Friday, July 6, 2007

Luna Park, Welcome: Talk and the Little Magazine

We have long felt that there was something missing in the world of literary journals and small magazines. There didn't seem to be a continual discussion about the state of affairs in this avenue of publishing--no reviews of short stories or essays, no commentary about the changing guard at Antioch Review or new formatting at Tin House. Paris Review got--as usual--brief mentions in the mainstream press regarding their recent overhaul, but these comments were brief at best, and not, at least in our humble opinion, long or considered enough writing for such a drastic change to what could be considered one of most important literary foundations in the history of western literature. Luna Park will attempt to fill that void, providing continuous commentary, reviews, and news regarding little and literary magazines and journals. It seems, at least here at Luna Park, that these journals formed and continue to form the backbone of literary writing, that they, just as James said of the novelist, work in the dark, doing what they can.

We decided that Luna Park was to be a web site and not a blog. The idea was that blogs do not have the formatting necessary to combine all the elements that Luna Park requires (such as story excerpts, interviews, ongoing journal reviews, etcetera)--but we have not created that website, and the blog technology is already available. So perhaps we will consider this a trial run for Luna Park. And, seeing what such literary blogs as Elegant Variation and Critical Mass, to name only a couple, have accomplished within the blog format, there might be more room for Luna Park to grow in this medium than at first envisioned.

The name Luna Park came from a story by Roberto Bolano (who himself has done much today to bring the world of little magazines to public attention by writing so inventively and mysteriously about that world). The story is called, in English, "Vagabond in France and Belgium," from New Directions's posthumously translated book of his stories, Last Evenings on Earth. The story is about, obviously, a vagabond young man. He spends his days wandering from bookstore to cinema. In one bookstore, he finds "an old copy of the magazine Luna Park, number 2, a special issue on writing and graphics, with texts or drawings (the texts are drawings and vice versa) by Roberto Altmann, Frederic Baal, Roland Barthes, Jacques Calonne, Carlfriedrich Claus, Mirtha Dermisache, Christian Dotremant, Pierre Guyotat, Brion Gysin, Henri Lefebvre, and Sophie Podolski." The narrator reminisces about his own youthful engagement with work of all the artists in the magazine, except for Lefebvre. The name means nothing to him. At this point, Bolano creates what seems an entirely fictitious portrait of the theorist Henri Lefebvre, painting him as a reclusive, unpublished thinker who lived with his mother and killed himself soon after she died. The portrait is stunning and moving. Maybe there is another Henri Lefebvre out there writing theory. If not, the portrait by Bolano is so stunning even people knowing a bit about the theorist were probably forced to go recheck the biography, just to be sure.

As far as we have been able to tell, just like the biography of Lefebvre, Bolano completely fabricated the magazine Luna Park. What a beautiful idea. (Though it is certainly a wonderful idea to invent a literary magazine in a work of fiction, Kári Tulinius recently pointed out to us that Luna Park was a real magazine from Brussels, and an incredibly beautiful one at that--click here for a post by Guido Vermeulen with scans of the magazine). Due to Bolano's staggering power as a fiction writer, this richly detailed magazine stands in the doorway between the fictive and the real; he writes of it with such authority, conviction, and detail (what Garcia Marquez said was the trick of magical realism writing) that a reader might wish it to be true. Which is what we did. Though we searched and searched through libraries and databases for records of Luna Park's existence, though Lefebvre's biography was obviously fabricated, though Bolano's main influence was Borges, though this was fiction--we still half imagine it is true, that this beautiful little magazine halfway between image and writing ("the texts are drawings") is somewhere out there waiting to be found.

Luna Park. Welcome.

5 comments:

Matt Ellsworth said...

Quite glad to have you on board this lit ship with the rest of us, and much appreciation for site's focus. See you around...

Julia said...

Splendid!

David@kurowski.net said...

Great work.

Anonymous said...

Excellent. A wealth of maerial gathered here. Do you want to add Pulp Net to the list?

Lane
Pulp Net editor
www.pulp.net

James Scott Linville said...

Great work. So happy to have found you.