On Charles D’Ambrosio’s “The Dead Fish Museum”

APS Classic Leslie Jamison November 12, 2014

“The Dead Fish Museum” starts with a key that doesn’t work, presented to a motel clerk whose face is visible “through a circle in the slab of glass, cut like a hole in ice.” It’s a story full of people trapped—trapped by need or trauma or loneliness, trapped inside the stifling confines of a hastily erected porn set: “They’d boarded shut the windows and now, with fumes of fresh paint filling the warehouse, Ramage felt woozy.” Ramage is the guy who runs the carpentry crew. He...


A Letter from Leslie Jamison

Letter Leslie Jamison October 23, 2014

Hello Readers,

I’m sitting in Slottsparken, in Oslo—on the stone steps in front of the Royal Palace, in the shadow of a looming bronze king on his looming bronze horse—and I’m thinking about public spaces, how they summon an inadvertent gathering stripped of intention or annotation: a young artist in Converse high-tops holds a baguette in one hand and a splattered canvas in the other; an elderly couple strides by in matching sunglasses, still holding hands after however-many years; a group of children convulses collectively around the fact of a tiny toffee-colored dog; a woman bends over to reach her arm down into a garbage can.

Public spaces gather individual stories into passing relation, and A Public Space gives us glimpses into these private infinities, the engines of desire and fear that might drive them. A Public Space notices the world—in all of its particulars, their odd collection—and delivers this world to us. It makes room for joy—that little toffee dog!—and perpetuity—those sunglasses, those gripping hands. It makes room for strangers and mysteries and necessity; it’s not afraid to include the woman who sticks her hand into the trash. In one recent issue, Ander Monson speculates: “perhaps it’s not too late to rehabilitate your heart, the echo chamber of your voice,” and I think it’s fair to say A Public Space has become a recurring echo chamber: each issue conducting a collection of voices into chorus.

It feels right to write about A Public Space far away from its home on Dean Street, in Brooklyn, because it has always loved roaming far and wide. In its pages you’ll find a Zimbabwean coffin maker and a makeshift outdoor gym in Beijing, a Buenos Aires neighborhood with streets named after famous women, and a glossary of Antarctica slang. (Degomble: to shake the hardened snow from one’s hair).

My own history with A Public Space began in 2006, when I was temping at a large bank in midtown Manhattan—a windowless room full of cubicles, a decidedly un-public space—and the magazine decided to publish one of my stories. It was my first publication anywhere. Hearing that someone actually liked my writing enough to publish it was like a sudden swell of wind. It gave me faith in something beyond the cubicle.

One of the most singular and spectacular things about A Public Space has always its commitment to unknown authors: almost every issue introduces someone who has never been in print. It’s a magazine committed to discovery: to discovering new voices, new places, new layers of feeling and experience.

Years later, under the northern sun of Oslo, far from those dim Midtown cubicles, I’m writing these words to you—you, who are probably a stranger to me, unless you are my mother, who has been a faithful subscriber to A Public Space since 2006 (hi mom!). I’m sitting in a park full of infinite human lives and thinking about communities of readers and writers as public spaces of another kind, and I’m thinking that perhaps, if you have read some of the same words as I, you are not entirely a stranger after all.

It’s precisely this kinship—faceless but not soulless, this kinship of bodies turning the pages and hearts receiving them—that A Public Space has made possible for the past eight years.

With your support, we can keep dwelling in this kind of public space for years to come. Please think about helping to make it possible.

Thank you,
LJ_sig
Leslie Jamison


P.S. Contributions at any level help to make A Public Space possible, but if you’re able to make a donation at the $100 level, you’ll receive a signed copy of Issue 3, with Leslie Jamison’s debut story, “Quiet Men.” Donors at the $250 level will also receive a signed copy of her essay collection, The Empathy Exams, which received the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and was a New York Times best seller this year. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

Thank you for being a part of A Public Space.


On Dorthe Nors’s “Karate Chop”

APS Classic Daniel Woodrell October 22, 2014

To read a Dorthe Nors story is to enter a dream and become subject to its logic. Though her voice is subtly modulated, even cool, cerebral, you immediately feel pulled into a consciousness that is somehow off-kilter and quietly, darkly disturbed. Sometimes her characters seem merely odd, but somewhere along the way the merely is lost and the odd quality becomes stunningly human. Her wonderful collection, Karate Chop, is an exemplar of this compact artistry. You pass through her narrative,...

On Robyn Schiff’s “De La Rue’s Envelope Machine”

APS Classic Patricia Lockwood September 15, 2014

I'll read any poem about a machine. I honestly would read a poem about a toaster, or an ATM, or Rosie from The Jetsons. A poem about the first machine that folded envelopes? Why not just put a chocolate bonbon directly into my mouth; it is so completely my weakness. How does Robyn Schiff know me so well?

The first thing I do, of course, is look up what the hell any of this is—and I find the Wikipedia entry to be a stunning verbal innovation. Listen:

The "envelopes" produced by the Hill/De...

The 2015 APS Emerging Writer Fellowships

News September 15, 2014

We are pleased to announce that applications are now open for ​the 2015 Emerging Writer ​F​ellowships. Under this project, three emerging writers will ​be selected for six-month fellowships, which will include:

– A ​mentorship from an established author who has previously contributed to A Public Space;
– Publication in the magazine;
– ​A contributor's payment of $1,000;
– ​Free workspace in our Brooklyn offices​ (optional)​.

Please note that applicants from all...

Deborah S. Pease (1943-2014)

Memo August 18, 2014

Deborah Pease was a dear friend, devoted reader, and founding benefactor of A Public Space. She was the author of the novel Real Life (W. W. Norton), and several books of poems, collected in Another Ghost in the Doorway (Moyer Bell). Her poems also appeared in AGNI, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Parnassus, and other journals; as well as in the chapbook The Crows at Appleton (Monogram Editions) and Opposed to Indifference: Poems of Memory and Conscience (Haybarn Press).

A phone call nine years ago about starting this magazine expanded over time into long conversations about everything from the size of a footnote to a favorite sentence in the magazine. Packages, addressed in her elegant handwriting, arrived often on Dean Street, with a novel by Niccolò Tucci, a catalog from the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, news of the Poets House Showcase—for her one of the truest ways to value art was to share it. With that in mind, and as a way to remember her, here is a small selection of her work:


All the Observable Grace

It is difficult
Amid so much disturbance
To step lightly into the narrow boat,
To let the current carry it
Into the wide, slow-moving river.
Difficult to embark on the indeterminate journey.
Difficult not to find defeat in hostile terrain,
Easy to lose all sense
Of the river’s promise,
Easy to forget how the sun contends with shade
In ever-extending clemencies as day begins.
It is difficult to reach the shore
From arid plains, difficult to imagine
The ease of drifting.
Life begins
On the sloping river bank.
Minnows wheel in the shallows.
Trees on either side blend their reflections.
Light appears to emanate from underneath.
Birds are apprehended by their calls,
By the peace they call into being.
Only otherness
Allows the tentative step
Into the narrow boat, impels a casting off
Of customary gravity.
Coolness washes the face in sun-measured warmth.
A cleanliness is laid upon habitual usage.
Aquatic creatures plow delicate wakes
Criss-crossing all that was known
And is known again.
It is difficult not to wish
To live this way forever
In all the observable grace.
Day changes
In the manner of a face becoming old.
Night nears.
A log juts
Pronged with antlers.
Ahead lie clouds and islands, glazed tributaries,
A wideness, river-lakes, washes of blue,
Pale-hued supplicants.
Waters reclaiming the earth.
[Read more]

Call for Artists

News July 31, 2014

We are absolutely thrilled to be publishing a story from Kelly Link’s forthcoming collection in our fall issue. Part Philip K. Dick, part Pygmalion, “The New Boyfriend” is a twisted send-up of Twilight-era teenage love. APS Readers, we’re giving you the chance to illustrate it for us.


The 2014 Emerging Writer Fellows

News June 20, 2014

We are thrilled to announce our inaugural Emerging Writer Fellows: Vanessa Hutchinson, Mahreen Sohail, and April Wolfe. We would also like to thank all of the writers who submitted manuscripts, and the readers who spent the past eight weeks evaluating, debating and championing applications.

Supporting new writers has been an essential part of A Public Space since the debut issue—Leslie Jamison, Nam Le, and Jesmyn Ward published their first stories in the magazine—and with the Emerging Writer Fellowships we hope to continue this tradition by seeking out writers who have not yet published a book-length work but whose writing shows exceptional talent.


Literature Begets Literature

Portfolio The Work of Kerstin Ekman | Selected and Introduced by Dorthe Nors May 2, 2014

All through my twenties I sat immersed in Kerstin Ekman’s novels. I believe she taught me to write. Now I have traveled to Stockholm to meet her. It feels like going back in time.

We have arranged to meet at Clas på Hörnet on Surbrunnsgatan, one of the city’s oldest restaurants (legend has it that the likes of King Gustav III and Sweden’s great eighteenth-century troubadour Carl Michael Bellman regularly let their hair down here). When I arrive Kerstin Ekman is waiting on a chair in the lobby. Famous people look like they do in pictures: Her hair is white and neat, her deep-set eyes keen and kind, but with an air of authority too. The same authority with which she resigned from the Swedish Academy in 1989 because of what she saw as the laxity of its stance on Salman Rushdie’s fatwa. I sense that walking out like that wouldn’t have bothered her in the slightest. More likely it suited her fine to pull on a pair of walking boots and stride off into the Swedish wilds. Her literature is like that too.


A Question for My Father

Portfolio Kerstin Ekman | Selected and Introduced by Dorthe Nors May 2, 2014

I have a memory of my father. It is suspended in time and space, as memories tend to be. I don’t know where we are, but I can hear his voice clearly. It is teasing and yet very intense. That’s what he was like when he was being serious. Incorrigibly sarcastic. Good Lord, girl, he is saying. Haven’t you noticed, a whole society is being built right around you? Was I sitting at the piano at dusk? He liked that. I must have said something that exposed my dreamy-eyed ignorance of what was going on around me. Sweden was just beginning the social upheaval that would throw us through a giant bell-shaped curve from cheerful optimism to bewilderment and panic. I knew nothing of it. I played Satie’s Gymnopédies.


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A Public Space is an independent magazine of literature and culture. It was founded in 2006. You can read more about the magazine’s history and mission - click here.

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