In the Letter from the Editor, Darren Richard Carlaw states that the goal of StepAway Magazine is “to perpetuate the evolution of the walking narrative,” and encourages authors “to submit work which forges pathways through the cityplace.” Carlaw recalls his childhood fascination with William Blake’s “London,” which later spawned an admiration for Guillaume Apollinaire, Charles Baudelaire, and Walter Benjamin. In this issue, the featured contributors transport readers to the bustling streets of New York City to the fast-paced glitz of Los Angeles. While Carlaw sought inspiration from classic literature, StepAway Magazine is an undeniable product of modernism, unafraid to unflinchingly explore the ugliness of such cities.
Famed playwright, novelist, and historian, Sarah Schulman kicks off the issue with a witty story entitled “Why Not?” The story revolves around a lesbian playwright who moves to Los Angeles in hopes of finding a girlfriend and advancing in her career. However, the narrator quickly finds that LA is just as beautiful as it is hollow, a glittering façade that promises love. She engages in a meaningless fling with a wounded Starbucks barista; the short-lived affair is merely a distraction from a failed relationship. Schulman’s writing is engaging and self-aware, willing to reveal the narrator’s flaws without hesitation or timidity. The critique of LA is harsh yet deserved, as the narrator’s superficial relationships only emphasize her sense of isolation and social detachment. There’s something very stream-of-consciousness about the language, as Schulman focuses not on elaborate metaphors and complicated sentence structure, but truly getting inside the mind of the protagonist. There aren’t any barriers between the narrator and the audience; readers are almost like a fly on the wall.
On the opposing coast, Matthew Hittinger’s poem, “Füße: Umlauts, Eszetts, A Step,” takes readers on a walking tour of New York, using the city’s notable and memorable landmarks and defining characters. It’s not quite a love letter to New York, but rather a collage of all the oddities and peculiarities that make it so vibrant and unique. There’s Coney Island followed by a rooftop party in Harlem, Madison Square Garden and 42nd Street, the infamous Naked Cowboy
strums and half-struts fully poses
on his V-tipped island the chords
lined up like girls.
In a surprising display of creativity, Kyle Hemmings uses the theme of the walking narrative as a foundation for a story seemingly inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. But instead of the French Riviera, “Cat People #9: Tales of Manhattan” is set in the concrete jungle of New York, where a cop is hot on the trail of a female cat burglar who also happens to be his childhood sweetheart. Additionally, there’s something reminiscent of the pulp fiction of the 1930’s and 1940’s, as the cop’s erratic chase is accompanied by rainy skies and greasy-spoon diners. The story swiftly moves forward without looking back and once I reached the end, I wondered if the cop and his convict lover would ever reunite.
Issue One of Stepaway Magazine certainly crackles with city life and the energy of a world-curious adventurer. The featured poems and stories do not intend to demonize or glamorize city living, but attempt to explore all realities of urban existence.