Graffiti

John Bellairs
October 9, 1969, The Cambridge Phoenix

The usual procedure is to draw up a list of interesting topics and then to run through your list of writers until you find a particularly eligible candidate for each one...Having seen how this policy conspires at both ends to create narrowness and sameness in a magazine’s pages, we have tried to follow the riskier but more interesting course of asking a writer we want to publish to act on his own imitative, to write the essay that he has been waiting to write, the one that most matters, and to write it, like a story or poem, to meet the exigent specifications of the dialogue that he has been conducting with himself...The sense of cull consciousness that such writing at its best gives off, of convictions that have been thought and felt and meant, also provides the standard for selecting the pieces that come to us in other ways.
Theodore Solotaroff, in the
preface to New American Review #7
Interviewer: Mr. Rhodomansky, what exactly made you decide to found Late Western Culture, a pocketbook-format literary magazine that contains most of the ground-breaking essays, stories, and poems that have appeared in the last several years?

Rhodomansky: Well, I looked over the American literary scene and said to myself “Jesus Christ! The New York editor-agent nexus has the field all sewed up! I’ll bet some of our most-needed-to-be-herd authors are languishing in a kind of limbo on account of this closed circuit. So I sat around in a thinkerly way for some time till I came up with this mag.

Interviewer: I see. How do you manage to break the charmed circle that shuts out so many of our best writers?

Rhodomansky: It’s really quite simple. We send out forms to the writers we think are neglected and ask them to tick off the subjects they’d like to write on. Of course, we have a blank marked “OTHER” so they won’t feel we’re trying to dictate to them. Nor is this our only way of garnering materiel. The other day a friend of mine phoned me from Megunticook, Maine and said “Wassily, the girl I’m sleeping with was in the middle of the Chicago section in 68 and she sees the whole shtick as a Hegelian thesis-antithesis struggle. The socio-ecological niche for her is in your journal!” And by God he was right. Of course there were some Portnoyonian advantages to letting her hang out her shingle in our pages. Boy, can that girl –

Interviewer: Yes, yes. Of course. I do admire your ability to combine literary and swingerly attributes. But tell me, doesn’t anyone send in unsolicited manuscripts?

Rhodomansky: A few. Last year we published unsolicited manuscripts by ... let’s see ... Capote, Roth, Bellow, and a guy I met in the South Shore Station in Gary, Indiana. He plays a great game of pinball. We keep urging people to send things in, because you never know. But we’re not responsible for material lost, stolen, trampled underfoot, or used for ass-wipe.

Interviewer: Tell me, Mr. Rhodomansky. What is going to be in the next issue of Late Western Culture?

Rhodomansky: Oh boy. That’s a big question. We’ve been getting a bit trendifactious lately, so we’ve tried to tone things down by publishing Ibn-al-Akhmet Tin-Darwazzi’s essay The Relative Merits of the Umayyad, Fatimite, and Abbasid Caliphates. We stole this guy right out from the noses of the New York Review of Books, and they had just swiped him from Trans-Levantine Quarterly. But returning to our usual vein, we have Susan Sontag’s new essay on the dreariness of the Furg-Tit Railway in Southern Morocco. Then there’s Sid Shikseleh’s study of the neo-Nazi resurgence as seen in the defacement of the Levy’s Rye Bread ads in the 53rd and Lexington subway station.

Interviewer: Wouldn’t that be getting a little parochial for the non-New York reader?

Rhodomansky: Not really. Most thinking people pass through the 53rd and Lex station sometime in their lives.

Interviewer: Is there more?

Rhodomansky: Oh yes. We have a 75,000 word excerpt from Dagobert Boscostream’s latest book, Red Cunts in the Sunset. It’s a masterfully pertinent piece of comic-apocalyptic writing with serio-nadiristic overtones. The plot is simple: hippies have been secretly planting pot all over Nebraska. They cross-breed it with barely so it won’t be detected. Well, the whole goddamn state gets caught in a brush fire, and the Great Plaines region is collectively freaked out. This happens on the eve of a Presidential election, so the country goes for Timothy Leary. OK, then there’s this groovy session of Congress – half of the old farts are stoned out of their mind – and the book ends when a crowd of anti-war demonstrators shove the Washington Monument up the ass of an inflated vinyl balloon shaped just like Jackie Onassis! What do you think of that? Hardly the thing for the introverted spinsters to read as they crouch over their Atwater Kents, eh?

Interviewer: I’m afraid they’ll never get a chance to avoid reading your magazine, Mr. Rhodomansky. I am an Agent of the Department of the Interior, and I arrest you for using wood pulp in a wasteful, deliquescent, and contradictory manner. Walter Hickle has had his eye on you since you printed that Conservation issue on laminated redwood slabs. Come along.