A Teenie tNY Press
tNY (formerly theNewerYork) was one of the most exciting presses out from 2011 until it closed shop earlier this year. The entire enterprise just had an undeniable energy to it. New projects and divisions of the press were constantly popping up on their website and they were always finding new mediums to share creative work. One exciting example of this was August Smith‘s short story Is Obama Depressed, which was originally published on tNY’s online journal theEEEL, then printed on a poster, and then transformed into an animated short film. It was inspiring to me to see a piece of writing get that much of a push from a small press.
The work tNY published was certainly outside the box of traditional literature. In fact, they were strictly against both stanzas and paragraphs. They looked for new forms of writing, whether they were divorce papers, rejected baby name submissions, or sonnets in morse code. Not only were they looking for off-the-wall writing, they always presented it in strange and beautiful ways thanks to the design work of Nils Davey. Seriously, we’re talking so much eye-candy that after reading an issue you need an emergency appointment with the eye-dentist.
A few people who worked with tNY shared their memories of it with me:
I think tNY filled a space in the literary world that no other mag or press has quite been able to replicate. By focusing exclusively on experimental work, tNY encouraged thinking outside of any mainstream literary scene – everything we published always pushed boundaries. The result was that poets were inspired to think about poems in new ways, and fiction writers contemplated alternative forms of storytelling.
Also, Josh and the other editors I worked with were all just such wonderful people. They were highly motivated and deeply encouraging, and the team really felt like a family. I still keep in touch with some of the other editors and they’re all doing such cool things – such as Christopher Morgan, who now runs Nostrovia Press and has a couple of fantastic books out.
I really enjoyed putting the books together and working with artists and Nils and watching how ambitious Josh could get. Bummer that Book V had to get left in the lurch along with Bob’s book. Both were/are really special pieces of experimental literature. I really liked doing theNewerYork all these years. And any time anyone goes “that was cool” I feel nice.
tNY was a safe little crate for me to explore my weirdest self. And, thank gods, the weird selves of others. I really appreciated getting to know the many sad and joyous layers of Chuck Young. I met my homeboy Christopher Morgan through Chuck placing an illustration with his story. I think it was about a dog. Jk. I met Chris at a Dan Deacon concert. Anyway, my heart can’t help but time travel to a place when tNY still had a pulse.
Sometimes making things on the internet feels pretty lonely. You’ve got all this leeway, all this access and possibility in terms of interaction and expression, but more often than not it just feels like you’re shooting your work into the void. It’s rare to find someone who is as excited about the work as you are, and who wants to approach things from a new angle. Who isn’t afraid for shit to get a little weird. I just feel very lucky that I got to be part of an environment like that, and that we managed to put something of worth into the world. It just felt like there was all this energy behind what Josh was doing with tNY, and the whole thing was very infectious. Like all of us were up on the rooftops screaming about how words didn’t have to work in this one narrow way.
Josh Raab answered some questions I had about the press:
Why did you first start tNY? Did you have any specific goals you wanted to achieve with it?
I was sick of boring literary magazines all describing themselves as “publishing the finest new prose and poetry.” I didn’t want to publish the finest of anything, I wanted to publish the weirdest, the most daring, the most likely to fail. Not the dappled rain on rooftops and cats curling their tails in morning light. I wanted to show that stories don’t have to be any particular length in order to shake the Earth. One tweet can say it all if we let it.
How did you find the work you published? I know you were open to submissions but did you solicit as well?
For the first issue, I wrote a lot with friends, asked around, looked on tumblr and asked to republish, or just wrote it myself and changed the byline to a fake person.
For the art, my girlfriend (now life-partner), would go to the Brooklyn Art Library. It’s a place full with tens of thousands of Moleskines that artists fill with art and send in and we would get in contact with the people we liked.
What was your big problem with stanzas and paragraphs anyway?
They are fascist. As an avid Marshal McLuhanite, I believe the medium is the message, the form itself contains implicit meaning. In those squares and stanzas and rigid lines, it’s impossible that the content and the stories aren’t also contained and rigid. I wanted to explode them and use language in 3, 4, 5, ∞ dimensions.
How did tNY change over the course of it’s run?
Omg every day, with the changing tides of my mood. First magazine, then magazine and website, then magazine and website and book publisher, then magazine and website and book publisher and amateur theatre troupe, then magazine and website and book publisher and amateur theatre troupe and art dealer, then magazine and website and book publisher and amateur theatre troupe and art dealer and graphic/book design firm, and more.
You had a lot of success fundraising through Kickstarter. What do you think it was about tNY that made people want to support it monetarily?
Low investment ($25), high return (maybe change the future of publishing and have one more cool book on your shelf).
Speaking of money, theEEEL was one of the first sites I saw that allowed readers to donate directly to the authors. Where did the idea to do that come from?
Came from Huffington Post not paying their writers and me being like, but it’s so easy.
How did theEEEL become a channel of the Los Angeles Review of Books and what did that mean for the site?
I wrote Tom Lutz, editor at LARB, and asked him to get a beer. After hearing about tNY, he hinted at some sort of collaboration, and then a few months later they were making their channel system (syndicated publications), and they invited us aboard.
What was your favourite part of running tNY?
Reaching my hand into a box of books and seeing a new creation.
Are there any projects or piece that you are particularly proud of having been a part of through the press?
All the books made me proud. But the online writing contests, even though I never really could turn them into anything good, really were fun. Hundreds of people coming together to write a story with other strangers. I liked working with you on your amazing magazine LEFT as well 🙂
True or False: The New Yorker took legal action against you for your use of the name theNewerYork?
Their lawyer sent us a cease and desist. We said no go away. They hired outside counsel who wrote us a more serious letter and we said, in more words this time, no go away. They said, “our next letter will be an actual lawsuit” and we said, “We’re not admitting we did anything wrong, but we will change the name.” And under our breath we muttered, “You capitalist pig fucks you wouldn’t know good literature or groundbreaking publishing if it was dripping out of your noses. I hope a wizard turns all your magazines into the toilet paper rags they are and your pretentious wannabe high class, pseudo-intellectual, already-famous-writer-coattail riding dipshit editorial team raises their brows so high they scalp themselves. Respectfully.”
Why did tNY close shop in the end? Was it something that you knew was coming for a while or was it more sudden?
The New Yorker debacle was the beginning of the end. We build our brand strong and tough and they came along and deflated it. Our fault for choosing such a dubious name.
In part, I was burnt out, I had too many wheels spinning, the brand was confusing, I was sick of putting money into it, I was just over it. Shit hit the fan officially when I was on a CSPAN Books panel with Isaac Fitzgerald, the editor of Buzzfeed Books, and I was so shocked. He was like the Donald Trump of the book world. A populist blowhard whose every movement and word was profanely absent of any humility and the guy didn’t hold one unique thought. He has his beard and his tattoos and his profanity, but he’s got nothing to say. I was very sad, very disoriented. I swear I almost had a stroke on stage. But due to stage fright or perhaps severe indifference, I just stayed quiet, totally quiet, I went outside after and laid on the grass in the sun and stopped myself from hyperventilating, then I went home and shut down tNY. I vowed to go back to school to study media and culture so that I can be better prepared in the future to take down guys like that with well formulated arguments and critiques. For now, I’ll have to accept that Trump is an important force in the political world and Fitzgerald is an important force in the literary world, and to me, they both represent everything I hope to fight against in my life. I wanted run away from the literary world like Trump being president makes me want to run away from America. So, long story short, Buzzfeed books took us down
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have kept telling The New Yorker to go fuck themselves and I would have not done anything other than the magazine. I would have built up a subscription and distribution base and only then segued into online and all of our other projects. The problem was I spread myself too thin too fast, I was desperate to get something running.
What have you been working on since tNY? Anything we should keep an eye out for?
Yeah sure. I’ve been freelance editing, which has been great because instead of dealing with writers for free, they pay me. It’s been great to hang out in café’s and read all sorts of cool books and projects. It’s a nice life for now. I’m 90% going to grad school next year in Toronto to get a Masters in Culture and Technology at the Marshall McLuhan Institute. Since his work inspired tNY directly, I think I’m going to go sharpen my skills and my worldview in regards to his work and when I’m 30 you can expect me to flamboyantly and emphatically start a new publication, this time “for real.” I’ve also been making music but haven’t released much yet: r-a-a-b.com.