When I ran out of fresh literary journals to munch on, A.S. Patric was kind enough to give me a review copy of [untitled]’s second issue. [untitled] is a new Melbourne literary journal headed by Blaise van Hecke and Les Zigomanis from Busybird Publishing & Design.
The cover is stylistically similar to the previous issue’s, again using work from Busybird’s inhouse illustrator, Kev Howlett. The cartoon figure reminds me of Principal Skinner for some reason, and I think this has coloured my expectations of the stories inside. For instance, I couldn’t switch into a serious enough mood to take in Bella Ellwood-Clayton’s earnestly penned relationship-dance, especially after reading the journal’s tongue-in-cheek editorial. And again, Camilla Nurka’s delicate rendering of white man’s guilt and Indigenous Dreaming in ‘The Beach House’ felt more Etchings than [untitled]. I would have preferred more light, humour, and suspense, and a little less shade.
Thankfully, the second half of the issue felt more [untitled] and less [insert random literary magazine here]. The stories did manage to ‘take you away in the reading, …engross you, maybe even make you forget the world around you…’ They had ‘no pretensions’ and were ‘not on a mission to enrich the literary community’; instead, Therese Mobayad’s ‘Blonde Appetit’ made me laugh, van Hecke’s ‘An Unfortunate Series of Redheads’ and Hilaire’s ‘Out of Kilter’ kept me entertained, while Lee D Gordon’s ‘Coffins’ punched in the gut.
So what’s my verdict on [untitled], the Second? A mixed bag of short stories and poetry that might read better out of order. There are some great pieces that don’t belong in this publication, and some great pieces that definitely do. This is something that will undoubtedly be rectified in future issues once the editors and contributors finish nutting out a distinct voice for the journal.