THE MILAN REVIEW OF THE UNIVERSE!!!!
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1. Tim Small reads Lynne Tillman’s bio: “Her Sun sign is Leo; Rising sign: Aquarius (directly opposite her Sun sign, pouring water on the fire, sigh!), and her Moon is in Gemini. All her other signs lie in Virgo. (Her astrological chart was once done in Amsterdam, a birthday gift from a so-called friend.)”
On Wednesday night, it was cold and windy and the absolute worst place to be was down by the water. But I didn’t care. The Milan Review was having the launch party for its second issue, and Seth Fried, Lynne Tillman, and Robert Lopez were reading, so down by the water I went — to powerHouse Books in DUMBO.
The Milan Review is making some good shit. As the title suggests, the journal is Italian (although the journal is printed in English), and could keep any Italian fetishist satisfied with the sheer beauty of its product. From the website: “We also plan make sure that all our books will be very pretty objects and will never cost too much money and will never be printed in very large print runs.” Or, as my boyfriend said, after I showed him my newly-purchased copy: “That’s a book, not a magazine.” Yes, and a very pretty book, indeed.
And the prettiness of the object doesn’t get lost in the content, either. The artwork (full color) is varied in terms of style but consistent in terms of quality. The writers, as the three who read at the launch party might suggest, are top-notch, reflecting editor Tim Small’s other gig as the fiction editor for Vice. This is work that is hip, cutting-edge, but — more importantly — fucking good. Oh, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is always a plus.
Normally when writing articles for Dish, I’ll attempt to come up with some sort of snappy title for the blog post, but in this case, the title of the second issue more than suffices. As Robert Lopez said, “It’s one of the grooviest titles I’ve ever heard.” The issue is designed around the concept of the twelve signs of the zodiac, with a story and accompanying artwork for each sign. The authors were not told which star sign they would receive, and the authors and artists were paired arbitrarily. This makes for an interesting curation; one that makes sense more on a gut level than an obvious, logic-based one.
1. Robert Lopez & Lynne Tillman before the reading. 2. Lynne Tillman, doing her usual: Being captivating.
The reading was stated as staring at seven, so that’s when I arrived. I stood around for a while, looking at books, talking to friends, and smoking cigarettes. Ryan Chang, another Dish correspondent, and I got into a conversation with Lynne Tillman about Whitney Houston, her recent trip to Kyoto, and the art of translation. I drank water, and most everyone else drank wine. By 7:30, the crowd was still thin, albeit well-dressed and good-looking. I was surprised — didn’t everyone know how fucking good this reading was going to be? Where were the 131 people who RSVPd “Yes” on Facebook? Whatever, it was cold, and it’s fashion week. Fifteen minutes later the crowd had thickened up a bit, and so we began.
Seth Fried, a Taurus, represented his sign by reading “The Man Who Never Left,” which was about a man who — yup — never left a party. Moreover, it was about how haters can bring down everyone else around them. Of course, that’s a simplistic way of putting it, and the story managed to be both amusing and affecting.
Lynne Tillman, with her hair reflecting her sun sign, read “A Black Rainbow with White Stripes,” from the Capricorn section of the magazine. It was a piece about the nature of being a “translation artist,” or, if you’d prefer, a “narrating animal.” (AKA a “writer.”) It was thoughtful, with the Tillman-trademarked beautiful and elliptical writing, and filled with rather brilliant aphorisms. I asked Tillman afterward if she considered the work to be an essay or a story, and she told me that she thinks of all of her writing to be stories, it’s just that some are more story-like. I quite liked this non-categorical way of thinking. If a piece of writing works, it works, and it really doesn’t matter what one calls it.
Robert Lopez was last. He read a short story not from the magazine called “One of my Daughters is Called Resnick,” which he told us was meant to make the next story he’d be reading “more palatable.” It talked about things that young actresses say, like the words “silly” and “musn’t,” in addition to the dangers of eating the brown parts of bananas, and the something we all seek called “gut love.” It was charming and self-deprecating and yes, palatable. The story he read next, which was called “This Morning I played Guitar Until I Bled” and came from the Gemini section, was not. It was brutal, and, like most every piece of art or entertainment that can be described this way, I fucking loved it. (Short story about myself: One time, many moons ago, I took a couple pills of Ecstasy on New Year’s Eve and went to a rave. Once the pills kicked in, I ran around to all the drugged-out, blissed-out rave goers, and screamed at them, hugging them forcefully and commanding that they had “A BRUTAL NEW YEAR.”) Lopez’s story made me laugh, and laugh uncomfortably, which is the most mysterious kind of laughter.
I hate to use this word to describe these three stories, because it’s so overused in literary criticism, but I’m going to use it anyway because it is apt. All three works read were devastating. Devastatingly beautiful, haunting, and, yes, brutal. I’m broke, but after the reading, I was pretty much forced to shell out the bucks so I could get a copy of THE MILAN REVIEW OF THE UNIVERSE for my very own. And I highly suggest you do the same.
The Milan Review of the Universe
–Julia Jackson is a fiction writer and the editor of Electric Dish. Find her on the internet here.