The other day, I posted some junk on the long-lost Gilbert Rogin from the latest installment of the the Lowbrow Reader. Today, I will share a brief email correspondence with the equally reclusive editor of that journal, Jay Ruttenberg.
Good day sir. Would you mind talking a bit about the genesis of the Lowbrow Reader? Did you always know that it would become the phenomenon it has?
We started the Lowbrow Reader in the fall of 2000 and published the first issue the following year. At the time, the smart people of the world were all conceiving online things, so what did I do? Started a print publication. The original concept was to mix comedy and commentary about comedy—specifically the kind of “lowbrow” fare that so often gets condemned by traditional media. I’m a big Adam Sandler fan, and could never understand how “Billy Madison”—which I consider to be a masterpiece—would be reviled by critics. In some weird way, it seemed akin to elements of the mainstream ’60s press treating the Beatles or Bob Dylan as some kind of passing teen fad.
Did I always know it would become the phenomenon it has? Our publication is blessed with eight readers. When we launched, never in my wildest dreams did I think we would surpass five. I guess some people just have a special gift.
Read the rest of this offensive tete-a-tete after these messages.
Did you know that the imense bones of Orestes, the discovery of which Herodotus relates, are now believed to be those of a prehistoric monster? Of course, the inference is not that Orestes had undergone a metamorphosis in his lifetime, one that was revealed from an examination of his remains; it is rather that the prevalent cult of heroic relics required outsized bones, and conveniently, those of great, lumbering Pleistocene beasts popped up from time to time. More persuasively, it was the other way round, as it often is, the uncovering of the bones leading to the formation of the cult.
But suppose the bones were Orestes’, that he became aware that he was in the grip of a terrible transformation, and that he was unhinged. Could that explain everything that followed? Something to think about early in the morning when your dad’s ghostly, fluent fingers seem to be accompanying the rain.
Who is Gilbert Rogin, exactly? His books are out of print, but he has had 33 stories published in the New Yorker over the years, was once complimented by Joyce Carol Oates in the Partisan Review, likened (in print) to Bruno Schulz by Updike and for years was managing editor of Sports Illustrated.
Later this week I will ask LR editor Jay Ruttenberg how he rediscovered this crotchety literary gem, met up with him and then got Rogin to write in his modest publication. It’s a funny story.
Get your copy of the new Lowbrow Reader here.