August 13, 2006

Loaded Mazagines

by Nick Montfort · , 5:11 pm
Curio Box

Curio Box 1, Spring 2006, edited by Phillip Dmochowski,
Steve McLaughlin, and Xiaowei Wang

I’m a sucker for issues of literary magazines that take the form of boxes filled with stuff. McSweeney’s 4 (Late Winter, 2000) may be the most well-known recent example. Other bundles in the fairly high production-value, wider-circulation category include McSweeney’s 16 (discussed on GTxA previously) and Wedge 3, 4, and 5 (Winter, Spring, and Summer 1983). I’m not sure who came up with this concept – Duchamp? – but it’s certainly a good one. The format seems to be used in even more interesting ways as one moves from (relatively) well-bankrolled publications to the fringes. The recent Curio Box 1 and Pandora’s Backpages, from a few years ago, offer a zany variety of art and writing in different material forms. These two also incorporate some digital work, and work that engages the digital, alongside print, something that codex-bound literary magazines have found difficult to accomplish.

The first issue of Curio Box contains several gems. Just to mention some of the material that pertains to the digital: There’s the chapbook Incandescent Beautifuls by Erica T. Carter (main ETC site, Erica’s blog), engineered by Jim Carpenter. These poems expresses a powerful sense of resolve combined with profound cognitive damage, as in the lines “I incline to turn / to fellate / the grim struggle.” Here’s a nice one-line poem from the chapbook:

The Weather
I create economic policy.

There’s also an excerpt from Christian Bök’s “Mushroom Clouds,” from The Cyborg Opera – discussed previously on GTxA. I’m proud to have six of my riddles included with these materials. The answers are included, too, so that they’ll be available to all those who don’t mind destroying the pristine, collectible answer envelope by ripping it open.

Pandora's Backpages

Pandora’s Backpages, 2002, edited by Dirk Stratton

Both of these magazines include audio CDs; Pandora’s Backpages has a data CD as well with writing and visual art on it. And that’s in addition to the variety of small plastic, metal, and wicker trinkets that Dirk Stratton and the Pandora’s Backpages staff packed into the box, and into a small burlap sack, long before Timothy McSweeney offered readers his comb.

One thing I’ve noticed about these edgy boxed magazines is that they often omit a colophon and masthead, even a loose one on a slip of paper, making it difficult to find out who edited these and where they were published. Hence, I know that some other people were working on the first issue of Curio Box, but not who they are. I also don’t know if Curio Box is currently for sale anywhere. (It is: Congratulations to all the editors, anyway. Drop us a comment to let us know who you are, and if the issue is available, if you happen to read this. (Updated with URL and editors’ names. Also note that the periodical title seems to be spelled “Curiobox,” but I’m leaving the text as I have it to foster further confusion about that.)

5 Responses to “Loaded Mazagines”

  1. mary Says:

    this seems incredibly cool. Do they consciously or cleverly refer to fluxus boxes, the work of alison knowles, brecht, maciunas, et al?also, may I borrow? its for, ah, research…

  2. nick Says:

    Of course I’ll loan these to you, Mary. I think Steve of Curio Box and Dirk of Pandora’s Backpages are both familiar with Fluxus, so I’m sure the precedent of the Fluxus box (which I should have mentioned in my post) was important to both publications. Also, I should have noted that Scott has had students work on Fluxus projects, some of which were boxed.

  3. mary Says:


  4. phillip dmochowski Says:

    Nick–your riddles are one of the highlights in Curiobox. Editorial credit goes to Steve McLaughlin, Xiaowei Wang, and myself.

    In reponse to previous comments: We were all aware of Fluxus projects, McSweeny’s recent publication, and (perhaps most notably) Aspen Magazine. We didn’t make any attempt to reference these, although an article by Michael Hayes Sanchez on George Brecht was included. Honestly, I just love getting a package in the mail. That was the real inspiration.

    A box is an editors dream, and as we found out later, quite a headache to produce! But what better way is there to distribute these pieces?

    We’ve been working on distribution with bookstores in North America and Europe, but a few issues are still available through

    I’m just delighted that you were part of our first issue. When Steve initially sent me your contribution the key wasn’t included–you can imagine my excitement, four weeks later, when I finally got an answer to The Obliterator.

    Issue 2 is on its way. We’ll be sure to get you a copy.

  5. andrew Says:

    Wow, only $12, shipping included? Sold.

    (On a slightly similar topic, last weekend I attended Portland’s annual zine festival, picking up a few that caught my eye, including several excellent offerings from Global Hobo (what an awesome site!), one from Loop Distro, and Steven Soria.)

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