Two of the most frequent complaints about the state of contemporary literature are the woeful lack of readers and the abysmal quality of writing available for the oh-so-few readers who are out there. Obviously, these two generalizations are just that, and literary magazines like New York Tyrant serve as a counterpoint to the creeping edge of Literary Apocalypse. This, the third issue, is now sold out. People are reading. And the quality and range of the writing is staggering.
Opening is Gary Lutz’s story “In Kind,” sparking readers’ brains with his potent and unusual language that has its own energy. Here is the opening:
To hear me tell it, I had been a browless child in shoes with an expressive swoop to the lacing, and I came out of college about the time the profs were just starting to get eerie about grades, and after graduation I walked out warringly into society for a while.
This was in a town without much in the way of vicinity – just groupings of confusable buildings and fields we were expected to treat as parks.
I had no friends, just timid emergency contacts.
Following the story is Michael Kimball’s interview with Lutz. Kimball has a gift for drawing fascinating insight from writers, and here we get a tour through Lutz’s creative process, the way words and images spring up, get snipped, and ferment to produce Lutz’s special blend of language, image, and rhythm.
The first line of Eric Hanson’s story entitled “Candyland” begins with innocence: “She was four, maybe five years old.” And that is where the innocence ends in this truly scary tale of a little girl’s cab ride that will change her life and certainly the life of her driver: “She decided she had three ways of getting out. The gas range. The revolver. Or a cab, if the goddamn phone wasn’t dead. She decided to smoke the second cigarette.”
Christopher Kennedy’s excerpt from The Ennui Prophet offers a glimpse into the mind of a grandiose poet of cynicism:
At dawn, the birds make inadequate attempts at song. I open my window and offer a critique. A starling dives at my head. No one likes to hear the truth shouted from a window at six in the morning, but I go about my business, knowing I’m correct, unafraid to face the day. By noon all my windows are dark with birds.
The stories themselves are wildly different in content: from Rachel Sherman’s piece entitled “Last Will,” a young woman’s raw emotional list bequeathing her possessions, her remains, and her final words and parting shots, to Michael Kimball’s brilliant series of suicide notes excerpted from his new novel entitled Dear Everybody, to Eugene Martin’s excerpt from Rat of the World, about a man surviving in the underworld of state bureaucracy where details are everything and nothing. However different the styles may be, the common thread throughout the issue is the writing itself. The life and movement of language is as important as character or plot, giving each piece an energy that perfectly complements the content. Although this issue is sold out and may be tough to get a hold of (but well worth trying to do so), issue 4 is now available. A subscription is the wisest investment. Long live the Tyrant, indeed.