Journal of an Aging Ass—Don't give up on that old braying beast known as the literary magazine just yet. Albuquerque's got a new one that's worth a kick or two.
It stuns my squinty media-drenched eyeballs to get a look at a publication date of "winter/spring of 2007" as it says inside The Donkey Journal, released earlier this month. Everything comes at us faster and smaller and more frequently than ever. This thing, spanning two seasons, might as well be an ancient mythical donkey, standing for hundreds of years, her concept of time affected by her age. A moment for such an ass lasts whole weeks.
Yet I wonder, does anyone else still read in the bathtub for hours? That's not a laptop-friendly situation. Snippets of infotainment, interactive art requiring my contribution and mental sweat—these things don't really flush the imagination and allow it to simmer, bloated, the way a good old story does. Call me lazy. Say I'm aging. But that's how I like my flights—or slobbish sits—of fancy.
The advantage to being a grand old ass is that she's got an opportunity to mull. The snapshots her writers present have to be better than your average still lifes. We have to judge the narratives, snippets, essays and reviews in The Donkey Journal on the ability for one to hang out near, say, a household toilet and be perused regularly, on their skill at holding a reader in place until one's aging ass bears the imprint of porcelain.
My favorites? They changed as I read and, yes, re-read. At first, it was "Human Resources," an art review/essay by Carson Bennett. In it, the writer explores the possibility of using the carbon in dead people to supplement our coal consumption, cutting it by about 4.2 percent. Never mind your namby-pamby "turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth" environmentalism. That's pragmatic conservation going round a delightful macabre bend.
Maria Finn's "Interview with Peter Caine" is a brilliant portrait of a surly artist, a guy whose crazy installations in New York City weigh heavily on his credit cards. Caine's the kind of artist who seems to know exactly what his purpose is. "I don't know what this crap is about art being something so special," he says, "like the artist is owed something."
If I have any complaint, it's not that the images inside are few and far between or that it's over too quickly. Instead, I like to be told when what I'm reading is going to be a piece of fiction or nonfiction, an essay or a tale. As best I can tell, there's no real way to know in this journal until you’re knee-deep in a piece, until you've already invested some energy. There's no expectation, really.
On second thought, maybe that's not such a bad thing.
Devious, devious ass.