Gargoyle rose from the dead last Friday night, as over 300 people bum-rushed its 20th anniversary party at Ruthless Grip, which celebrated the publication, after a seven-year hiatus, of Nos. 39/40 of the literary magazine. “It’s the biggest event I ever had anything to do with,” founder Richard Peabody gloated, noting that partiers arriving late from the annual Associated Writing Programs convention were disappointed to have missed out on Gargoyle’s bash and instead had to settle for a crummy AWP DJ.
When Peabody, now co-owner of Atticus Books, founded Gargoyle, he managed four newsprint issues in five months before shifting to thicker and less frequent anthologies. Over the years, the mag put D.C. on the international literary map, and eventually Peabody rejected more famous writers than he accepted. When Nos. 34/35 (aka “Fiction 86”) received 3,000 contributions, “That was the beginning of the end,” co-editor Lucinda Ebersole said. “He was only able to read people he knew, and the joy is to publish people you’ve never heard from, next to known people. It’s hard to keep up the quality under budget constraints.”
At the resurrection gig, Peabody played the consummate editor, passing the credit on to others and directing the limelight toward them. While a stream of contributors took turns at the mike (and one ringer made it in front of filmmaker Kevin Downs’ lens), Peabody insisted that London editor Maja Prausnitz explain her role in goading him into donning his reading glasses again. He also urged her to reveal the connection between her Black Spring Press and the only magazine appearance ever by Nick Cave (an excerpt from Black Spring’s King Ink II about doing God’s work).
Cave is reportedly quite pleased with the result, but he isn’t alone. Flush from reading his story about craps games at the Cap Center before a Funkadelic show, Brian Gilmore concurred, “This crowd shows you what kind of mag Gargoyle is. All kinds of cats. It’s good to have it back.”
Poet Kevin Bezner, who had come up from Charlotte, N.C., announced, “Gargoyle was always like a box of Cracker Jacka surprise in every issue.” The new double issue packs 363 trade-paperback pages with a wealth of literary fiction and poetry, from Joan Kerouac’s memoirs of life with hubby Jack to the contributions of local poet E. Ethelbert Miller, cyberpunk Lewis Shiner, and rocker Phil Shoenfelt. For the current issue, the editors solicited material from writers they’d worked with before, yielding many names familiar to Gargoyle readers, as well as pop fictioneers such as those in Ebersole and Peabody’s anthologies Mondo Barbie, Mondo Marilyn, et al. Meanwhile, Prausnitz sought new blood in England, sending submissions over for Peabody’s approval. “We wanted it to be the most fun mix possible,” Ebersole said. “But those who didn’t make it join a distinguished who’s who. We should publish a compendium.”Jeff Bagato