Like many (maybe most) Americans, my first impulse when I have to wait somewhere is to pull out my smart phone and dick around. I like to dick around on Twitter, which often leads me to stuff that I scan or gaze or graze through, with a kind of distracted, even half-hearted, attention. Because I’m also attending to something else—the waiting.
I had to wait, or be patient, or be a patient, or what have you several times last month, and each time I brought with me the newest or forthcomingest issue of theNewerYork—issue 3 (or III, depending on press materials). It fits neatly in my pocket and most of the pieces are a page at most—a perfect alternative to my iPhone, with none of the eye-deadening numbness that so often happens with long binges on a tiny screen.
theNewerYork describes itself as
a weird sort of literary mag. Our rule: no short stories, no poetry, no essays. We want to play around with literary form and narration, we want to screw with your mind! There will be personal letters, flash-fictions, glossaries, aphorisms, manuals, lists and other absurdities. We received over 600 submissions from all over the world. We’ve got flash fictions of sex and drugs, teenage romances, philosophical treatises, pretentious definitions, web forums, silly, sappy, scary stuff.
That’s a pretty apt description. To hijack and cannibalize my write-up of the last issue, theNewerYork’s “willingness to showcase experimentation in what goes on paper for people to look at and read is both a strength and a weakness.” This third issue sees an all-around increase in quality, from the production design, to the art, to the writing.
Highlights include Panayotis Pakos’s “Les Innumerables (A Binary Tale),” a Calvinoesque flash that imagines the dream-life of numbers, and Shane Jesse Christmass’s “My Delicate Response to a Child’s Writing Prompt Website” (quick sample: “If there were no television I’d beach my television set down within the dunes…”). Zach Davidson’s “Unstandardized Testing” claims (truthfully?) to present a set of scrambled questions from a trash bin; the testtaker is tasked with creating proper order (sample: “too lazy to do lazy something you are if you are still?”)
The most affecting piece in the collection is Anton Nimblett’s “Show & Tell: An American Game,” an analysis posing as a chronology. I’ll share only the nineteenth century portion, and, at the risk of spoiling, let you know that the story ends with the line “Show birth certificate (again, again, again).”
The list-form, along with (or combined with) the second-person POV seems a favorite for “experimental” fiction, which can occasionally be grating (but only when it doesn’t work)—but most of the pieces here work. And if they don’t, there’s something coming up that does.
Despite the disparate tones, approaches, and geographies of its contributors, theNewerYork coheres—the little magazine has a clear (if discursive vision). Good stuff. Check out their website for more.