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The Ephemera Interview

Posted on 08 April 2004. © Copyright 2004-2018 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to the editor of The Ephemera, a new literary magazine who aim to publish 'the most stimulating and provoking fiction and poetry.'

Tell us something about your background.

The Ephemera is a new literary magazine whose publishers feel that the contemporary literary landscape has suffered from an over emphasis on commercialism, a shortage of intelligent, relevant opinion, and a resulting environment that not only lacks freshness but is bereft of the necessary apparatus by which this freshness could be introduced. It would be very easy for people in our position or sharing these opinions to point fingers of blame at literary agents, publishing houses, booksellers, other literary reviews, the reading public - instead we suspect that the general literary atmosphere has become stale, leading to a situation whereby our artists are starved of a connection with the past and an understanding of their importance in the present. Unfortunately there is a large section of the reading public who no longer have, or no longer have faith in, what Arnold called their own literary organ; the resulting devaluing of its principal components - correct information, taste and intelligence is a situation which The Ephemera seeks to remedy.

What kind of ethos is behind The Ephemera?

It is not uncommon for a little magazine such as ours to aim at being, or too quickly become, little more than (what one of our associates would call:) a half-arsed vanity project, publishing underdeveloped creative writing and ill-considered critical work. We have been prompted to take it upon ourselves to seek out and promote work and opinion whose merit may not be obvious to the casual onlooker but whose continued existence is all too often stubbed out by the very systems which have been designed to nourish it.

What kind of writers do you plan to publish and why?

We will publish the most stimulating and provoking fiction and poetry, supplemented by critical works which steer clear of easy and idle recommendations, favouring consideration in place of interpretation, and discussion in place of dictation.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

This is a very difficult question to answer. There are certainly many types of writing that do not interest us but it seems unfriendly to catalogue them here. We feel certain that entertainment in art must be derived from engaging the reader directly through form, content and style - Yes we want to be entertained, but most of all we seek engagement on terms dictated solely by the writer through his or her work

What excites you about a piece of writing-

A sense of the unexpected in content and style.

and what makes your heart sink?

Formulaic, lazy, derivative, or unconsciously fatuous work.



A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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Comments by other Members



Skeetr at 17:27 on 09 April 2004  Report this post
Does Ephemera have a web site?

Anna Reynolds at 17:44 on 09 April 2004  Report this post
I asked them in the initial interview but not as far as I know- I'll find out.

old friend at 11:26 on 10 April 2004  Report this post
Anna,

It must be me but I found myself as unclear about this new Magazine as I had been before I read this Interview.

The last time I had this feeling was many years ago when I was attempting some understanding of Sufism and it came down to the three blind men and the elephant.

I tend to be wary when there exists an indefinite intellectual explanation of aims and objectives for any new Magazine. Nevertheless it will be very interesting to see what meat is put onto this ambiguous skeleton when it is launched. I wish them all success.

Len

Skeetr at 12:02 on 10 April 2004  Report this post
Len, you captured the tone of Ephemera quite well -- "an indefinite intellectual explanation of aims and objectives" -- their responses to WW's questions were, well, 'ephemeral'. That's why it would be good to take a look at a web site, if they have one, as that might have more concrete information about what they are trying to do with this magazine.

Anna Reynolds at 16:31 on 10 April 2004  Report this post
I asked the editor: he says 'our web-site is currently under construction (address: www.theephemera.org). In the meantime we can send our circular, & any other releases, to any body who contacts us on enquiries@theephemera.org', so there you go.



Account Closed at 10:54 on 13 April 2004  Report this post
instead we suspect that the general literary atmosphere has become stale


Hmmm, certainly in some respects, but not in all cases. There does seem to be an awful lot of conservatism around in the literary world these days. I mean, I know some great books are being written, some even published, but the day of the cult classic and a groundbreaking 'shocker' seems to be sadly diminishing.

I truly hope this magazine will challenge that and not get swamped by their own idealism. I agree that I'd like to have a look at it first though, so I'll get the circular.

Good interview though, Anna.

James x

L.T. Cary at 17:18 on 13 April 2004  Report this post
Anna,
Please accept the following exchange as a response to some of the interesting comments your members have made. Please pardon its length.
Yours very sincerely,
L.T. Cary.
assistant editor, The Ephemera.


O wrote:

D_,
Now I see that word written again it suddenly seems
so alien - as if
the letters have been stolen for better
use in other words.
Why you don't write me anymore?
O.


D wrote:

Dear O, again I apologise. I offer my stultifying laziness not as an excuse, but as a reason. Also, it is worth remembering how little I have to say. John H was, of course, in London this weekend, and it was a delight to see him. Strange to sit in the Coach, mind you, as I kept expecting either you or N to turn up. Paris sounded worringly attractive, as well. I guess Julie R. has turned up, on this the day of your move. Odd.
What is perhaps interesting is how the brain, starved of stimulus, stops functioning at full power. Granted this starvation is self imposed, but breaking out of the loop seems increasingly difficult. Got to do something, got to get out, got to start thinking. Writing even? But about what? Who the fuck knows? Inspire me, O. I know it's a lot to ask, particularly given my rubbishy response times, but, but...
I'm going to write a story today, and it's going to have if not guns, then at least swords in it. Or maybe just banality, or mundanity or inanity. It's going to be called Jack Vapid and the Gods of Mars, and its going to be mainly about lunch, because that's what I'm thinking about currently. Ah, shite, I might go back to bed...

O wrote:

D,
Thank you for your message. I send this merely to hold our attention to your plea for inspiration. Rest assured that I am fully focussed on the task in hand and will get back to you with a suitable response at some point in the next few days.
Please send me the first draft of Vapid and the Deities as I like swords, or guns, or both.
Fond regards,
O.

O wrote:

Dearest D,

It is strange that you ask me here about these things - you ask three questions and then there's a direct request to inspire you. Unfortunately, having started off pretty well, I have been suffering from a quite dreadful block since our communication on the 16th of last and my ideas have been overtaking the stories that I might have wanted to tell, leaving me with nothing but the thoughts and a desire to construct pretty sentences.
Yet again I refer to Eliot in times of crisis, his writings have become some kind of retreat from my own silly & unformulated ponderings. I even found myself admitting to G last Saturday that I think I'm really trying to do nothing much more than rewrite Prufrock over 50,000 words. This time I've been looking at the fifth part of his fourth quartet where he presents a bracketed section as an aside on the nature of a sentence that is 'right':

where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old & new,
The common word exact with out vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together.

Besides, I shouldn't think your mind should be so starved of stimulus anymore, surely there must be things to find and things to see? The certainty of three days work a week and someone to spend time with. But all of that aside, I don't understand why an attraction should be worrying. There are many things that are worrying and I don't think any of them concern the subject of a story - regardless of whether it's filled with swords, buzzing bees, pretty fields, whores, big whales, streetcars, singing nuns, magic nannies, talking trains, hungry caterpillars or boxers gone off the rails - what is it then that concerns me about stories? and how might I turn it all in a way such as it might pull the choke out on your poor, self-starved brain?
First of all, and perhaps I shot the gun a little early, I should define what I mean by stories, and notice too how artfully I construct this description in such a way as I can tear it down again. A story can be about something in anyone of the ways listed above. A story can also be of something so a story about dying flowers might just be a story of betrayal; a story of torment might be about sodden leaves blocking gutters. It is often the case that this distinction can be confused. It might be very easy to suggest that a story of storm clouds gathering is about petulance - but this would be simply wrong.
Second, a story need not have a message, a conclusion, a moral or a point. It needn't have a definite beginning, a middle of exposition & a tidy end. However a story should encapsulate a thought which effects its form (like the sea bed effects a wave) and that is to say that the story should not create the idea but the idea should create the story. I suggest that a story might suffice with being nothing more than a snapshot of time, the body of the text serving only to place the shot with in a context like a subtitled date and location on the back of a loose photograph.

Before I continue I am reminded by my ramblings of another section from Eliot - this time East Coker (again) but part V:

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world become stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

There are those that share a story and hold on to the secrecy of their thoughts. There are those that keep their stories to themselves.
I could have told you how I cycled up to Place Contrascarpe a few days ago, and how, breathlessly & sweaty, I bought a bottle of perrier and fixed myself a cigarette, how a stoned & scarred scruff approached me and offered me a malboro thus inviting my explanation of how I like to make my own, he asked for one of mine which I gladly gave him, he asked me if I wanted a woman and I politely said no, he asked me if I don't like women and I firmly told him that I do like women but that I was a little tired and had things to do so didn't want one now, he asked me if I wanted a man and I repeated my no. He asked me where my friends were and I said they weren't around so he told me that I could have the first for free but that I shouldn't tell my friends when I see them, I said I was in no mood to fuck anything and he offered a free wank by way of compensation for my sorry state. With my final, insistent rejection of his kindly offers he told me to fuck off with my bicycle and not come back so after a few more puffs on my cigarette and a sip of water I went on my way.
Is that a story?
Might it have been more significant if I had explained to you the shoes I was wearing and the pain my feet have been in from choosing the wrong shoes to wear? Might I have told you that my first criteria for the choosing of shoes is that they must be so ugly as I will never see anyone else wearing them? If I had weaved all this in to my tale would it have been appropriate to tell you that this pimp was wearing the exact same trainers as me? Or should I have skipped out this incident and just told you that I cycled to Fauborg St-Germain, by-way-of the Pantheon, to meet John for a coffee?
As I hope you already know, I will give little time to the drama in a story but am happy to invest a great deal of energy into the drama of a story. Again the distinction may seem spurious so I will leave it unfurnished, as an open wound for you to pick at as you please.

I don't think a morphological approach should be applied to existence but I believe that there are patterns hidden beneath the chaos of existence that can be revealed by chipping away at the marble that surrounds its form. Even better than that, why don't we start from the ground up so as to create a form from scratch, in fact we can scratch phony chisel marks into the fabricated base of the sculpture thus turning the tables on reality - we can present a pattern that suggests a chaos instead of a reality which suggests that hidden, somewhere, deep beneath its insignificant comings and goings, lies a tale that might be worth telling.
Fictions get us to facts much quicker than the truth does - the truth (in the non-abstract sense, ie. the pimp wearing the same shoes as me) merely leads us, in the backwards construction of a thought, down the route of misunderstanding. Stories & story-tellers can often be confused - that is, the will of one for the reason of the other. Facts and fictions are interchangeable even when telling someone else about something they were there for. Misunderstanding is a choice that is taken.

As the confusion quickens I wonder if this red wine has lubricated my thoughts.

O.

p.s. I include, for your pleasure, two aborted attempts at this e-mail.

(i)
D,
What shall I tell you today? What should I say that beckons no reply? What is there to say whilst surrounded, as I am, with the clutter of a month's casual living? What is there to report that might impart an essence of what it is to live here, like this, now? How can I go about explaining the nature of experience? What can I point out as having noticed that would make your eyes broaden at the wonder of it all?
What use are facts in the conveyance of actuality? What outlines would they fill? and with that colours?
What structure of events might furnish this fiction with anything even closely resembling fact?
I am having great problems with not receiving replies.
O.

(ii)
D,
... so now you request: inspiration from me to remedize your laziness; measures to counter your masochistic starvation; a blade with which to slice your way out of the loop.
What shall I tell you today? What should I say that beckons no reply? What is there to say whilst surrounded, as I am, with the clutter of a month's casual living? What is there to report that might impart an essence of what it is to live here, like this, now? How can I go about explaining the nature of experience? What can I point out as having noticed that would make your eyes broaden at the wonder of it all?
There is a lot to be said for the writing of stories that keep a foot in the sphere of mystery or that on repeated reading remain enigmatic but there is also much to be said for the thick layering of facts, one upon the other, so as to create some kind of a tart or terrine of life (or narrative) that can be sliced and viewed, like a snap-shot, at any one moment, and regarded for what it was at that point, and what it mightn't have moved on from. If I had the ability to describe and event in the same way a camera, with the right pointing & accuracy of focus & exposure, sees then maybe I would take great joy in painting various pictures of what it was to drink coffee yesterday morning, or the humour that we all found attached to an accident with urine and a telephone box, perhaps I could tell you about Icelandic Nikolai or Picasso's grandson, Leon, who has a thing for virility in art - maybe I'd tell you how he stands stout with his chest stuck out and how his hair is thick with grease which but which fails to control his curls. All of these might be facts, viewed and noted down at any one moment, surveyed & considered after a moment or a month, embellished and coloured with clever sentence structures and unexpected words, tinged with a certainty of intent so that if you failed to grasp my description then it wouldn't have been worth while putting pen to paper in the outset.
But what use might these facts serve? What do I seek to convey by describing my experience? or the events the occur in the life of a character that I might call fictional? Do I seek anything more than truth? A pure representation of an emotion at a p


Nell at 17:23 on 13 April 2004  Report this post
I don't understand...

Skeetr at 17:27 on 13 April 2004  Report this post
Ditto on the lack of understanding...

<Added>

or maybe that's the point they are trying to make -- if you don't 'get' us you wouldn't fit our magazine--??

Anna Reynolds at 17:56 on 13 April 2004  Report this post
I confess to being in the dark too- but I suppose that is the point. When the website develops it'll be interesting to see what more light they shed on the magazine and contents- other than that, buy a copy and find out that way! L T Cary, if you're reading this, would it be possible to put your contribution in some context for us? Thanks...

L.T. Cary at 18:39 on 13 April 2004  Report this post
Anna,

By all means. I'll try:

We have received hundreds of responses to our circular, and already a good few from your members -a testimony to the success of your site - congratulations! Whilst reading and responding to these comments we realise that the descriptions we circulated for the type of writing we plan to publish has left potential contributors a little in the dark as to what it is we're looking for.
We gave a great deal of thought to the composition of our circular and those who've read it might find that it talks mostly about what we're not interested in. Furthermore, in his interview with you, the editor was reluctant to define any genre or style of writing that interests us more than any other.
We feel very strongly that our intent should be judged by performance and not manifestos.
This might then beg the questions - why the circular? why not just publish? - I suppose we're looking to widen our net, we don't want to appear cliquish and so we hoped our thrown gauntlet would encourage some talented writers to give their work a workout.

As to the exchange I posted on your comment board, I thought it might shed some light on (not cast this shadow over) what type of work we're looking for, the sort of questions we'd like to hear asked, the sorts of stories might like to read. It is clearly not a story itself more a discussion about stories, their functions, and how they might be presented.

Pretty soon our web-site will feature correspondence with certain confused parties, a list of commissioned article titles (which we look forward to comments on), and perhaps even some excepts from work we're set to publish.

In the meantime we look forward to reading more remarks on this board, and receiving submissions from any of your readers.

Yours,

L.T. Cary
assistant editor, The Ephemera
enquiries@theephemera.org
www.theephemera.org (in a week or so!)

Anna Reynolds at 19:53 on 13 April 2004  Report this post
Thanls, LT- I'm sure some of us will be having a look at the site! It's always good to have generated discussion about new writing anyway. Keep us in the loop when things happen with the mag.

old friend at 16:22 on 14 April 2004  Report this post
I am with Nell after reading the above. I am reminded of those people who regard themselves as 'selected' by virtue of simply 'knowing' this within themselves; there is an inability to define, describe or justify the adoption of such an Aura, except in terms of vague references to respected Authors or producing obtuse explanations that are little more than parables.

I would suggest that Eliot be joined by George Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russel... we might then perceive some clearer understanding in simple English.

Nevertheless I am looking forward to their Magazine.

Len



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