Curbside Splendor

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Notes on Uselessness

James Tadd Adcox's debut novel Does Not Love was released this fall by Curbside Splendor.  ACM is pleased to host Adcox on his blog tour, and now, without further ado: 


Notes on Uselessness




For the last several years I have been attending a Quaker worship service each week. Here’s how it works: You go into a room with some other people. There are a lot of seats more or less in a circle. You sit down, and you’re quiet. You can close your eyes if you want. You don’t have to, but most people do. You wait. Sometimes the whole hour goes like that, with everyone waiting in silence. Sometimes, before the hour is over, someone stands and says something. There are no ministers in Quaker worship, or rather, everyone is potentially a minister. You are only supposed to stand up and speak if you feel compelled to do so by God, or the divine, or what-have-you (Quakers don’t all necessarily agree on the terms here). After someone stands and speaks and sits back down, there’s quiet again, and maybe in a little while someone else will feel compelled to speak, or maybe they won’t, and the rest of the hour will pass in silence.

            I have never stood. I have never felt compelled to. I’m not sure what that would feel like, to be compelled. The best description I’ve heard is that you stand and speak when it becomes more painful not to speak than it would be to speak. That seems like a pretty good guideline.

            All of which is to say that last night, I was reading a book about the history of silence in religion, and I thought about what it would be like, to apply Quaker principles to writing. To sit in quiet, or rather stillness, until I felt compelled to write something. To wait patiently, without anxiety, not worrying whether I write anything at all. Why write something if it’s not worth writing? If it doesn’t need to be written? Why write unless it’s more painful not to write than it would be to write?




But then something in me rebels against this idea. The writing I’m concerned about primarily is fiction and poetry, which is to say, art. I am not sure what art is, if it is not superfluous. In fact, the more I consider the question, the more it appears to me that what is worthwhile about art is how honestly, flagrantly, superfluous it is. How simple art is in its superfluousness.

            Almost everything we find around us is useful, a means. We are taught to think of things in terms of means. We ask, what’s the return on investment? We ask, is that quantifiable? We ask, how many clicks, how much screen time? And of course art can be useful: it can be used to sell detergent or to convey a certain message. But that doesn’t exhaust art, and in fact doesn’t really get at what art is, at all. There is something fundamental to art that is wholly outside of whatever uses it might be put to.

            I read a book several years ago about PR. The book’s thesis was that PR is necessary because consumers are too savvy to be swayed by advertising any more. The book said that advertising is now an art form. What it meant by this was that advertising is no longer necessary. Candles, the book said, were once necessary as a form of light. Now we have electric light, so candles have become aesthetic: people use them when they want to be “romantic.” You might say that likewise, painting was once necessary, because it was the only way we had to know what people looked like after they were dead; the photograph made painting into an art form, or at any rate made it nothing other than an art form.

            The book’s point was that advertising is now useless, just like candles are useless now, and paintings are useless. As things become useless they pass into the realm of art. But art isn’t restricted to technologies or mediums that have been superseded. Obviously a photograph can be art. But it is art to the degree that it is useless.

            On some level, art is a refusal of usefulness. A refusal to be useful, or to accept that usefulness is the only yardstick of value. Every work of art engages in this to some degree. Even those works of art with a message are not wholly reducible to their message; some part of them holds out, refuses to be message and nothing more.




What is this superfluousness of art, that constitutes its refusal? Because its refusal and its superfluousness are the same. What value or importance can superfluousness have? As should be obvious from what we have already said, this cannot be a value based on use.

            I would assert that this superfluousness or refusal is what moves art from the category of ordinary objects into the category of objects capable of being loved. In this refusal, once put into interaction with an audience or a reader, art acquires a seeming subjectivity of its own. There is a sense we get, of course, that a work of art has certain opinions, or expresses certain views on the world, but that is not quite what I mean. Beyond whatever opinions it may express, a work of art seems to have a white-hot core of being that we cannot reduce to a set of propositions or uses. This is its refusal.

            Love is premised on an inability to view the beloved as a means. To whatever degree we view the beloved as a means, we do not love him, or her, or it. The contrary holds as well: to whatever degree we value the beloved but are incapable of seeing him, her, it, as a means, to just that degree do we love.

            It is possible, when one is in love with another, that one is nonetheless engaged in a relationship of exchange. The theologian Rienhold Neibuhr posits that in any reciprocal loving relationship, an exchange is always taking place, one that must in a healthy relationship be more-or-less equal. However, the lovers cannot be aware of this; they cannot, say, keep a tally of what one has done and what the other has done, and make sure that it evens out—to do this would destroy the relationship of love, would make it something quite different. It would transform the beloved, for each, into a means. Quantification, the sort of exact quantification that does not admit of superfluousness or refusal, is the enemy of love. Something must remain unquantified for love to exist.

            Of course something—the vast majority of things, in fact—always remains unquantified. This is not a question of the pettiness of love. It is a question of the pettiness of ourselves.



(Cover of Does Not Love by Jame Tadd Adcox, image courtesy of Curbside Splendor)




It has been pointed out before that the relationship of love is at once universal and wholly, concretely particular. The object of one’s love seems to have some sort of absolute necessity, such that, for the lover, it can be difficult to imagine a life of any sort without the beloved. And yet the beloved is individual, particular in time and space, and so cannot possibly be necessary in the way that the lover imagines. More to the point: while there is a feeling of absolute necessity to the love once it has occurred, it is wholly contingent before it occurs. The experience of love creates its own necessity.

            Prior to the experience of love, the beloved has no importance, it would not matter to the lover whether the beloved never existed; once love has occurred, the thought that the beloved might never have existed, or that the beloved might one day no longer exist, seems impossible and impossibly painful. Imagine asking someone who is not in love about love: “Love” might be important to them, which is to say that it might be important to them that they be in love with someone, at some point in the future; but imagine asking them if it is important to them that, at some future point, they be in love with this person, in particular? How could it possibly matter to a person who is not in love what particular person they will later be in love with? How could it even matter to them (assuming they have not yet met their future beloved) whether such-and-such unknown person had existed? Perhaps the would-be lover would offer a pragmatic response, along the lines of, “Oh, yes, he (or she) would be a good match, we come from similar backgrounds, have similar beliefs about the world”—the would-be lover might, as many of us do, even have a list of qualities in mind to describe the sort of person they would like to one day be in love with—but such pragmatic considerations miss the point. Until the lover loves, the beloved does not matter, the beloved as beloved is wholly contingent. Once the lover loves, the opposite is true: reality becomes impossible to imagine without the beloved.

            In this the lover’s attitude towards the beloved is much the same as one’s attitude towards one’s own life: non-existence, for the living, is at once impossible, and yet, somehow, an impossibility that registers as painful.




Art is a thing that creates its own necessity. Before the book Moby Dick existed it did not matter whether the book Moby Dick ever would have existed: once it has existed (if you prefer: once it has been read) it is impossible to imagine existence without it.

            The reader, of course, is free to select another book or work of art to substitute, if he or she does not find Moby Dick particularly compelling. The point is that the world got on perfectly fine without Crime and Punishment or Hamlet or Ran, and would continue to do so had they never come into being; yet now, for certain of us, the world is unimaginable without them.

            Notice the difference between such books and Origin of Species, or Principitia Mathematica. These are books that made certain changes in the world, changes that we can point to. Perhaps the full impact of such books cannot be known, their changes resounding, spreading throughout society; but in broad outline we can say, “Well, Origin of Species introduced the theory of evolution, which has fundamentally changed our understanding of biology, has changed how scientists go about investigating the world, and so on”; or “Principitia Mathematica helped to develop modern concepts of logic, without which, among other things, the computer might not have existed.” It even seems likely that, as some historians believe, such ideas these are the product of their time, overdetermined by a variety of historical factors, rather than the product of any individual. Certainly it’s the case that the theory of evolution would have come into being with or without Darwin; Alfred Russel Wallace had written his own account of the theory, contemporary with Darwin’s, and Darwin had to rush his own account into print to receive credit for it. If this is true, it only further supports the case that such books have a necessity that comes from outside themselves.

            What changes does a Moby Dick make in the world? What changes does Crime and Punishment? Some minor changes, certainly, as any object in the world changes it in some way; but what changes can you point to that explain the feeling we get, when we encounter a great work of art, that the world ought not exist without it?




I have just received in the mail Matthea Harvey’s new book, If the Tabloids Are True What Are You? and already I am beginning to have difficulty imagining a world that could exist without this book. Such a world seems slightly, ever so slightly, unjust. Yesterday I did not feel this way; yesterday I did not yet know that If the Tabloids Are True What Are You? existed, or rather, I knew it existed as a name of a book but I did not know the book itself. Today I am ever so slightly in love with this book, which is to say, the idea of its possible nonexistence has become ever so slightly unimaginable. 



James Tadd Adcox is the author of a novel, Does Not Love, and a collection of stories, The Map of the System of Human Knowledge. He lives in Chicago.

He Said / She Said, an In-Bed Conversation with Jessa and Casey (Editors of The Way We Sleep, an Anthology)


CASEY: Okay, so [Jessa sneezes]…bless you. We’re watching The Future by Miranda July.

JESSA: I really liked the first one—You, Me, and Everyone We Know. But I think it’s one of those things where people look down at you like it’s pretentious or you’re a hipster if you like that movie. You know what I mean by that?

CASEY: Yeah. But she’s well liked, isn’t she? I get she’s quirky and people might think that could overshadow a good story or something. Why does she do that little baby voice thing? She does it like when her characters are making art or something.

JESSA: Oh. I don’t know.

CASEY: What’s the next thing we talk about? How do I transition here? So beds.

JESSA: We can talk about how I want to get on a better sleeping schedule but I can’t.

CASEY: Yeah, you want to get to bed earlier so you can get up early for work. But the main problem is really that we both want to go to the gym and I keep saying that I’ll go the gym in the morning at like 6am. But I don’t have to get up that early so I don’t, plus I’d rather go to they gym with you because I’m very loving and I like spending time with you.

JESSA: But then you don’t get off work until 6pm while I’m done at 4 or so and I have to wait and then go to the gym until like 8 and then try to have dinner which is too late and then that’s like the end of the night because to keep the schedule I’m crashing at around 10.

CASEY: Oh, is it the cat? The baby voice is the cat narrating I think. So that’s all true.  But we’re working on the schedule. It would be healthier. Let’s talk about what sort of TV we like on while going to bed. When we do put on TV then. Which happened more back in our apartment in Rogers Park because we had another TV but we gave it to one of the moving men when we moved to Memphis. Even though they were awful and showed up three hours late with like two sixty-year-old guys who smoked cigars the whole time and one guy who had, literally, a broken arm.

JESSA: Yeah, we just ran out of room in the U-Haul. I would like to say that if we were to switch to a policy of watching TV while we’re trying to fall asleep I would get way better sleep. And I know that’s contradictory to everything everyone says. You’re supposed to shut everything off and have like a cool down time. So no food after a certain hour. You’re not supposed to watch the news or read any books. You have your nighttime ritual—wash your face, brush your teeth—and you’re supposed to turn off the light and close your eyes and that’s it. But I don’t know anyone who operates that way. When I was a teenager I would put big headphones on and sleep with those playing. The cord reached across the room and I’d wake up with the headphones all twisted around my head. I guess I could’ve killed myself, but I never did. So that was good.

CASEY: That is good. I’m glad you didn’t. I used to do the same thing sometimes when I was a kid, like in elementary school. But I had those flat like padded earphones that just sat on top of your ears. And I would listen to my Walkman to like the Raiders of the Lost Ark soundtrack or the Home Alone score. I’d do it when I woke up to, like to start the day, for 15 minutes before I got up to get ready for school.

JESSA: Yeah, exactly. So I still do that but with my laptop I’ll fall asleep to a quiet talking podcast like This American Life or Radiolab. Or any documentary on Netflix.

CASEY: Yeah we watched pretty much all of The Presidents while falling asleep. I kinda like how when you watch it that way there are always parts you miss, like new facts that get filled in so it’s a totally rewarding experience when you watch it again. Sometimes you just wanna fall asleep watching Little Mermaid though.

JESSA: I wanna do that right now. I should wake up around 4 tomorrow so I can finish things for the week. That would help me fall asleep quicker. I don’t know what’s going on in this movie now that we’re talking over it. Hey, according to the internet in the US in the year 2011 there were five girls born named Moo. M-O-O.


JESSA: I don’t know why like how something like that becomes a thing that happens, but I know that I know because of Pinterest and it is a fact. I also know that there were five boys named Swayze. And six boys named Draper. That one I know the why is because of Mad Men. Six girls named Tomorrow. And that’s a nice name. Tomorrow is cute. And yet there’s only one more parent in American that would name their kid Tomorrow than they would Moo?

CASEY: This says there were seven boys named Tron.

JESSA: M’hmm. And Onesty with an O or how’s this—Aunisty. People are stupid.

CASEY: Someone named their kid King Solomon. And Princecharles . One word.

JESSA: Well my daughter’s name is Clementine. So…

CASEY: None of this has to do with sleep. Except that baby-making does occur mostly in beds. And we do mess around on our laptops in bed a lot. So I think we’re still on task here.


JESSA: I’m on Buzzfeed now.

CASEY: [reading over shoulder] Who is that?

JESSA: Okay, now I don’t remember exactly what it is, but I think Pappy DreWitt draws a little character and teaches you how to draw it. Like, “Here’s a dog on a motorcycle. I’ll teach you how to draw it.”

CASEY: And what’s that?

JESSA: The Aggro-Crag from Guts. It was a physical challenge show on Nickelodeon for kids and they have challenges for jock kids and they have to like swing on a thing until something hits them and then at the end they have to crawl up this mountain.

CASEY: Crawl it?

JESSA: They have to scale the, well it’s a not a mountain. It’s a Styrofoam thing. So they don’t scale it. And they drop rocks on your head and you have to get flags to collect points.

CASEY: See, so relating this to a point about beds: we never had cable as a kid.

JESSA: Neither did I.

CASEY: Wait how did you know those things?

JESSA: I didn’t know that first thing and then I only got to watch the second at my grandma’s house.

CASEY: Well anyway, I had a black and white TV in my room, so in the summer or when I was sick, because otherwise it was too late, I would fall asleep watching Conan, like when it first started in ’93 or something. And now we have Todd Levin, a writer for Conan, in our book. Our book about beds.

JESSA: It all comes full circle.

CASEY: Indeed it does.

JESSA: Which means we should go to sleep.



The Way We Sleep is published by Curbside Splendor in a handsome 10 x 10, glossy coffee table style layout and filled with short stories, interviews, and comics all dealing with the way we sleep, which is sure to delight readers everywhere, particularly those who sleep, and especially those who sleep in beds. You can purchase it by clicking here.

C. James Bye is the co-founder and Arts and Media editor of Knee-Jerk Magazine. He insists on being the little spoon, despite his six-foot three-and-half inch frame.
Jessa Bye was the web editor of Monkeybicycle for three years. She kicks off her socks when she sleeps, and her husband has to pick them up. Like, every single morning.

Check out the rest of The Way We Sleep’s Blog Tour below. Keep up to date at


Come hang with us at the Pop-Up Book Fair!!!


BUY some freshly toasted BOOKS at the POP-UP BOOK FAIR on DEC 9TH!
In conjunction with Chicago Writers House and The Chicagoan, Another Chicago Magazine & Curbside Splendor Publishing present: 
Chicago's finest independent publishers will be on hand hocking their goods.  Quimby's Bookstore will also stock a table with a selection of books/zines penned by Chicagoans. The bar will be open so grab a cocktail and listen to live music all afternoon as you ogle some books and satiate your bibliophiliac needs!
FREE with an RSVP by clicking here!
Otherwise $5 at the door.  
This tasty event is 21+ unless minors are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Current list of participating Chicago publishers (check back for updates):
&Now Books
7 Vientos
Agate Publishing
Allium Press
Another Chicago Magazine
Anything Goes Publishing
Burial Day Books
Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP)
Chicago Zine Fest
Convulsive Editions
Curbside Splendor Publishing
Dancing Girl Press
Dream of Things
Ginger Piglet
Graze Magazine
The Handshake
Kenning Editions
MAKE Magazine
Other Voices (OV) Books
Quimby's Books
Solace in So Many Words
Soup & Bread Cookbook
Switchback Books
Two With Water
Sweet Tunes provided by:
Good Evening
Mr. Mayor and the Highballers
Wooden Wing

ACM is Going to be a Stop on a Blog Tour!

Tune in here at the good old ACM blog on December 3rd for a scintillating He Said/She Said between husband and wife editorial duo Casey & Jessa Bye as they banter on the topic of sleeping and dreaming and cuddling and other crusty-eyed confessions!
Below is the tour explanation from Casey and Jessa!
And you can buy a copy of their slick anthology The Way We Sleep by clicking here!
"We're comin' to your town! Sorta. Over the next two weeks, we'll be traveling the world in support of the release of The Way We Sleep, an Anthology via the internet. Each day, December 2nd through 14th, we'll "stop by" a website or blog and provide unique content related to The Way We Sleep. There will be interviews, videos, previews/excerpts of stories and comics from the book, and much more! So spread the word and check in each day, because The Way We Sleep is coming to a computer near you!
Tour Itinerary:
12/2 The Quietus
12/3 Another Chicago Magazine
12/4 A Softer World
12/5 This Blog Will Change Your Life
*Plus The Way We Sleep will be represented in physical form by Rob Duffer, Simon A. Smith, Megan Stielstra, and J. Adams Oaks at Reading Under the Influence at Sheffields this night
12/6 The Collagist
12/7 Monkeybicycle
12/10 Lit Pub
12/11 Knee-Jerk
12/12 The Nervous Breakdown
12/13 New City
12/14 The Good Men Project"

Review of Michael Czyzniejewski’s 'Chicago Stories' by Rachel Hyman

I am a Chicago enthusiast. Evangelist, you could say. This city is my birthplace and I came back for college and it was like finding a new home, really my first true home. I have a special section on my shelf for Chicago-related books, and I’m studying geography because I love cities, but mostly this one. So I picked up Michael Czyzniejewski’s Chicago Stories (Curbside Splendor, 2012) with special interest and high hopes. Chicago Stories is a collection of 40 “dramatic fictions”--flash fiction, you could say--based off of famous and infamous local luminaries like Barack Obama, Dennis Rodman, and Rod Blagojevich. Czyzniejewski doesn’t limit himself to human figures, including pieces inspired by the Water Tower and Italian beef sandwich.

Maybe this is obvious, but this city evades description. Chicago is just teeming. It contains multitudes. And the way I encounter Chicago is intimately mapped to my personal experiences, my associations. Yet there’s some general essence of Chicago, some spirit, that we can maybe draw a fuzzy outline around. Before the fact, I would have expected Chicago Stories to explicitly try to pin down the city’s soul, to capture in its own way how Chicago is “stormy, husky, brawling/City of the Big Shoulders” or the way it’s “an October sort of city even in the spring.” Something in the grand tradition of Sandburg and Algren and Bellow. Man, Chicago goes hard. Yet these touchstone writers portray a Chicago that’s resolutely different than the one we’re living in now, and one that is richly textured but almost two-dimensional at times. It’s a very particular Chicago, but only one Chicago.

Czyzniejewski, on the other hand, delves deeper into the essence of this city, looks at a different one of its many dimensions. He’s concerned more with showing than with explicitly telling of the city’s spirit. And crucially, Czyzniejewski has a wider scope than Algren or Bellow, sweeping from Chicago’s earliest days--Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, the city’s earliest settler--to Mrs. O’Leary and Leopold and Loeb, all the way up to Oprah Winfrey. It’s an open question whether his representation is faithful, though, or whether he successfully encapsulates at least some of the many Chicagos.

I’m not sure if the answer to that question is unequivocally yes. Czyzniejewski looks at a different dimension of the city than those famous Chicago authors, but it’s one that anyone who’s familiar with the figures his stories center around could “get.” In my mind, that nod of resonance and gut recognition would be less prevalent in a general audience that’s reading Algren. Like Algren’s speaking a language that rings especially true to Chicagoans, whereas Czyzniejewski can be heard by all. I wonder if this is a byproduct of the fact that by and large each fiction is based off of people, and not so much off the physical form of the city (cue my “As a geographer...”). I was going to write that he doesn’t much focus on my native South Side, but he really doesn’t talk much about the North Side either. The Chicago of Chicago Stories isn’t the “city of neighborhoods.” By and large it’s a city of historical figures and larger-than-life characters.

I don’t mean to say that this is entirely a bad thing. We should show people a Chicago that’s not the industrial hardscrabble one of last century (though I’m sure as heck not discounting that that’s still a part of our heritage). Taken together as a whole, these stories do give a sense of Chicago’s essence that’s distinct from the representation given by Algren and his ilk, yet a cousin to that. Czyzniejewski draws a circle around the city’s soul that relays a broad understanding of it to the reader; someone like Algren breaks your nose with more of a pinpoint representation. They’re just different methods of conveying what Chicago is.

I enjoyed many or most of the dramatic fictions in the book. They seemed to draw a picture of a Chicago that sits comfortably in a dim bar, clearly a regular, elbows back, feet up, gesticulating confidently and passionately about politics and sports. There are a crop of figures, like David Hasselhoff, that should be familiar to non-Chicagoans, making the book more appropriate for a general audience. This is probably good, at least for Czyzniejewski. It’s just a different fictional Chicago than what I had hoped for.

So after all this hand-wringing about faithful representations and the soul of the city, what’s the verdict? Ultimately, I don’t think it’s fair to measure Czyzniejewski against the standards of my Chicago. I should just go write my own stories or poems if I don’t feel he captured the Chicago I know. Because that’s the thing that Czyzniejewski has made me realize, shaking me out of my solipsism--there are infinite Chicagos, and they’re all legitimate. Czyzniejewski puts forth a fresh, creative perspective on my city. I’m glad he didn’t go the Algren route. There’s too much else out there.


Rachel Hyman lives in Chicago and edits Banango Lit and Banango Street. She went to poetry camp when she was 13. Find her at

TONIGHT: ACM 50.2 Release Party!

Come to our April Fools' Day Party at Beauty Bar this evening! We will be officially releasing volume two of our Chicago Issue, and many of our talented authors will be reading. Doors open at 7, and the reading will begin at 8.

The fulsome visages of the collected fools are as follows:

Chris Bower is a playwright and the host of the Ray's Tap Reading Series. You can find him

Paul Durica is the founder of Pocket Guide to Hell tours and Reenactments. The Chicagoan and Poetry have published his work recently.

Andrew Farkas' Self-Titled Debut is available through Subito Press. He is currently a gentleman of leisure.

Jac Jemc's first book, My Only Wife, is out later this month from Dzanc Books. She is also the poetry editor of decomP.

Tim Jones-Yelvington has fashioned himself indie lit's first pop star.

Francesco Levato is a poet, translator, and filmmaker. Author of four books of poetry he holds an MFA in Poetry, and is working towards a PhD in English Studies.

Joe Meno is one bad mother, who also happens to be a father.

Writer/novelist and editor and blogger and academic and prankster and father of two and department

Yvonne Strumecki’s finally getting PAID to do what she loves, travel the country & sing. Published bc of bacon. How is her life even real?

Ben Tanzer is the author of the books 99 Problems, You Can Make Him Like You, My Father's House and So Different Now among others.

Steven & Maja Teref translated Assembly, the selected poems of Novica Tadić (Host Publications, 2009).

Michael Zapata is a writer and educator living in Chicago. He is a founding editor of MAKE. He works as an editor at ANTIBOOKCLUB.

Pre-order Issue 50, vol. 2!

Our second volume of the Chicago Issue is now available to pre-order through the independent publisher Curbside Splendor. This edition of the magazine is a continuation of our 50th issue featuring local Chicago writers, including the work of Ben Tanzer, Tim Jones-Yevington, Zach Dodson, Fred Sasaki, Joe Meno, Natalie Edwards and Chris Bower, among others. The cost of each issue is $12, and will be mailed in February. Order your copy here now!

ACM & Curbside Splendor Publishing host a [pre]release celebration at the Uptown Book Expo!



ACM & Curbside Splendor host a reading of present and past contributors this Saturday, November 19th from 5-6pm, celebrating ACM's forthcoming Issue 50.2, the second in our all Chicago issue, Curbside Splendor's recent Issue 2, and Curbside Splendor's new book Chicago Stories: 40 Dramatic Fictions by Michael Czyzniejewski, coming out April 2012.

Readers include:

Chris Bower 

Philip Jenks

Natalie Edwards

James Tadd Adcox

Ben Tanzer

Ben Spies

Paul Luikart

Sondra Morin

Come to this, but more important, come to the Expo running all day Saturday Nov. 19 and Sunday Nov. 20. Support Chicago Independent Publishing! 

For more information about the Uptown Book Expo, click here!!!


Curbside Splendor Literary Magazine Review by Josalyn Knapic

On the cover of Curbside Splendor Issue 1, Spring 2011, there are soft white lights from blurred black streetlamps. An allusion to the cover art as well as the content, it is simple yet alluring. This newly developed literary magazine publishes fiction and poetry. It hails from the Chicago neighborhood, Logan Square. Edited by Victor David Giron, this semi-annual magazine brings to light urban (and sometimes sub-urban) settings.

Photography is intermixed within the text. The black and white images capture urbanization¾ through photojournalistic city landscapes, abstraction, and close ups. All photos are taken either by designer of the magazine Karolina Koko Faber or by photographers: Garrett Holden, Michael San Filippo, and Eirik Gumney.

This magazine can be defined from a poem entitled, “What We Talk About When We Talk About the End,” in which Ally Malinenki writes, “It goes in different directions. I try to stay away from the panic.” Each story or poem takes the reader in some new direction while exploring the "panic" of life, whether it is meeting your death somehow on Rue de Nil in opening story "Second-Hand Blue," meditating on city streets in Frankie Metro's poem "Kingsley Ave.," or living as children struggling during the month of Ramadan in Farah Ghuznavi's story "Waiting for God."

These different directions also take us into fiction winners of Curbside’s 2010 Winter Short Story Award Opportunity. Brandon Jennings “Doc the Fifth” is the first place story of a soldier in the Iraqi War. Second place winner Yovani Flores introduces us to a Puerto Rican father’s kitchen habits in “El Lloron.” Third place story “Onida” by Michael San Filippo takes us through young adult's troubled relationships.

Everything in this issue begs to have the reader understand what it means to share stories (tragedies or successes) with people that are close to us. They also show how strangers can influence our lives. That's what being an urbanite is all about, lives intersecting other lives. The casualness of the issue gleams what all of us are looking for: meaning in the obvious, the routine, and the fascination in the behavior of people. Curbside Splendor focuses on appreciating the substance of what it means to be urban.