Work / Writing

The Milan Review (of Ghosts)

Although Milan might not be particularly well-known as a writers’ hotspot, the north Italian city now has its very own literary journal. Combining short stories (by the likes of Tao Lin, Noy Holland and Glen Hirschberg) with expertly-rendered illustration (by Matt Furie and Maison Du Crac), The Milan Review is part of a growing group of publications that seek to explore the relationship between the written word and visual culture, and which emphasise the sheer power and possibility of print. We caught up with editor-in-chief Tim Small to find out why, amongst other things, the inaugural issue focusses on ghosts…

Hi Tim. Firstly, how and why did you first decided to make The Milan Review?

It came about when me and my friend Riccardo Trotta, who went on to become the co-founder and art director of TMR, decided, over pizza, to put together a literary journal that would satisfy both a book design-obsessed graphic designer like Riccardo and a chronic reader and book fetishist like myself. Something based on the relatively simple – but often overlooked concept – that quality pays. Our aims are extremely ambitious. We’d like to build a cultural bridge between Italy and the Anglo-American world and between the world of visual culture and fiction writing; two worlds that should, in my opinion, go hand in hand, but which have, unfortunately and unwisely, taken divergent paths.

Why exactly does the inaugural issue focus on ghosts?

The short answer is: who doesn’t like ghost stories? The long answer is that I had started working on a selection of stories that were to run in a magazine that an artist friend of mine, Giorgio Di Salvo, was working on, named Blacknuss. After a while we split ways, so I was left with a few short stories which all had to do with darkness and death and other heavy shit. I took that kernel of material, thought about what to do with it, and decided to put together this publishing house/journal with Riccardo. There was the origin of The Milan Review Of Ghosts.

The first issue is made up of stories by 14 different authors. How are the stories chosen? Is there a specific Milan Review tone?

I choose them on the basis of whether I think they are good. I hate those cultural distinctions that polarise and divide: the idea that if you like “realists” like Yates, you can’t like “experimental” writers like Barthelme. It’s ridiculous. It’s the same convention that keeps people from the realisation that there is no “either/or”; that, for example, both visual culture and literary culture have intrinsic value, and that the two are not exclusive at all and that it’s silly as fuck to think otherwise. It’s the same “either/or” reasoning that brings people to snobbery or, even worse, to reverse snobbery. I mean, I liked Pineapple Express just as much as I liked The White Ribbon. I liked them for different reasons, and I approached them with certain expectations, but ultimately I drew a large amount of enjoyment from both. So why pit one thing against another? As the great Jesse Pearson [former editor-in-chief of Vice magazine] once told me: “Why aren’t we allowed to say we like both fart jokes and Foucault?” Essentially, if I think it’s good, for whatever reason that may be, it’s going in.

What then can we expect from upcoming issues? Prominent on the site are the words: “Every issue will be radically different from the others”…

The next issue will be named The Milan Review Of The Universe and will feature much more art. It will also be blue in color and will be structured around the 12 signs of the zodiac. We’ll also put out a few books of art, comics and fiction in the near future. What I can confirm thus far is that we’re working on the first photo-book by Jerry Hsu, on books on elephants, braids, the nineties, and maybe also on sex. We’ll also begin a new series that brings together ten young photographers divided by country and selected by a young photo-editor who is from that country. The first volume will be edited by Jennilee Marigomen and will be centered on Canadian photographers. I want to call it Maple Leaves.