glaring images like from the early days of the internet, with the author's work kind of wedged among the other eyesores. I really can't figure it out: is it laziness? I don't think so, they started a journal, they must care. Is it lack of taste or know how? I guess. There are so many design people out there now, though, and so many easy editors to make simple webpages instead of Geocities style transom, I don't think there's an excuse for having at least a very simple, eye pleasing site.
All of this, though, is preaching to the choir mainly. There was a lot of talk recently about 'why don't people pay attention to independent books as much as they pay attention to independent music and film?' People wondering why the guy wearing the Dirty Projectors t-shirt doesn't buy books from Fence or Calamari Press? A lot of people seem to think it's a question like the one I'm talking about above, units being produced that don't have as much aesthetic appeal, that don't bring the ever important function of post-Apple design into their game. And that certainly does effect the small #s already coming in: journals like Ninth Letter and McSweeney's sell more for a reason, because they are gorgeous objects, and also because they have hype behind them and they are put in stores more, but at the core of it, this is something people want to touch.
But really, and maybe I'll be pegged as Negative Nancy here, I think the real answer is that people like music and film because they are easy. It takes no work on the part of a person to listen to the new Liars record, it takes them 45 minutes to have a full enough tidbit to bring it up for their friends, to justify wearing the shirt, there is no 'work' involved, it is an instant stroke of culture on their back. They can read about the Cramps or Wolf Eyes on a blog, download an album, hear it, buy a shirt on ebay, then they are a certain kind of person to those who see them in the shirt with the mussed hair. I know tons of kids in Atlanta who don't know shit about where their music came from, how it's made, what it maybe is about, to whatever extent you can say that, but who will show up at the bar looking pretty with their indie shirt on, and have the cd in their car that they listened to on the way to the bar from home. Instant culture. Instant art. In hipster scenes, everyone wants to be an artist without doing shit. 'I'm a DJ. My taste is art. I like Cut Copy and Deerhunter and I also like Debbie Gibson ironically. I hide the Pitchfork bookmarks on my iBook.' Likewise 'I saw the Godard retrospective at Midtown Art last night.' What about it? 'I saw it.'
Maybe part of this is why I lost my interest in music. Yes, I like it as wallpaper, but for the most part it feels like an easy in, a way to have something to say without having anything at all to say. Your playlist speaks for you, all you have to do is accidentally let your friend see it, or turn on your iTunes shuffle loud in the house so all your roommates know how cool you are. The personal side of music, the one that kept me going for so long, in me has pretty much been flattened, so there's no need for it anymore.
When it comes to books, the blank looks on people's faces who absorb so much 'art' in other venues is one that probably will remain there.
People don't read because it's work, and most people don't like work, even for their art.
Of course, there are the thousands that do care, and do build, tons of journals who pay close attention to their design as they do with content, and do keep things moving in a way that has independent publishing, I think, doing more than it ever has, but if you're wondering when will books catch on like wildfire, well, I think you can thank shitty reading lists in public middle and high schools for people associating the pleasure of reading with the equivalent of running a marathon.
Want to save books? Read Peter Markus to a little kid. Play Allen Ginsberg or Dean Young reading mean poetry to a room full of high school english students. Give Robert Lopez or Donald Barthelme or Tao Lin to a undergrad who you see carrying Harry Potter. Tell your counterculture friend who worships Hunter Thompson all the ways Gordon Lish makes him look normal. And if you edit a journal/press/lit website, make sure the objects you are putting into the world look like something you'd want to see if you hadn't made them.