Letter • Antoine Wilson • October 1, 2013
Dear Fellow Reader,
Am I a typical A Public Space reader? I have no idea.
I have a television; I watch it. I use the Internet as if it were a second television, boinging my way down the rabbit hole of “related” YouTube videos until I feel gutted through and through. I visit Disneyland; I shop at Target. That is to say, I haven’t sequestered myself in a hermitage or an ivory tower. I live a version of contemporary life in America. As a result, I often despair about our culture and where it’s headed. I recognize that this is typical, that people have always despaired over the decline of culture, that the youth have always been crass, as it were, but I feel it nevertheless, The Decline, and I despair.
A Public Space has frequently lifted me from the depths of that despair. Each new issue feels like a public report from many individual private spheres, and the depth, quality, language and emotion contained therein literally restore my faith. I am reminded, over and over, that what I think I see is not necessarily what is, that my recurrent cynicism is not the sharp analysis it seems to be, but a sort of falling asleep of vision, a failure to see generously enough.
As a Contributing Editor, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in a small way for most of the issues, but I’ve also been surprised and delighted by other things in the magazine, most of which I had no idea were going to be there. I’ve been both participant and fanboy, simultaneously, and living 2,800 miles away from the offices on Dean Street, I’ve been able to reflect on the magazine’s aesthetic from a distance. To me it comes down to subjectivity, rendered artistically—cultivation of the individual private spheres I mentioned above.
I think of the wonderful writers I’ve discovered from reading the magazine: Mary-Beth Hughes, Laurie Scheck, Eva Zeisel. Of those whose work I already loved and whom we’ve been privileged to publish: Charles D’Ambrosio, Marilynne Robinson, Jack Livings, Yiyun Li, Sarah Manguso. You have your list, too, I’m sure.
A Public Space is named for a zone in which we can assemble freely and interact, a place not removed from the rest of the world but interwoven with it. And yet the stories, poems, essays, and artwork rarely feel as though they’ve been hanging around in the public square very long. I suppose that the magazine functions as a sort of liminal shuttle, facilitating an oscillation between the contemplative life, or the creative version of it which engenders certain forms of art, and the social sphere. In doing so, it seems to me, it is astonishingly agile and wise.
With each new issue, I am bowled over again. I am restored.
Antoine Wilson is the author of two novels, Panorama City (HMH) The Interloper (Handsel Books). He lives in Los Angeles.
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