East Coast–West Coast Rap 

New mag hopes to connect literary New York and Los Angeles

Thursday, Apr 15 2004

Writer types might consider quixotic at best, oxymoronic at worst, any new publication that calls itself a bicoastal literary magazine. The West Coast has always been saddled with the burden of proof when it comes to high culture, and the East Coast has always been cast as its somewhat tolerant but unattainable muse. It is just this sort of frayed myth that Swink editor Leelila Strogov seeks to unravel for good with a biannual collection of fiction, nonfiction, interviews, poetry and essays from writers working at both ends of the country. The magazine debuted last week in New York and launches here April 17. “One of my goals is to really bridge that East Coast–West Coast gap,” says Strogov, a 33-year-old New York native and MIT graduate who settled in Silver Lake two years ago. “They both tend to be so isolated. And when I say East and West, I’m referring not just to where a writer’s from but to the sensibility of the writing. We’re really going for diversity here.”

The premiere volume of Swink (a word that actually means “toil” or “labor,” as well as an evocation of “ink”) features writers whose bios range from hefty to none: Elissa Schappell, Jonathan Ames, Geoff Dyer, Rachel Resnick, David Ulin, Amy Bloom, Terrance Hayes, to name about a third. The first issue tilts decidedly more to the East Coast than the West — heavy on New York — but California runs enough through the book, like a fault line, to break things up. The best writing, though, has little to do with locale; Daniel Alarcon’s short story “Florida” paints a tough, lyrical portrait of a group of Puerto Rican friends pointedly going nowhere. Ulin’s musing about one-hit writing wonder Frederick Exley should touch the empathy and shiver the spine of anyone who’s ever harbored literary ambition of any size. To keep the synergy going, Swink will hold regular open readings and other events here and in New York. “But we publish writers from all over the globe,” says Strogov, a writer herself. “I started this magazine because I wanted to be in the literary world in a way that was more impactful than simply being a writer, sending off work and waiting for people to accept it.”

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