Specs presents itself as a journal of contemporary culture and arts. Each issue has a theme, and this one is “faux histories.” A brief introduction from the editor-in-chief explains the theme is inspired by the “Renaissance Wunderkammer or wonder cabinet,” and the hope is that this collection of pieces will “allow for an uneasy coexistence between the campy, the sentimental, the political, and the repulsive – a mobile archive of committed fakeries in print and digital form.”
Published annually, specs features poetry, short fiction, essays, drama, translations and visual art. The journal does not distinguish which essays are fiction, nonfiction or mixed genre, making it a little difficult at times for me, as I am a reader who likes to know what I am reading. But perhaps by keeping it vague, the editors entice a reader to imagine a fiction piece to be nonfiction, thus creating a “faux story” of her own.
What grabbed my attention at first were the essays on “faux histories.” The essays clarify theme and explore topics such as the Museum of Jurassic Technology, male pregnancy and outsider art. These at first seemed like typical critical writing to me, but by the end of each I was taken into fascinating realms that waver between dreams and reality.
All the pieces in this issue are engaging in their own way. Some poems play with format, which can be distracting at times, but in some cases the playfulness is highly effective. “Demo Noir [manifesto.1]” by Tristan Newcomb is a witty piece about a meeting that no one shows up to. It is relatable (who hasn’t sat in a meeting?) but fresh at the same time. It’s a nice spin on what could have been a boring topic. “Schizophrene” by Bhanu Kapil and Rohini Kapil is another piece that really caught my eye. An excerpt from a larger piece of work, the artists combined visual and lyrical to form a juxtaposition of creativity. The visual art is captivating, and I’m curious to know how others have interpreted the pieces.
Specs ends with a special excerpt from “Kamikaze Death Poetry.” The story of how these poems came to be published is bittersweet and ironic; they passed through many hands before finally being printed. These poems are raw and human in every sense.
All in all, specs is a journal that takes the reader on an in-depth adventure through its theme. With such a variety, every reader is bound to find something likable, and for 10 dollars you definitely get your money’s worth. The pieces push the reader to explore the unknown and perhaps focus on some “faux histories” of her or his own.