Tyranny. Power. Virulence. Virile. Vigorous. Vivid. I finally found my way from the authority to mastery. The New York Tyrant is, if nothing, both powerful (read strong language, strong images, strong opinions) and masterful (read self-assured, forceful, and determined). It’s also virile in a more conventional sense (predominately male contributors) and in a literary sense (muscular, aggressive).
What is most vivid in these two hundred pages (largely prose, a few poems) is a sense of immediacy. This work is a little raw, not in the sense of un-done, but in its preference for gritty, unadorned language. And there is a certain toughness (tyranny?) and, on occasion, a predilection for tones and voices that border on harsh. Joshua Furst’s story, “Same Old, Same Old” begins, for example: “Some twit is mouthing off on a talk show, idiotically.” There are no pretty little enjoy-the-spring-day poems or tenderhearted family stories with sentimental endings in Tyrant. Nursing home murders, graveside fiascos, drinking binges, pregnancy as a surreal experience, imaginary books, satire, sarcasm, and body parts and functions make up Tyrant’s contents.
The journal’s contributors include many new or emerging writers; some young, but highly regarded talent (poet and memoirist Sarah Manguso); some prominent and established voices (Gordon Lish); and, surprisingly, some legendary American talent, an excerpt from Delmore Schwartz’s In Dream Begin Responsibilities, a book that is quite right for the current economic and political climate.
The issue opens with a short prose piece by Alex Balk, “I Got Nowhere Else to Go! I Got Nowhere Else to Go,” which seems to be a mini essay, but might as easily be classified as sudden fiction. I suppose the following brief excerpt from his story may mean more to me than to other readers because I live in New York, but Balk’s description of a particular moment in place and time could certainly have larger implications (or perhaps even summarize a literary magazine): “It smacked me like a wave, and it was one of those New York feelings that you only let yourself feel every three or four years where you’re just overwhelmed by how everything is too close, there’s too much anguish, it’s all too much in your face.”