On its website, The Coffin Factory states that it “serves as a nexus between readers, writers, and the book publishing industry," with a mission to "provide great literature and art to people who love books, including those who do not usually read literary magazines.” It strikes me that the debut issue upholds this mission.
The Coffin Factory contains pieces by such illustrious and renowned writers as José Saramago, Roberto Bolaño, and Joyce Carol Oates. The magazine is obviously trying to reach a wide audience by dipping its toe in today’s popular literary writing pool. At the same time, though, there is a standout story by the somewhat more obscure Bernard Quiriny. His piece, “Blood Orange,” ventures into the surreal and is about a man who must peel an orange-like skin off a woman before he can have sex with her. The Coffin Factory offers crisp, interesting writing in a familiar vein, but also offers a sampling of outliers for readers whose inclinations might lie in different styles and directions.
In addition to fiction, and essays about fiction, The Coffin Factory also takes an interest in the current debate over MFA programs in an article by Fred Reynolds. Unlike much of that debate, which focuses on the usefulness of MFA programs, Reynolds stews over whether MFA programs still belong in English departments or not.
The Coffin Factory also contains abundant artwork. There are beautiful photos throughout the magazine by a host of artists, and a couple of art-specific sections where photography, not writing, is the focus. Rape of the Mind, photographs by Jenny Jozwiak, showcases the abandoned surgical facilities of Kings Park Lunatic Asylum in Eastern Long Island and features the beauty that lies within decay. Jozwiak’s photographs turn the disrepair of chipping paint into striking art.
Easily my favorite article in this issue is the interview with Barbara Epler and Tom Roberge, respectively, the President/Publisher and Publicity Director of the esteemed publishing company New Directions. The pair covers the history and mission of New Directions, as well as its future. They also discuss New Direction’s unique approach to marketing and the influence bookstores currently have on people’s reading habits.
Overall, this is quite a varied magazine, containing fiction, essays, interviews, and artwork. Not only are the genres varied, the audience they seemed aimed at targeting is quite broad— perhaps a nod to the magazine’s mission statement that it is for all “people who love books.” In its opening issue, The Coffin Factory lures the reader in with what is possibly familiar, and then branches out from there.