Daniel Majid

The Logan Square Literary Review: Starting a Community-Based Magazine

I moved to Chicago from NE Ohio six years ago to get an education. And I got it. My laminated degree says so. But as I was leaving Columbia College Chicago’s journalism program, I was readily smacked in the face by the transformative climate we are all living in now. Some may be more aware of it than others, but I feel that my generation, The Millennials, are, so-to-speak, “In the shit.”

The last two years I spent in college, both major daily newspapers in Chicago went bankrupt. A national discussion was emerging on whether or not print journalism would even survive the decade. In a heightened state of fear and austerity, rumors about the end of journalism became more extravagant, and suddenly, Twitter was being accepted as the future of journalism by most of the nation's pundits. This horrified me, as I knew that trying to, say, disseminate the complex relationship between The United States Congress and the 25,000 lobbyists currently working in Washington D.C. in 140 characters or less was impossible. Furthermore, it was an insult to the idea of working to create a well-informed populous. This climate was less than encouraging to a young, emerging journalist, though subsequent events in Iran and North Africa have proven Twitter’s usefulness.

I have also been a musician since I was nine years old, and as I was exiting school, a similar transformation in the music world was nearing completion. Currently, generally the only way for musicians to make a living on their talents is to either live the grueling life of playing bars every night of the week, which is actually far less romantic than one would think, or to sell your music for use in advertising. And since I adhere strictly to the Tao of Bill Hicks, I am firmly against the notion of artists in advertising. I think the comedian said it best: “You do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call, forever. End of story, ok? You’re another f----in’ corporate shill, another whore at the capitalist gang-bang, and if you do a commercial there’s a price on your head. Everything you say is suspect and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink.”

It was 2009; I had graduated college. Both of my respective professional fields were in shambles, and I was bartending to pay the bills. I had reservations about this job, too, as I feel the need always to be productive, to contribute to society. And bartending is about as destructive a job as one can have. To say that one is contributing by slowly killing one’s patrons is a grand fallacy.

And so I felt a bit destitute. I meditated on how or what I could contribute to my community. I moved to Logan Square from Canton, Ohio, without any real knowledge about the neighborhood or what was going on there. Fellow Ohio transplant and artist Michael Langhoff had invited me to take the spare room in his flat. In 2009, Logan Square hadn’t entirely undergone its rapid gentrification. The burgeoning art scene in the neighborhood was scattered and falling to pretension. I would hear it spoken aloud nearly every day. Beyond general griping about "hipsterism," there was little discussion happening based around how exciting it was that attention was turning toward Logan Square and its creative potential. Most of what I was hearing was “Boy, I hope the hipsters leave this neighborhood alone.” The level of discussion was beginning to stagnate, based around the concept of “hip,” which is just an extension of crass-commercialization and materialism.

Pretension itself, though, is an ugly thing in an art community, as it only serves to divide the community into competing camps and ultimately reduce the artistic landscape to one that is comfortable with, and accepting of, mediocrity and banality. The artistic community in Logan Square seemed on the verge of exploding into something beautiful, but there were few venues for art other than live music, which too were sparse at best.

A perfect storm was forming. I was stuck with the question: How can I contribute to, and support my local art community, push back against the rising tide of pretension in the neighborhood, and provide a venue for artists that are underrepresented in the area? I answered this question with The Logan Square Literary Review. I took inspiration from the pages of McSweeney’s Quarterly and Harper’s and put up flyers around the neighborhood advertising a call for submissions to a new, not-for-profit, community-based literary magazine that would be entirely based on submissions from the public. Given my background in journalism, I decided to actively seek submissions that were not just fiction or poetry, as there are already dozens of publications out there that focus on both those formats and publish at a quality that I could never compete with given my budget and staff (which was only me)!

The submissions trickled in, and I was excited to be once again using a skill set I had spent the previous eight years of my life honing. The process was still certainly a learning one, as I had to then concentrate on not just writing and design, but also PR and publishing. I found Print & Parcel, a brother/sister operated print shop in Avondale, and in working with them, we taught each other a lot about the process of publishing. My grandfather, Thomas Corrigan, bankrolled my first $300 printing fee, and two years later, The LSLR is completely self-sufficient through magazine sales and generous contributions from the public via projects set up on Kickstarter.com and other venues. The magazine now has a team of three Managing Editors and a handful of contributing editors, and is available at six retail locations in NW Chicago and online, publishing a diverse array of written works every 13 weeks.

The editorial staff I gathered are people from the community whom I saw to possess the know-how and the drive to carry on this project. Our staff will continue to grow as the publication grows and as we start concentrating on hosting live events and publishing work from visual artists. Starting with Issue VI, which is due out in April, 2011, we are also going to be publishing works of art from a featured artist. Our first is the talented painter, and Logan Square resident, Matt Hilker.

The LSLR’s mission states that this publication aims to facilitate expression and add to the thriving community of arts and ideas in Logan Square. And thrive it has! Since The LSLR started appearing on store shelves, an exuberant group of organizations have sprung up in the neighborhood, all with the aim of facilitating a strong artist community: The Logan Square International Film Series, IAM Logan Square, The Deadline literary journal, and The Odradek Theater Company, among others. I’ve met and befriended the people in these organizations and am happy to say that I feel like we, as a community, are beginning to win the war against pretension. With The LSLR, I’m trying to elevate the level of discussion in this artistic community beyond what’s “cool,” by providing a nonjudgmental venue for the written word. I want The LSLR to inspire. I need The LSLR to sell.

Daniel Majid was born a sixth-century Persian Warrior. He is a visual artist, musician, editor-at-large, and founder of The Logan Square Literary Review. You can listen to Daniel's wares here, here, and here, and can contact him at danielmajid@gmail.com.

Published by CAR_Laura on Wed, 03/23/2011 - 1:47pm
Updated on Sun, 03/27/2011 - 11:44am