Interview with Travis Kurowski and Vito Grippi of Story Magazine

story magazine

If there were ever a person prepared to create and head a literary magazine, it’s Travis Kurowski. It was inevitable. In his undergrad days at Southern Oregon University he was working on the West Wind Review. Then came an internship at Tin House. Next: Southern Mississippi University to study fiction. In 2007 he started a web review of literary magazines, Luna Park Review. His doctorate degree in literary publishing led to his culminating book Paper Dreams, a study of the history of literary magazines.

Convinced yet?

When York College hired him in 2009 to teach creative writing and publishing, it was also with the agenda that this individual might build a national magazine. In our recent interview, Kurowski says, “One of the reasons I came to York was that I was told I was going to have a lot of freedom to pursue a literary magazine.”

And in 2013, with the help of faculty think-alike Vito Grippi, student powerhouse Ashli Mackenzie, a slew of big-name contributors (and a grant), he did. It’s called Story Magazine, and it is exactly what Travis and Vito set out to make: a print publication that’s worth each of the eight-dollars it costs to purchase.

Story is a national magazine, meaning it is not the literary journal of the York campus (that would be The York Review, which Travis, Vito, and Ashli have all worked on over the past few years) but rather a major print publication with distribution throughout the US.

Story, as the name of a literary magazine, may sound familiar. I won’t launch into the whole history (for that check Travis’ book, Paper Dreams), but in a nutshell: it’s been a magazine twice, first between 1931-1967, and again from 1990-1999. Copyright on the name “Story” recently ran out, becoming available for purchase. Travis was a reader and fan of the magazine in the 90’s, discovering now heavyweight writers like Junot Diaz. He and Vito thought it was a title that deserved to be used. After all, there’s Poetry, Creative Non-Fiction, and even Narrative, but no Story. Until now.

The editors realized early on that there isn’t a need for another short fiction magazine (there are thousands in print and online). They decided to broaden, and at the same time sharpen, their focus. Travis says, “There isn’t a print magazine that’s just about the narrative artsPoetry magazine is about the poetic artsbut there’s nothing out there about narrative.” So Story‘s goal is to be diverse in genre, form, school of thought, gender, race, and ethnicity. It wants to be a well-curated collage of anything narrative.

Travis and Vito also felt the pressure to ask and answer the question What justifies printing another journal? Vito says, “We spent a lot of time thinking about the design…we want to represent to our students not what publishing looked like 5-10 years ago. We wanted to get students thinking innovatively about print publishing. We think it’s something to be proud about.” They found that a common denominator between some of their favorite magazines and literary journals was that they were, in themselves, art objects. Travis calls the publishing of beautiful print material an “event.” This means the thing has to look nice, feel right, and exude a very intentional aesthetic. Kudos to Story, as it does all of this in a way that feels effortless.

Story‘s design is innovativea culmination of many influences. It utilizes dos-a-dos binding, the way old pulp magazines and comic books were printed. It works like this: Issue 1A starts in the front and Issue 1B is flipped upside down and begins in the back, so the two halves end in the middle. The reader must interact with the object by turning the magazine over to begin the second half of the issue. This reader-action, although simple, is something different. The magazine is also big, not-too-thick, and attractively designed.

The editors also knew that they had to not only make something worth owning and worthy of printing on paper, but also worth the name it borrows its tradition from. “At AWP we had so many people who looked at it and we’re like “Ah! It’s back’… we knew that using that name was a lot of pressure to do something awesome,” says Vito. Travis adds, “We couldn’t insult the tradition of that name by putting out a mediocre magazine. We needed to respect the tradition…”

Achieving that respect and awesomeness involved soliciting all of the submissions for the first issue, something the editors don’t plan to do again. They wanted to set a precedent not only for variety but for the quality of writing they wanted. Therefore, issue 1 includes pieces by Andrew Malan Milward, Tao Lin, K. Silem Mohammed, Mary Miller, David Shields, Frederick and Donald Barthelme, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s a star line-up. Magazine content from this point forward is being garnered through open submissions, and the editors say the submissions so far have been high-quality.

Diversity breakdown of Issue 1a/1b
Male writers: 19
Female writers: 9
Short stories: 11
Creative non-fiction/Essays: 9
Poems: 7
Flash fiction: 3
Visual art/Comic: 2
Interviews: 1
Other: 1 (found object)

When we talked about submissions, the subject of diversity came up again. Readers will likely find Story already highly diverse but Travis and Vito strive for more. “Issue 1 didn’t end up being as diverse disciplinarily,” admits Travis, “Hopefully issue 9 will have like 72 different disciplinary points and writers from all over the world.” The two leaders of the magazine are the first to admit that they are a bit limited in the diversity of their own masthead. Travis says, “It’s two white dudes and a magazine… so we need to keep these questions on our plate at all times… is this diverse enough, is it gender diverse enough, culturally diverse enough, because if not, why are we doing a a publication about the current diversity of storytelling?”

To that, he adds, “We want to break through genre limitations as well.” Story has theme-based issuesthe first being superheroeswith the forthcoming issue based on monsters. The introduction to 1B is by genre-champion Ryan Britt, in which he talks about the need for genre-based stories (horror, sci-fi, crime, action, etc.) to be seen with equal respect and value as literary fiction. Britt writes:

“So if your imagination needs some help on how the hybrid of monsters of literature and genre fiction will function in a brave tomorrow, then I hope these few beautiful, deranged, wonderfully mutated stories can give you a terrifying, hilarious, and glittering little glimpse of that bold and genre-confused future. And with a little luck, maybe make you forget what a genre is in the first place.”

Other areas Travis and Vito want to improve upon with Story is its recognition and connection to local community. They went to some notable writing conferences this year to show the issue and get the name out therenot just the name of the magazine but “York.” Travis says, “We had to load our table with York peppermint patties. People were like where are you guys from again?” The duo wants to put York on the literary map. As Travis put it, “We’re excited that Story is like this hub for a bunch of different narratives. And then York, Harrisburg, Lancaster is this hub, regionally…We’re hoping the magazine can help do that, help show what’s already here.”

With that said, the editors told us they haven’t really had time to reach out to the local community yet. This made sense to me, as someone who discovered Story on Twitter and couldn’t believe they were doing this in my home county, and I hadn’t heard about it before. The reason is because Story received their funding grant last summer very suddenly. They weren’t expecting the grant to actually come through, and when it did, it put them in sort of a rush. Travis says, “We weren’t ready for a first issue yet,” and Vito adds, “We felt a very urgent obligation to make something happen, because all of the sudden we had the money to do it.” So the process of putting together this issue, which was released in spring 2014, was a hectic oneone that put all of their focus and energy on submissions, design, marketing, and publishing. This left little for community events, local promotion and other approaches that would help to situate the magazine into its own environment. However, community outreach and connections are now becoming more of a priority. For example, they are bringing Tao Lin to speak this fall for a free, public reading at York College.

The first issue of Story is impressive; the story of Story is interesting. In talking to Travis and Vito about the magazine and their future ambitions for it, enthusiasm, ideas, and positive energy abound. It stirred in us a looking-forwardness, for not only the magazine itself, but for York College, York city, and really, the South Central PA literary community as a whole. There’s that feeling you get when you read the first few pages of a book, and you can tell that what is to come is going to be worth your time, attention, and excitementhow you just want to keep reading.

BUT IS IT LIT? // PUTT zine #3

Three long months ago, when the BIIL series began, we set some criteria for what kinds of things we might review. The series would highlight things that fell into at least one of the following categories:

1) something unique/weird/awesome (to us),
2) something local, or
3) something un-literary (traditionally speaking) that we wanted to promote/support.

The list of items we’ve covered so far is quite disparate, the common denominator being hype-worthiness. We’ve reviewed a nearby rockscramble (categories 1 & 2), the menu of a regional whiskey bar (2ish and 3), the art-in-the-mail project by Hunter (1 and 3) and the stupidest app ever invented (just 1).

This marks the 8th post in the series, and it’s the first since that inaugural review (of the album booklet of a local compilation) that rings all three bells. It’s a handmade zine by local biker, skater, and graphic designer, Zach Kolodziejski.


IMG_0805PUTT Zine, Issue 3
32 pages
5×7″ paper, sewn, black & white
$15.00 from Graphic Discharge

PUTT is three niches (motorcycles, skateboarding, and punk music) smashed together. It happens that many people who are interested in one of those sub-cultures find themselves at least aware of, if not a part of, the other two as well. So this is the perfect zine for a relatively small, absolutely passionate group of people.

Luckily for those of us who don’t covet secret skate spots, ride 50cc mopeds across the country, or spin hardcore-punk 7″s on our record players, this zine is still 100% worth checking out. And here’s why:

1. This is the most visually appealing DIY magazine I’ve seen. Kolodziejski is a PCAD graduate and the entrepreneur behind the zine’s distributor, Graphic Discharge. Needless to say, GD doesn’t put anything out that isn’t graphically kickass. Within these few pages, the photographs alone are enough to make it worth reading, if not owning, collecting, and showing off to friends. The design is full-bleed on every page. It has cohesion, neatness, and order, all while possessing an absolutely punk aesthetic.

2. The writing is concise and strongly voiced. Issue 3 is called “Putt Gets Cabin Fever,” which dates it at around the winter/early spring of 2014. The intro to the zine is three sentences long and it expresses the feeling of the weather forcing you away from the thing you love. For anyone in the South Central PA region this winter, this feeling was universal. The first article, “Pinball Run”, is more of a photo essay about the moped rally (which stretches from from Maine to Key West) than an article, but the text serves an informational as well as a tonal purpose. He endearingly (and alliteratively) calls the riders, “A slew of psychotic pedal-cyclists” who “saddle[ed] up on two stroke steeds [and] swarmed 1800 miles of open road…spanning the entire East Coast somewhere around 40 mph.”

When it comes to words, economy is key; the pictures do the talking.

IMG_0809

3. The record reviews are critical, opinionated, and fun to read. They are indicative of the attitude of the entire zine, which is one of freedom, one that declares responsibility to only itself and its editor. When Dave Preno writes these reviews, there is no need to disclaim, “the thoughts/ideas of this publication are solely the opinion of…”. He just says what he thinks. This is the benefit (for the editor, and for the reader) of making something for a very specific audience. An excerpt from one of Preno’s micro-reviews: “The short version of this review is that this band is shit. If you see this record in the store, take the time to at least bend one of the corners so that it depreciates the value for whatever asshole buys it.” Don’t be put off by the negativity, most of the reviews are glowing. All are entertaining. Plus, you might just find a record you like.

4. As a whole, the zine finds this strange balance between uniformity and variety, order and disorder, eclectic and narrow, and it means that you never know what to expect when you turn the page. It means: an enjoyable reading experience. This issue ends with a photo strip (with captions) of an elderly man explaining how to turn a cargo van into a cow-sized oven. An oven that cooks a cow whole. It’s weird. It was unexpected. Of course, what holds all of the different sections of this booklet together (besides the hand-sewn binding) is Kolodziejski’s flawless design.

IMG_0807

5. Each issue comes with a pull out illustration. Issue 3’s was done by Sam Turner. It’s a laser cut wood block print, printed on prescia paper, one of only fifty. If this piece isn’t enough to convince you that PUTT Zine is not just literature, not just (sub)culture, not just graphically sound, but hands-down, capital A-Art, then I don’t know WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU.

putt3_store2

I’m going to collect these… if I can. Each new issue is released when the previous one sells out. There are still some copies of #3 left over at Graphic Discharge. Check out an issue of PUTT and let us know what you thought. Shout it out in the comments… IS IT LIT?!

 

 

 

Visual Interview: Megan Milks

Visual Interviews are where we send a writer a disposable camera and a list of ideas to photograph along with a few short questions. Once the camera is mailed back, we develop the photos and arrange them collage style to give you a unique glimpse into the life of the writer we’ve selected. Check out past Visual Interviews and stay tuned because we have Lindsay HunterAdam Robinson, Josh Raab, and Wendy C. Ortiz coming up over the next couple of months!

megan milkshousecatDIRECTmegan milksfridgelibraryALIVEbikeflying thingIMPERATIVEfeetducks

Megan Milks is a fiction writer and cultural critic. Her second chapbook Twins was released by Birds of Lace in 2012, and her first collection of short fiction, Kill Marguerite and Other Stories, was published by Emergency Press in March 2014. Her stories have been included in three anthologies of innovative writing, as well as many journals; two have been adapted for performance. She is a contributing editor at Entropy.org and Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Beloit College, where she teaches creative writing, composition, new media writing, and journalism.

Interview curated by Erin Dorney and Tyler Barton. Photographs and text by Megan Milks.

VIDA, Gender, and The Triangle

Almost a year ago I learned about the existence of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. VIDA’s mission is to “…explore critical and cultural perceptions of writing by women through meaningful conversation and the exchange of ideas among existing and emerging literary communities.” One of the primary ways VIDA carries out this mission is by conducting annual counts of the gender disparity in publishing for a select group of reputable literary journals. By calculating and tracking the number of men and women being published on a year-to-year basis for journals like The New Yorker, Tin House, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, N +1 and more, VIDA provides tangible data proving that a gender gap exists in the world of publishing. You can see all of the data (2009-2013) and methodologies in the count section of the VIDA website.

For 2014 I will be interning with VIDA to help with the count. I’m excited to learn more about how it all works and contribute to this worthy endeavor. As a female writer, it’s important for me to raise awareness about these types of issues, as I am already encountering them. As co-founder and editor of The Triangle, I also have to think about my role as a publisher. So I did a bit of digging and here is what I discovered.

As of August 3, 2014, The Triangle has published the following:

Of the 60 posts we have published, 22 have been written by women, 37 have been written by men, and 1 was written by a woman but published with a male byline/account. These numbers might not seem that bad, but this is definitely something I’m going to be keeping an eye on. I want to make sure that we are part of the solution, not part of the problem. Right now we have at least two female writers shooting disposable cameras for our visual interview series, which will help. I’ll be sure to check in at this time next year to let you know how we’re doing with our count.

Did you know about VIDA or the gender disparity in publishing? Let me know in the comments if you have any experience with this!

Interview with Dustin Nispel

IMG_0225

As a freshman at Dover Area High in rural York, PA, I remember a school-wide walk out. The demonstration was in protest of the Bush Administration, and its leader was a senior student with just seven credits left until graduation. That student was a poet named Dustin Nispel.

“It was important that the students who participated realized that even though they weren’t of voting age, that they could still make an impact and a difference on their community and voice their opinion,” he says, when I interviewed him in York’s downtown Poetry Garden. I share this anecdote not because Dustin is a political poet, but because it illustrates his commitment to community and personal agency, even as a highschooler.

IMG_0224

A few days after the walk-out, half of the school was stuck in the gym for a daythe largest in-school suspension roster ever. Dustin’s punishment was more severe; he was kicked out. While this only added to his disillusionment, he finished school and received his diploma a year later.

Our high school, like the high school of many writers, is where we both wrote our first poems. Mine was in English class; Dustin’s was in Social Studies. He completed a unit project by writing a poem about Kristallnacht, or “The Night of Broken Glass.” Dustin’s first attempt at poetry was encouraged, anchoring his interest in the literary arts. “My teacher said it was really good and I should keep writing…and I’ve been writing ever since,” he says.

That was almost fourteen years ago. Now the co-host of Culture and Main’s First Friday series, a multi-slam champion and place winner, and the next to be published by Poemsugar Press, Dustin is a spoken word artist who knew early on that writing was a means to something more. He explains, “I always wanted to do something unique and special to develop myself as a person. Writing… allowed me to connect with myself on a more personal level.”

He also found that like-minded artists in the area could teach him what he really wanted to learn: how to write better. Even as a teenager, Dustin attended local readings, workshops, and retreats as frequently as possible. He says, “I just always worked at my craft. Whenever there was a workshop that I could afford I was there. I wanted to be the best I possibly could.” It was clear that the poets around him could help him, teach him, and give him encouragement that every young artist starves for.

During what Dustin calls his “developmental stage” as a writer, he sought out every resource York County had to offer. He was eager to put himself in creative situations, to interact with creative people of all kinds.

His first York city event was an open reading at Yorkarts called “Poetry Brew,” hosted by Rich Hemmings. Dustin was nervous, but at the same time felt welcome and invited. He read a poem during the open mic. “At the end of the show, Dana Sauers (Gettysburg’s Poet Laureate at the time) came up to me and said ‘You have something. You need to keep coming out, keep reading.'”

John Terlazzo, another York-based writer, helped Dustin in ways that transcended writing. He says, “I was doing as many of his workshops as I possibly could. He gave me the inspiration I needed for writing and meditation. He even encouraged a vegan diet. I was already on the spiritual development path, so when I met John and went to his retreats, I was able to channel a lot from him spiritually and for my writing.”

Later, Dustin joined a group of poets called Word Wide, led by Shayne Tanzymore. These poets traveled to Harrisburg, Baltimore, and Philadelphia to compete in spoken word readings and slams. Surrounded by these energetic, confident performers, Dustin was equal parts intimidated and inspired. “I learned from that how to feel comfortable performing out of my element…Now I perform best when there is something on the line.” These slam competitions pushed him to memorize his work as well as develop tenacious self-confidence. He says, “What sets me apart from other poets is that I can adapt to a coffee-shop crowd, or I can go to a slam competition and take the championship. The way I perform my writing is always with audience in mind. I want to be a bridge to the audience.”

With almost fifteen years of writing and ten solid years of performing, Dustin is now poised for the release of his first book of poetry, “The Tower,” which he’s been editing with the help of Carla Christopher (York’s former Poet Laureate and current Arts and Cultural Community Liaison) over the last year.

Dustin is a spoken word artist, so turning these works into poems on a page is like taking a sculpture and trying to draw it on paper. How can these foundational elements of spoken word (voice, speed, emphasis, volume) be justly translated to a book? He worked side-by-side with Carla, saying “It was a brutal editing ordeal with Carla. She’s very good at what she does. I had to make some serious changes, even to the point of rewriting entire pieces.”

Even now, as he’s putting together a book of his own poetry, Dustin is continuing to work with and be inspired by the people around him. One of these inspirations was the sudden loss of his best friend, a major supporter of Dustin’s poetry, at the age of 21. Another is the work of his bandmate and long-time friend, Bobby Yagodich (also a Dover High graduate), who has designed the art for Dustin’s book. As far as influences and inspiration, the list goes on to include:

  • Kahlil Gibran (“One of my favorite poets of all time.”)
  • A Perfect Circle (“Anything by Maynard honestly.”)
  • Tarot readings (“I’m actually a certified tarot reader. I don’t really market it…I just use it to help people when I can.”)
  • Edgar Allen Poe (“…Even Edgar Allen Poe died in the street, drunk.”)
  • Meditation (“It’s a way to develop myself as a person, as well as a poet.”)
  • Saul Williams (“I drove from York to Providence RI in 2012 to see him perform at a little hole in the wall pub. It was just really amazing. I gave him a copy of my CD.”)

IMG_0223

“The Tower” is slated to be released on August 16th at a York’s central arts establishment, The Strand Capitol. Dustin has asked some of the writers who have impacted his work and development to perform at the reading, including Carla Christopher, Rich Hemmings, and Shane Tanzymore. Bobby Yagodich will perform music and display original artwork from the book. The event is truly the culminating result of hard work and community.

Moving forward, Dustin plans to tour in support of his book, working towards his ultimate goal of becoming a self-sustaining artist. He’s also planning on leading some of his own workshops for younger writers in the community. As a poet and community member, Dustin will continue to influence others, helping them to learn to value their own voice and the impact they can have on their community. “My actions do weigh on my country and my community,” he says, “It’s important for people to become active–in any way–in a community, to develop that sense of unity. Because without it we don’t have shit.”

Speed Dating with a Literary Twist

IMG_0129   

Chances are you’re dating. At the least, you know someone who is—perhaps someone who regales you with stories from OKC and Tinder dates gone terribly wrong. But a computer-mediated quest for love isn’t your only option. Speed dating, enter stage left.

Defined as “an event at which each participant converses individually with all the prospective partners for a few minutes in order to select those with whom dates are desired,” speed dating has been around since the late 90s. These highly-structured events allow singles to learn about each other beyond the loud, anxiety-inducing bar scene that often seems to be our only hope of finding love.

Lancaster, PA has not been immune to this “round-robin” style dating system—last month, the connectors and community mavens of Lancaster Transplant presented “Ask Me: A Night of Awkward Speed Dating.” Approximately 30 singles gathered at the Fulton Street Arts Cooperative to meet, mingle, and rotate through fifteen unique stations. Couples were challenged to remove a bra and belt from a fashion dummy using only one hand. They washed dishes side by side at an industrial art sink to simulate domestic chores. At the blind contour drawing station, couples drew while looking at one another, without lifting their pencils from the paper and without looking down at their drawings.

And if you’re wondering why we’re writing about a speed dating event on a website geared towards the literary world, it’s because The Triangle was right there in the mix. At station 15 we helped couples learn about each other by creating collaborative list poems. A list poem is exactly what it sounds like—a poem made up of a list. Using randomly selected prompts, couples worked together to do some creative brainstorming on lists like: things you could contribute to society if we lived in a post-apocalyptic world; odd traditions/rituals that may be exclusive to your family; new Yankee Candle scents; things you have (or have had) in your pocket; and songs and movies that were formative during your adolescence.

Witnessing couples working together (we sat at the table to facilitate) was an interesting experience. In addition to being able to tell which pairs immediately clickedand which were hilariously awkwardwe watched couples learn beyond what our prompts asked for. What style of handwriting does he have? Does she take over the paper and call all the shots? Does he listen? Do they swap their shared worksheet back and forth or negotiate a scribe at the beginning of the activity? Who can spell?

The resulting list poems blew our minds. It was proof that creativity lives in all of us, no matter if we identify as poets, accountants, bartenders, or tantric educators. Thank you to Lancaster Transplant for inviting us to participate in this awesome event, thank you to Fulton Street Arts Cooperative for the space, and thank you most of all to all of the singles who came out last month to write poems and get real, real awkward. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

The poems below were written by speed dating participants, with The Triangle adding titles, line breaks, and punctuation. Although in some cases we may have removed words, we did not add any words to the pieces.

Drawers: What Are They Good For? Absolutely Nothing.
A List Poem by Shalom and Drew

My drawer is full of batteries,
100 Q-tips from a broken box,
flashlights with nothing to shine on,
pennies and nickles
because no parking meter accepts them
family photos that didn’t make the fridge.

Tribe Name Has-No-Friends
A List Poem by Stephen and Marija

My family has a tribe name
and every Christmas we get together,
arm wrestle, get drunk, play Catan,
throw the game at each other
we celebrate the next coming apocalypse.

We Met At Jackie’s Party
A List Poem by James and Drea

app that makes your smartphone dumb
app that invents other apps
app that expells baby strollers from the market
app that is a pocket knife
app that prints money
app that turns down the volume on your neighbors
app that brews beer
app that pitches a tent

Do You Like Snakes?
A List Poem by Jenny and John

I was held hostage by a possum.
A camel licked my face.
Squirrels are the bane of my existence,
my father has a farm,
a goat named Jenny chased me down.
I accidentally picked up a snake,
a tiny snake
found its way into my desk.
I went swimming with dolphins.
In NC roaches
count as animals.

Been There/Done That
A List Poem by Mike and Joce

Mini pony hamster spaceship (the meaning of life—the greatest story ever told) Sean Hennesy a banana dental floss (an important speech) drugs more drugs phone number of someone you don’t like pager # of said drug dealer (the world’s information).

The Worst Things That Have Ever Happened
A List Poem by Dylan and Rachel

Iowa, rural
I lived in a barrack in Texas.
I lived in the middle of nowhere Kansas,
I had by 21st birthday in Denver, CO,
I lived in a BIG house in Bolivia,
I lived on a bridge for a year.
I would like to live in the Swiss Alps.
I would like to retire to a log cabin.

Sexual Positions
A List Poem by Tony and Stacey

Coffee
Jameson
Music
Sam Smith
Stepbrothers movie
Tellus 360
Camping
Kayaking
Tubing
Vacationing
Beach
Virginia Beach
Paris
Portland, Maine
Lobster
Cigarettes
Trumpet
Guitar
Fashion

What Daniel Radcliffe Smells Like
A List Poem by Jay and Brittany

Avocado, mint julep,
Harry Potter, sweaty armpits, acrylic paint,
bathwater pre-baby,
petunia, moldy roses, bachelor sink,
lovers quarrel, make-up sex,
locker room, gym sock,
depression, defeat, sad day.

 

 

 

BUT IS IT LIT? // Cherry: The Touring Guideline & Book

IMG_0623 Cherry: The Touring Guideline & Book

Huntermadeit.com
March 2014
103 pages
Perfect-bound, soft color cover, black and white text
Free with a subscription to The Best Mail On Planet Earth

Hunter is a person. But, he’s more than that. He’s an illustrator, a cartoonist, a visual performance artist, a life-lover, a prankster, and a friend of the U.S. postal service. For $25.00 a month, you can get a unique piece of his art shipped to your house. In January I received a rotating star-chart, which gives fictional constellations with etymological descriptions. In May I opened a box to find a scallop-shell which, when opened, contained a tiny flash drive with 30 live-recorded songs, all written and recorded in public spaces. Back in March I got a little book simply titled “Cherry.”

Cherry is a book full of important boating lore and instruction. It consists of advice, insight, and observations about certain water-borne phenomena. Seemingly conceived and written on the boat itself, amid a world of inspiration, Hunter has penned a charming, laugh-out-loud funny, and (at times) whimsically deep, probing manual for new boaters. Here are some specific points about the book:

1. It’s beautiful and easy to read. The soft matte cover is delicate and fun to touch. The image is of Hunter’s new dinghy, “Cherry,” which wraps around from the front, to the spine and back cover. The boat, and the water it rests on, look like tranquil places to be. the cover sets a comfortable mood for the reader, who may encounter the book with no idea what to expect beyond a good time. The title text is not a font, but scrawled by the author’s own hand and photocopied, so as to give the entire thing a very personal and off-the-cuff sensibility.

2. It’s funny, in a borderline-absurd way. For example, one chapter (each chapter is two facing pages) is called “Jetskiers: Parenting Gone Bad,” in which the author explains: “Jetskiers are born to parents who (and perhaps no fault to them) forgot to tell their kids about other life on the planet. They like it rough, fast, and in your face. Ages 16-45.” A few words later, the chapter ends with a grim, hilarious frankness, accompanied by a crude sketch of a gravestone, with the message: “Many Jetskiers die.”

3. It is charming and awkward. In a chapter called “Floating Sticks,” Hunter shares an illustration of a floating stick, a cross-section of a floating stick, and a Freudian, Icebergesque depiction of the “unseen stick” that lies below what you see on the surface. His jokes are often oblique, and sometimes take either a moment or two of figuring, or a simplification of the mind that makes you feel dumb in happy, innocent way.

IMG_0625

4. It is deep and coyly wise. In a chapter simply titled “Where are the palm trees going?” Hunter explains that this particular tree simply “…intends to speak with the god-lady…slang for the night-sky.” As a reader, it is hard to feel like the words weren’t meant for you. It is hard to not feel like a tree growing towards something greater than trees. “Anyway, up they go,” he writes.

5. The illustrations are childlike, more-than-sketchy, and a perfect compliment to the scrawled smartness of Hunter’s concise words.

Hunter’s funny, charming art builds a childlike wonderment for the world and how it works. But, is it lit? You may just have to sign up for The Best Mail on Planet Earth and begin receiving his monthly gifts yourself. Let us know what you think!

IMG_0616IMG_0614

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 636 other followers