My addiction for all things bookish and papery has taken on a new form recently: high-brow magazines. These magazines are distinctive for their form, materials, and frequency of publication. Many call themselves “journals,” or “quarterlies,” but they still fall in the magazine category. The seduction began with the large, anti-glossy creativity/lifestyle magazine, The Great Discontent (though I’m still looking for the connection between the content and the title (I don’t have issue #1)). The title was the first draw, but the large, creamy, matte pages with perfect margins and lovely typography made the sale.
Each issue has variable covers, featuring an artist interviewed in the issue. There were women! On the cover! In the pages! The issues are thematic focusing on specific aspects of a creative life/process, but reading across two different issues, the content felt too similar to be really be thematically different. I still enjoyed it quite a bit and am anxious for the next issue to come out this March. It looks like they’re doing good on my one criticism: it felt like there needed to be more artists of color present in the magazine as a whole. The 4th issue features Leon Bridges, a black soul/gospel musician from Texas, on the cover.
I was attracted to the idea that this was the kind of magazine the adult I wanted to be would read, toting around in a messenger bag to read on the bus or in coffee shops. I felt like that adult for a while, and thus a new addiction was born. The next thing to catch my eye was Collective Quarterly’s 3rd issue, titled Mad River. Again the title caught my eye, but it was the cover that really drew me to it. It’s an overhead shot of a tumultuous river in beautiful shades of blues and greens. It took me more than a month to finally buy it. It was in the men’s interest section of my local B&N, so I wasn’t sure I was its target audience. I looked through it several times over that month. It kept calling to me, demanding that I own it. When I finally brought it home, I stuck it on my shelf and haven’t really looked at it since. I know it’s there, and I can pick it up at any time, but the ownership of the object was more important that the object itself (book collectors know this feeling quite well). Quarterly Collective is smaller in format than TGD, but uses the same type of matte, recycled, thick, creamy paper that I have come to associate with high-brow magazines. The photography in Mad River is stunning and the matte printing suits it incredibly well.
The 3rd issue of Collective Quarterly, this time about Topa Topa, an area along the central coast of California is doing the same thing. The cover captures one of my favorite moments in a sunset: the transition from pink to blue after the sun has sunk down below the horizon. I feel an intense need to own this issue, and I eventually probably will. Collective Quarterly explores a geographical area each issue and the people and industry that call it home, with a focus on creativity. Mad River Valley is in the wilds of Vermont and as such explores a topography rich with imagination and creativity. After reading the issue, I sincerely wanted to visit, bringing with me my Penguin copy of H.P. Lovecraft. (Not.)
Oak: The Nordic Journal is one of my latest acquisitions. It’s about the same size as TGD, with the same matte pages and gorgeous photography. It fits more squarely in the lifestyle category but still focuses on people who lead creative lives in some respect. Iceland has become the new Ireland for me, meaning it’s become a place I imagine vividly and want to visit someday. Both countries hold a certain wild, imaginative place in my creative mind and as such, I project many fantasies onto them. If there’s a similar magazine about Irish lifestyle available in the US, I’d totally buy it (I’m sure there must be). I bought this one solely because of its beautiful photography of Nordic landscapes.
Two other samples of high-brow magazines I’ve bought are Future Perfect, which is a much more standard magazine dressed up in recycled matte paper with conventional sections and a few more ads (all three magazines previously mentioned keep ads to a bare minimum and in one location, not cluttered all over the pages). The other is Benji Knewman, a dual language English/Latvian lifestyle/culture quarterly. This one has mostly matte paper with glossy sections for some of the artwork. It’s a collection of short essays/art/photography presentations that are quick, relatively interesting reads. A few felt a bit too pop-culture-riff shallow, but I haven’t read all of the content yet. Oddly enough, I just realized that all of the magazines I’ve bought mentioned here were in their 3rd volume of publication. All were bought in a neighborhood Barnes & Noble, which says something for the selection in B&N’s magazine section (and yet they still don’t carry Bookforum). I discovered a new one just today, Trouvé which also focuses on aspects of the creative life. I’m beginning to see a trend here: the format of the magazine elevates it above all the glossy, cheap-looking throw-aways, thereby elevating the kind of life these magazines focus on. The price elevates it as well, as most of these magazines are at least $15-25 USD. All of the magazines are independent as well. The format, content, and price indicate that the target audience for these publications is not the average reader; they are for connoisseurs, those who privilege beauty of form and content and for the type of people already featured within the magazine’s pages. I’m not a creative lifestyle person; I’m just a sucker who stretches her budget because I can’t help myself sometimes. It’s hard to have taste when you’re poor.
For an added treat, here are a couple of websites to feed your new addiction: