:: Article


By A. Stevens.

The inspiration for this collection of prose and essays came from a copy of Maurice Girodias’ The Best of Olympia I discovered in the Notting Hill Book Exchange, in the rack set aside for ‘cult’ fiction that heaves under the weight of dependency culture novels. The dog-eared copy was inscribed ‘To John, from Babs’ (you can inscribe your own to this copy, if you want) and it Girodias wrote of the challenges facing the small press editor of his day, of printing errors, petty feuds among editors and precious writers making unreasonable demands on his time. In an era of diminished progress, not much has changed; just substitute printing for webmastering and you get the idea. Even so, the fact that 3:AM has just completed its fifth year of existence gives a more plausible air to putting together this anthology.

Publishing a literary journal on the internet does create more possibilities for interaction between contributors, friends and foes than either the Grub Street era or the post-war scenes permitted. When we started five years ago, there were a clutch of online literary concerns emerging from the post-dot.com boom. There are now literally thousands. 3:AM is devoid of a mission statement and for that reason it works — for us anyhow. We have been told that 3:AM’s appeal to its readers lies in its coverage of ‘cult’ literature. To some extent, the labels ‘cult’ and ‘transgressive’ might be said not to apply to us as solely focus on what is of interest to us and if others share that interest then all the better. We just don’t have to abide by the rules of market forces in that regard, the ones that force even the most august or highbrow of organs to cover mundane publishing phenomena. For us, the likes of Salman Rushdie and Julian Barnes are of zero interest — but they might yet be (though it’s doubtful). This aesthetic without an ethos sees New Puritans sit alongside the likes of Billy Childish and Steve Aylett, the Underground Literary Alliance alongside Paul Auster, Stuckists and Britart apologists on the same page also. We feel no pressure to talk about bankable young authors, though we can’t pretend not to notice when the broadsheets talk about us: the book you’re holding in your hand is testimony to that.

We’ve always been fascinated by the interplay between literature and music and in this volume there are contributions by writers who also double up as musicians (or vice versa): Billy Childish, Mike Watt and Thurston Moore for starters. The contributors hail from Britain, France or America, or in several cases Europe via America (and Japan even). The magazine has always been about literature in its global context; the internet alone saw to that. Like many before it, it remains based in France (via a US server) and is also edited from Britain and the US.

For all this, it remains the case that we’re concerned with the kind of authors Elizabeth Young would be writing about if she was still with us. In his foreword, Michael Bracewell invokes Kathy Acker to the same end. Authors writing about authors always makes for good copy. Bruce Benderson’s piece here forms an appreciation of the “dick-chasing literature” of Burroughs et al, lamenting its demise today due to the gradual acceptance of gay sex in mainstream culture.

It works both ways, of course. Alexander Trocchi was also thinking about “white calves in black ski pants” in the existentialist circles of Paris and it goes on. Only last month we published an interview with one young American writer from Prague who claimed that “writers have unique opportunities to have sex with women who wear glasses”.

Girodias lives on. So do we.

A. Stevens
is a former Editor of 3:AM Magazine and works as a writer and journalist. He lives in London and São Paulo with his wife and son.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, June 10th, 2006.