Brev Spread Declaration

 Arthur Schopenhauer claimed that there were two literatures running parallel alongside one another. One species is “pursued by those who live for science or poetry,” and the other “is pursued by persons who live on science and poetry.” Roberto Bolano claimed that there was a “secret story” that we pursued and could never know. No wonder the fractious behavior of Bolaño that left “elephant tracks” in his heyday accrual of European literary prizes. Much against my reservations Bolaño was a great writer whose ambitions lie beside Cormac McCarthy who once claimed that no Moby Dick could be written today, yet who is currently “writing a long work” and whose own paradigm Herman Melville proclaimed, “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.” Something above us, looming, eminent, behind the mask, the matador of literature for whom we serve inexorably as if chasing safety from an avalanche as the sky falls, as the crow flies, as they say. The lampreys on the wall are sponsored only by their gym while unjourneyed crags persist on, should intrude from, the outside. Brev Spread is a reconaissance mission and touchstone.

I, too, diminish the world in two, but in the way William James describes the action of art: hollowing, winnowing, soldering, excluding. Tastes must be upheld. There is a base, centers of attention, the ground and water we tread on. David Foster Wallace had his points, and his time, and his legacy manifests beside the James who believed “it is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all.” The original context belongs to a radically empirical world where no consequence is guaranteed. Recall T.S. Eliot’s Tradition and the Individual Talent. James draws to the conclusion: “You make one or the other of two possible universes true by your trust or mistrust,—both universes having been only maybes, in this particular, before you contributed your act.” But contract your vestigious arms in more than one way. Do not just act on impulse, or even collectively. Concert and concern yourselves, bear arms conscientiously; or, as Slavoj Žižek often quips, “It’s time to get serious.”

Brev Spread is committed to not only publishing the best, but to also drawing out the best, an acme best realized in hospitable environments. In this there is a sinuous cable to John Dewey somewhere ran alongside some titanic trapeze line to E.D. Hirsch and the Modernists, all bundled together in the Tower of Babel and contiguous with other magazines like Lapham’s Quarterly, Poetry, Lungfull!, Absinthe, A Public Space, and Anobium. Indeed in this breadth there is a whiff of the social, as most expansive projects lay claim to a realism all their own. We admit the depth and detail of the sea we throw ourselves into everyday by equipping ourselves according to John Ruskin: “He is the greatest artist who has embodied, in the sum of his works, the greatest number of the greatest ideas.” However, we acknowledge today’s world is more than just an alternate reality of that which Ruskin ekphrasized in, and in this we store great hope in the open source work of Lewis H. Lapham, delanceyplace.com, smalldemons.com, and WordPress, as a historical perspective tends to be the McGuffin of many a dramatic real-world scenes—i.e., the sine qua non with which health deteriorates in the unnecessarily violent exchanges between lovers strange and intimate, that if only it were kept in the first place there would be much more beauty sleeping in town. Beside the pedigree of Lapham’s Quarterly I emphasize the quality control exacted in Poetry, as well as its avant-garde provenance. Yet scope extends horizontally, too, as the emphases in dialogue, process, and the foreign of the other enumerated magazines retain top priority in our own magazine as well. We, however, do not just accept whatever may hop out of the fire. Much rather we prefer that literary specimen which is no mere ant beneath the magnifying glass, as solid lasers are our preferred touchstone.

As we are a small, homegrown magazine we cannot publish what we like as they come, but must rather content everyone with modest biweekly publications. We cannot even provide remunerations, though we hope the glory of recognition and distribution be enough, for it is what we must make do with, too. In serving the greatest public interests, those of the soul and culture, we would like to remain as open source as possible, hardly restricting sharing and reproduction of our pieces. I stated earlier that we are committed to “drawing out the best,” by which I mean Brev Spread is socially committed to bringing out the best for the rest, as the improvement of all can in the least cultivate the powers of the individual, and in these organic intellectuals and singular persons may our time be redeemed. It is in furnishing the household that we can clear (in Heidegger’s sense) the space for a Virginia Woolf, a Henry James, a Jacques Barzun, and realize Emerson’s ideal: “The profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.” We need not deafen in turning the other cheek.

Samuel Johnson exhorted, “My dear friend, clear your mind of cant,” which we echo, recognizing the affinity of the mind to being filled. Literature out of season, against the grain, furtive, manifests only after the efforts of writers and readers against habit, and Brev Spread winds and wends for William James’ Utopia of the world of aesthetics where “the outer relations persist in contradicting, but which we as stubbornly persist in striving to make actual.” In our melee against cant, James persists: “It is true that habitual arrangements may also become agreeable. But this agreeableness of the merely habitual is felt to be a mere ape and counterfeit of real inward fitness; and one sign of intelligence is to never mistake the one for the other.”


Real inward fitness.

We strive to transmit blazar jets of brilliance.

Despite the mediocre lapses in John Updike’s oeuvre, steam swells before his Paris Review interview: “I think books should have secrets, like people do. I think they should be there as a bonus for the sensitive reader or there as a kind of subliminal quavering. I don’t think that the duty of the twentieth-century fiction writer is to retell old stories only.” When I think at all I make a decision to live for or on “science or poetry,” whether consciously or not. But when I “footnote Plato” I bring into my life the tome to which I append myself, pages of which include Saramagos, Updike, Wallace, Voltaire, and I can’t help believing in literature all over again. Not that I have ever stopped believing in real inward fitness, nor the value of print and one another.

A.C., 8/16/12


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