City Paper is not for tourists
When the Washington City Paper profiled Richard Peabody and Lucinda Ebersole, then co-owners of Atticus Used Books & Music, in June 1999, Peabody was about to leave the store, Ebersole was dedicated to continuing the business on U Street NW, and the two had just attended the launch party for issue No. 42 of their literary magazine, Gargoyle.
Peabody is a stay-at-home dad now, and Ebersole continues to manage Atticus, which moved to the Del Ray section of Alexandria last year to escape the rising cost of downtown rents. But the two are still business partners, devoting a stonemason’s patience and detail to their work as editors of Gargoylewhich offers an array of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and visual arts from newcomers and old bards alikethis year celebrating its 25th anniversary with the long-awaited issue No. 43.
Although Gargoyle had folded for a time (in 1990, founders Peabody, Paul Pasquarella, and Russell Cox held a wake for the magazine, complete with a coffin full of issues and roses), in 1997, Ebersole persuaded Peabody to revive it. So Ebersole and Peabody, working with Maja Prausnitz, a London-based associate, began to publish Gargoyle againthis time in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
“[I]t’s hard to be transatlantic,” Ebersole says, explaining that the magazine was sent to Britain for layout. “Even with modern technology, it wasn’t quite modern enough to get us over some of the humps. You go back and forth about every little thing.” The layout for No. 43 was delayed again and again; during this time, Peabody got married and became a father, and Prausnitz’s mother died.
The arrival of the galleys brought new problems. “There’s a lot of difference in the way the British edit….[There are] issues of spacing, issues of spelling,” Ebersole says. “It’s almost simpler to just turn around and have it totally redone than it is to repair the errors. Which we found out after we’d repaired all the errors.”
Because of those stylistic and logistical differences, the editors ultimately decided to divide Gargoyle into separate concerns; Prausnitz will continue the British operation as Gargoyle/UK. “[Prausnitz has] been successful enough in London in her own scene,” says Peabody. Her interest is in performance poetry, which Peabody describes as one of three very different strands of the contemporary poetry world, along with Internet-based poetry and the more traditional print realm epitomized by Gargoyle.
For now, Ebersole and Peabody are looking forward to increasing the magazine’s offeringsGargoyle No. 43 includes two interviews and an original musical score, formats that Ebersole looks forward to including in future issuesand they continue to celebrate the difficult birth of “the cursed issue,” as Peabody calls it: “Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I was amazed that the building didn’t cave in [during the launch party].”
One unlikely hitch: college basketball. The release party for Gargoyle No. 43 was scheduled for April 2, the evening of the NCAA men’s basketball championship.
“If Maryland had gotten into the [finals], it would have ruined the reading,” Ebersole laughs. “It was hard enough with Duke [playing]we had enough people who were Duke fans calling up going, ‘OK, we’ll come to this reading, but we have to leave at tipoff.’”
“That’s why we read in reverse [alphabetical] order,” Peabody adds. “‘Cause the first reader had people with herher whole family were Duke graduates. They wanted to hear her read, but they also were here to see the game.” Pamela Murray Winters