I like literary magazines with classic paper covers. It’s not that I don’t like design-y magazines, it’s just that there’s something great about journals that look like they were created to gather dust in the basement of a university library (isn’t that kind of romantic?) instead of occupying a place of prominence on mid-century modern coffee tables in Dumbo. It’s like, “Look, I found this weird pamphlet thingy in my grandfather’s attic and it has a short story he wrote from 1952!” Yeah, I like those kinds of journals.
There’s a great story by Roberto Ontiveros called Curfew, which challenges the idea that a protagonist needs to want something, or at least that what he or she wants needs to be clear. Curfew is murky, all the relationships inside it are slightly askew: a neighbor the narrator doesn’t know well, a woman in a strange not-romance with said neighbor. Nobody matters all that much to each other in the story, and yet yearning pulses throughout. There’s also a great story from the madly inventive storyist, Katya Apekina, My Smell Journal: [orange peels, ink, coffee filters]. Full disclosure—I know Katya—but I don’t think it’s illegal for me to say she’s madly inventive. Read it and see for yourself. There’s a machine in it that records smells and an oily whale stuck in the Gowanus Canal. There are other good stories and nonfiction in SMR. Order a copy, read it, let it get lost and grow a little dusty.