I'd like to take a break from the Katrina posts for a bit of good old fashioned navel-gazing. The first issue of Barrelhouse was recently reviewed by NewPages.com. NewPages is a very cool site that promotes all things independent and literary, including little mags like Barrelhouse.

The review was generally fair, if not exactly glowing. But there's one word that really bothered me: "Maxim-esque." To put it in context, here's the entire review:

It's fair to say that Barrelhouse is the most promising recent journal so proudly founded in drunkenness; in the introduction to their debut issue, the editors quickly establish its origin, writing, "Fine, we’ll admit it, we were drunk," thus establishing a youngish masculinity that reverberates throughout. The prose and essays here are of the hip, Maxim-esque variety: Stacey Richter's story "Reality X Reality" features a reality TV character providing audio commentary for an unseen DVD: "You have to be really good-looking and you have to be tan, and of course sexy, but not a skanky stripper-type." (Take that, Real World!) Similarly, Steve Almond's essay "Burn Hollywood" mocks popular cinema as he ponders, "Don't you get tired of feeling so empty, Hollywood?" while congratulating himself for not selling out. Some quite strong pieces diverge from the overall aggressive tone, as the poetry is generally subtle and reflective, notably Brad Tice's "Bees," and Paul Graham's short story "Partners" deals with the sexual struggles of a young husband whose wife, before their marriage, was raped. There's a lively interview with Emmylou Harris, too, and the interesting feature of an "illustrated" story – a comic realization of a story from the journal's website. Overall, the concern here is with being cool, and if that's your thing, this is the journal for you.

So...my question is, what the fuck does "Maxim-esque" mean? I guess what I should be asking is, "Are we Maxim-esque?"

Because when I hear Maxim-esque that word gets translated in my mind as "frat-boy, stupid-ass, think they're cool, SUV-driving, backward baseball hat wearing, pictures of Brooke Burns in boyshorts and ripped t-shirt assholes."

Don't get me wrong. I do think it's a pretty fair review -- there's a "youngish masculinity" that we're aware of and that may not necessarily be a bad thing, given the sense of, well, "elderly fragility" that pervades so much of established literary journals, and hey, we are the only literary magazine ever to be featured on the ESPN website. And it's good to be hip. Also to be promising.

But "Maxim-esque?"

So I don't know. Maybe the reveiwer has never read an issue of Maxim, because I have, and I can tell you that while there are plenty of pictures of damp C-list actresses named Brooke in bikinis, there's not a short story or a poem to be found, and the writing is, well, let's just say it's not exactly "The Atlantic-esque."

Maybe we should give in to our Maxim-esque tendencies and line up a special bikini edition starring Joyce Carol Oates and Brooke Burke. Maybe I should lighten up and stop letting that word bother me -- it is, as I said, a pretty fair and almost positive review, after all, and I seriously do love NewPages and everything they do to promote literature, and especially punky little independents like us.

So what do you think? Should we be insulted? What does "Maxim-esque" mean, anyway?


Pussy69 said...
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TMC said...

Next cover of Barrelhouse: Girls of the Iowa Writer's Workshop.

It'll fly off the shelves

Mike said...

I don't think of Maxim as being particularly "hip," though I admit it's been a while since I've picked up an issue. So when he says "hip" and "Maxim-esque" like that, I choose to believe he meant hip and just chose a bad example of hipness. But maybe I'm just a glass-is-half-full kind of dude.

I do like the idea of a Ladies of Literature photo spread. Lorrie Moore and Ann Beattie in boy shorts? That shit would be hot, yo! (is that sentence Maxim-esque enough?)

Pete said...

This is your chance to make New Pages into self-fulfilling prophets, and include plenty of T&A photos in your next issue. (Of females, that is. I'll leave Swayze to my imagination, as always.)

TMC said...

This month in Barrelhouse: Never before seen photos of Flannery O'Connor! A good man may be hard to find, but we had no problem finding one bad girl!

I like the direction this is going.

CM said...

The youngish masculinity is reverberating all over the place in here.

TMC said...

By the way, I think it's important to really play up this Maxim-esque angle. It can increase sales to teenage boys, and if any intellectual types really criticize you, you can just say you're being ironic. It's win-win.

I'm already writing a piece in this vein for the next issue: "7 Ways to Escape From a Bear Trap." 5 of those ways involved half-naked women, naturally.