Editors’ Space: Rae Bryant

EDITORS’ SPACE: Welcoming Caroline Malone

We’re thrilled and honored to announce that Caroline Malone will be joining SPACES as an editor/contributor, searching out and having conversation with some of the most exciting and interesting publications and editors in the literary world today. She’ll also be sharing that SPACES love by adding new Calls for Submissions weekly to our Other Art Love page! 

We’re so happy she’s here. Welcome to Editors’ Space.


THE GRIT UNDER THE LENS: Interview with Rae Bryant, Editor-in-Chief & Fiction Editor, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review

(Interviewer: Caroline Malone, ES Editor for SPACES)

Rae Bryant

Rae Bryant’s short story collection, The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals, released from Patasola Press, NY, in June 2011. Her stories have appeared or are soon forthcoming in The Paris Review (Online),StoryQuarterlyMcSweeney’s Internet TendencyBLIP MagazineGargoyle Magazineand Redivider, among other publications and have been nominated for the Pen/HemingwayPen Emerging Writers, andPushcart awards.  She writes essays and reviews for such places as New York Journal of BooksPuerto del SolThe Nervous BreakdownPortland Book Review and Beatrice.comShe is the 2012 Patasola New York City Summer Writing Resident and has received fellowships from the VCCA and The Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a Masters in Writing, teaches creative writing, and is editor in chief of the university-housed literary and arts journal, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review.


Caroline: You identify the work that interests you as being “character-focused storytelling … with punch aesthetics.” I love the phrase “punch aesthetics.” Can you give me your definition of “punch aesthetics”?

Rae Bryant: We like to be punched in the head. Figuratively. Unless you catch us on a particularly strange Saturday night. Basically, we want the story, however it is coming to us—fiction, essay, poetry, photography, painting, music, everything is a story—to shake us. This doesn’t mean we need “loud” work. Not at all. Sometimes the quietest voices hit the hardest. Wry, dark humor is good for us.

Caroline: On the About page of the website, you also state that The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review listens for “brave, honest voices.” In the twenty-first century, what do you believe qualifies as a brave and honest voice? I’m thinking of early T.S. Eliot, who struggled with voice as a result of not yet quite understanding how he could fit into literary tradition. Would he have a voice at all and if so, how could he make it modern?

Rae Bryant: Oh, yes. T. S. Eliot for sure. No added modernism necessary.

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust. (The Wasteland)

Eliot cuts. We like how he cuts, which was one of his early readership issues, I believe. I hold that he was beyond his time. On the prosaic side, Mary Gaitskill, Denis Johnson, Cormac McCarthy, George Saunders cuts good, too. After recently reviewing Saunders’ Tenth of December, I simply couldn’t get his words out of my head. So I’m going to redirect us for a time to Saunders if that’s okay. Might as well. The rest of literary America is.

Without a doubt, Saunders is one of our most important prosaic voices today. Brave and honest. Not afraid to be vulnerable, brash, impolite, worrisome. Saunders’ characters cut through us because they are real and flawed in an all too familiar ways. They are often the spectacles, a.k.a. kin, at our family gatherings. And the narrative voice doesn’t coat. It shoves the fluorescence of being human in front of us, the embarrassments of standing before a changing room mirror, naked. All skin and fatty tissues, a moment of smooth, sinewy muscle. That’s the brave and honest we seek.

Caroline: One of my favorite sections of The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review is “Medium Cool” where you currently feature The Size Queens, Consumption Work: Tammy, Cybertariat, At the Aral Sea. How did this section come to be realized, and how do you determine the best music to publish?

Rae Bryant: How lovely. Yes, Medium Cool and The Size Queens are also among our favorites. The title for the section, Medium Cool, is the brain child of Matt Levin, a fantastic D.C. D.J., filmmaker, and son of Sheree Rose/stepson of poet/artist, Bob Flanagan. I was immediately impressed with Matt’s aesthetic when we met a few years back, in one part due to his work on Flanagan’s 1997 Sundance Film Festival feature Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist. Because Eckleburg has a dedicated interest to not only literature but also the broader arts spectrum, Matt’s music and film focuses in Medium Cool are a perfect fit. Often the aesthetic is indie and offbeat with a dash of classic. Matt is constantly looking for fresh sounds all their own and sounds that reflect a pre-Taylor Swift rock. There has been an influx of uninspired radio music for middle-schoolers in recent years. We’re focused on finding the underground and resurgence of true rock. We like The Smiths, Nirvana, Radiohead, The Sun Parade, Little Scream, Cypress Hill, John Cage… The Size Queens! Matt currently featured a piece on My Bloody Valentine and their soon-to-release album. We are eclectic.

Regarding Consumption Work, Adam Klein had contacted me just before Halloween 2012 and pitched the debut of the album, and I absolutely fell in love with the project. The Size Queens and Consumption Work, as well as their earlier projects, are brilliant. It is an honor to debut Consumption Work at Eckleburg. And we hope they’ll think of us again with future albums.

Caroline: One last fairly vague question. What is the future of online publishing?

Rae Bryant: Yes, wouldn’t we all like to know the answer to that question. Truly, I think online publishing will become the predominant form. With Nooks and iPads aplenty, digital reading platforms have moved off the desk and into our favorite chairs with our favorite coffee mugs. That’s my test. If I can sit in my favorite chair with my favorite coffee cup and read comfortably while easily manipulating the text, I’m good. Digital forms also make teaching and reviewing more streamlined. Instead of writing tiny notes and page numbers throughout my print copies—I can never loan out my favorite copies of texts because they are so scribbled over in margins and end pages—I can now rely on search, highlight, and comment functions within the reader system, which can be very handy. My Moleskin by my side, of course. I can loan digital copies via the Nook library. I like that readers can manipulate the text to larger font, etc. which makes reading easier and more pleasurable for some. As an author and editor, that is important to me, the individualized savvy. Readers can carry an entire library in one lightweight device. It will be difficult for print books to compete with all of this over time, I imagine, as much as we may want them to compete.

With all that said, I will admit to still being a print junky. I do love the feel and smell of print. I imagine print will remain as the classic definition of “success” much like it does now, but in a less ‘out of the gate’ way and more of an archival and special additions way. The New York Times recently ran “Drawing Surrealism,” a piece on the Morgan Library & Museum:


This combination library and museum seems to be an excellent business model overall for the continued brick and mortar viability of literature, arts, print, bookstore and so on. It brings multiple media together in a multi-sensory audience interaction. This is good. Libraries and museums are my churches.

In terms of strictly online, versus digital reader, I like how multiple media connect and inform each other via online technologies, which can be different than digital readers. Online journals are the natural extension of a full humanities pursuit (music, video, etc.). But then, I was a humanities undergrad and my own creative work, at times, follows an intermedia focus. I often brainstorm in visual ways, collage mostly. I can’t fully imagine a story or prose poem or novel as complete without hearing it aloud. Poets know the necessity and artistry of spoken words. It is part of their foundational craft and storytelling. I believe poets are geniuses. I am in awe of poets. I try my best to follow their lead when it comes to my own words and when editing others’ words. Hence, Eckleburg does, too.


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