Once upon a time, books and magazines were made of paper — yes, that’s right, just like the Anthropologie catalogue! The amazing thing about these flimsy objects is that you can leave them lying around for decades — centuries even — and, barring fire or flood, they remain more or less readable, without needing so much as a software update.
They might have a little foxing, though. That’s the brownish mottling you see on the pages of old books. While foxing may lower the value of a book for the true collector, to Daniel Mejia, founding editor of Austin’s new literary journal Foxing Quarterly, it’s a badge of honor, a sign that a book has been loved and cherished.
That’s why Foxing Quarterly is a “print-only” journal, meaning that, while there is an associated blog and Facebook page, the journal itself will never appear online.
“I don’t want to say I’m completely against digital, because it’s not true,” Mejia says. “But there’s just something about print. When you buy a book you can do whatever you want with it: you can write in it, you can take it in the bath, you can take it to the beach.”
“Every piece, you’re going to want to read it from beginning to end,” Mize says. “The fiction pieces are great, the poetry is absolutely beautiful, and the comics are really enjoyable.”
It’s only been one year since Mejia first had the idea for Foxing Quarterly, but he hasn’t wasted any time. The first issue will be unveiled at a book release party this Thursday evening at Domy Books — 12 staff members, one Kickstarter campaign, and several fundraisers later.
It was at the first of these fundraisers that Mejia met co-editor Jane Robbins Mize, a University of Texas junior who interned at the Georgia Review and has worked on UT literary journals Echo and Analecta. Mize grew up in a house full of readers. “I used to get mad, because on my birthday I would get a bunch of books, and nothing else,” she laughs.
If Mize brings the literary journal experience, Mejia brings the passion, drive and a business sense honed in his hometown of El Paso, where he ran his parents’ bakery for three years. Unlike Mize, Mejia did not grow up in a particularly literary household, and developed his love of books on his own. “It was through superhero comics that I learned how to read as a kid, that’s what exposed me to literature. I developed this hunger for it,” he says.
Although Mejia moved on to fiction and philosophy later, his love of comics endures and is strongly reflected in the aesthetic of the magazine as well as in the full-page, character-driven comics he hopes to feature in every issue.
Foxing Quarterly’s art director is Jim Rugg, a Pittsburg-based cartoonist whose work evokes the visual style of classic comic books, complete with faded colors and — you guessed it — foxing. Mejia asked Rugg to make the first cover and was delighted when Rugg volunteered to be the art director as well.
Mejia believes that Rugg’s original artwork will give the journal a unique and appealing visual style, and Mize agrees the design may attract readers who are not usually drawn to literary journals.
Be that as it may, both say the primary attraction is the poetry, fiction, and essays that fill the 108 pages between the first issue’s covers. “Every piece, you’re going to want to read it from beginning to end,” Mize says. “The fiction pieces are great, the poetry is absolutely beautiful, and the comics are really enjoyable.”
So far, the journal has drawn its funding from the Kickstarter campaign and a series of quirky fundraisers, including a Wes Anderson-themed book swap, acoustic performances, readings and a bake sale in the BookPeople parking lot.
In addition to the space for the bake sale, BookPeople, which will be carrying and promoting Foxing Quarterly, supplied hundreds of dollars’ worth of pastries from its coffee shop.
BookPeople publicist Julie Wernersbach says, “It’s been incredible to see Daniel working so hard to put this together. And so many of our booksellers are involved. Anything we can do for Foxing Quarterly in the future we will, because we are just so excited to have a new literary endeavor coming out of Austin.”
The road ahead won’t be easy, though. All 12 staff members work on a volunteer basis, but the expenses of a print journal are significant. Mejia says the next step is to incorporate as a nonprofit to facilitate future funding through grants and awards.
In the meantime, Foxing Quarterly will be sold for $12 at Domy, BookPeople and consignment stores in a handful of cities around the country. Additionally, fine arts prints of the first issue’s cover and t-shirts designed by local artist Sophie Roach will be available for purchase at the book release party Thursday.
Due to complications with the printer, only one copy of the first issue will be unveiled Thursday for display at the release party, though Mejia and Mize promise that pre-orders will be hand-delivered within a couple of days. Such are the trials of print! But for the editors of Foxing Quarterly, it’s all worth it in order to create the kind of physical object that can be passed around among friends.
As Mejia says, “Something we really believe in is a literary community, and I think the key to that is being able to give a book to someone else.”