Booze, Noise, Beautiful Women: An…N+1 Party?

photo by Kevin Dugan

So last night was the N+1 launch party for their ninth issue in downtown Brooklyn. A ton of people showed up and, like, 75 percent of them were gorgeous. A really loud band with guys from Oneida and Bonnie “Prince” Billy played. Vodka and wine were ‘suggested donation.’ Executive Editor Chad Harbach is apparently getting a six hundred thousand dollar advance from Little, Brown for his first novel. Does this mean that N+1 is actually cool now?

I’m going to go ahead and say yes. N+1 has a reputation of being a nerdy, esoteric, far-left magazine read by nerdy, esoteric, far-left people. And this is partly true. But they’re also putting out things worth reading and discussing in a time when Glenn Beck gets 20 hours per week to spout his crazy on radio and television. Just because ‘Sad Young Literary Men’ jokes are easy doesn’t mean they’re clever. In the small mag community, they’re actually putting up a business model that could very well be sustainable. And I’m sorry, but I walked into this party and they were handing out earplugs. It got crazy loud.

There’s something to be said about that. They’re not off somewhere looking for Philip Rahv. Keith Gessen told me that he brought on Soldiers of Fortune because he wanted to “melt your intestines,” and Mark Greif was straight up rocking out. (Full disclosure: I took a class taught by Greif at The New School in 2008, where he once showed videos of “Suck My Left One” by Bikini Kill and “Waiting Room” by Fugazi. I have also seen him white-guy rap part of “No Shelter” by Rage Against the Machine). This kind of goes against what you’ve read about it, especially when reviews give the impression that there’s fiiinally a magazine for intellectual people.

The party could easily have been a boring schmooze fest, but it felt like everyone was getting hit on by the person that they were really hoping starts talking to them. I showed up kinda late, around ten or so, but that didn’t really matter since there were maybe 60 people at that point and no one seemed drunk yet. Beforehand there had been a reading of two of the pieces from this current issue, but I was still feeling kind of awful from drinking vodka pickletinis the night before, so I skipped that.

But it quickly filled up. By 11 PM there were 120 people who had paid to come in, and at its peak, it seemed like the number was hovering around 175. I appreciated the old communist propaganda from what looks like the 1940s being projected on the wall, in honor of May Day.

So yes, I danced and drank and rocked out and talked to beautiful people, but the fact that this is the ninth issue of a highly improbable magazine is what made this party worthwhile. It’s not because the magazine is some Infinite Jest-type thing that you literally can not take your eyes off it. It’s because N+1 is itself a cottage industry.

If you were to flip through the new issue, you’ll notice a lot of ads…for N+1. From front to back, you will find ads for: Paper Monument, their sister arts magazine; N1BR, their online book review section; Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confessions of An Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager, a book that started off as a piece in issue six; the N+1 small books series; Magazines of the Americas, a project that publishes work from South America; The Possessed, a book about Russian fictionphiles that started off in the mag. Throw into the mix Gessen’s novel, the lectures given throughout the city, and Harbach’s gigantic advance–plus probably some other stuff I’m missing–and it seems to me that they’re not just being a part of publishing, they pushing it.

Harbach’s apparent advance (I didn’t get the chance to talk to him to confirm, but two N+1ers said it was between $600 and $750K) is not Reif Larson sized, but it’s either incredibly amazing or a signal that these guys are actually bigtime arbiters of where literature and ideas are going. (or both.)

So, congrats guys. You threw an awesome party. Issue 10 will mark 5 years, which is about the average life span of a small mag, so don’t die.

photo by Kevin Dugan

Outside went the smokers. A lot of people also fled when Soldiers of Fortune took to the stage.

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