CalArts launches L.A.’s newest, nonconformist literary magazine

by Agatha French

From: L.A. Times

At times it seems that for every reader, there is born a literary magazine. There are venerated old guards such as Harper’s and  the  New Yorker, established university journals including Prairie Schooner and Agni, and scores of online-only upstarts with names like Animal and  the Boiler. But with the sheer volume of literary magazines perpetually pushing past overload, and with, happily, no end to the new stories, essays and poetry being published in sight, how does anyone decide what to actually read?

One approach: start local.

This February CalArts launched Sublevel, a literary magazine at “the nexus of literature, poetics, art, criticism, philosophy, culture and politics” that deliberately shirks the separation of high and low. Co-edited by Los Angeles writer and editor Janice Lee and 2016 MacArthur Fellow Maggie Nelson, Sublevel makes “no hard distinctions between creative and critical enterprise” and bills itself as “immersed in the world of art without being in service to it.” An insider-outsider perspective always appeals, holding the tantalizing promise that, as artists and critics, the bylines of Sublevel won’t be afraid to roil, push back and disagree. Its inaugural theme? “Contagion.”

Visually graphic and well-designed (it is, after all, a CalArts publication), Sublevel has eight recurring features including Session, “a roundtable discussion bringing people from different fields into conversation,” and Exhibit, “a representation of a project that may or may not have taken verbal form.” This issue’s strongest work, however, appears in essay form and stands squarely in the present moment. (With one exception: a short, stream-of-consciousness piece written by Hilton Als in 2013, “Butt” takes as its subject the “magazine for homosexuals” of the same name and moseys through asides on the flatness of Mia Farrow’s behind as well as the choreography of Merce Cunningham.)

Sublevel, Nelson explains in the news release, “fills a certain void in the literary world … we treat writing as an art among the other arts, and we are concerned with both aesthetics and politics.”

The standouts:

Caldera” by Aisha Sabatini Sloan

One of the functions of literary magazines is that they introduce readers to emerging writers. Thanks to Sublevel, I’ve added Sabatini Sloan’s latest and forthcoming essay collection “Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit,” which was selected by Maggie Nelson as the winner of the 1913 Open Prose Book Contest, to my list for 2017. Read Rest of Article Here


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