Out now: Table Talk #2
This literary magazine from Columbia University undergraduate Benjamin Moe has a simple but special concept. Each issue has a philosophical theme that relates in some way to human existence – Table Talk then rolls with this theme for a while, seeing to what strange and curious lengths the idea can go. The stories diverge and bounce off each other like a conversation after a long evening of dinner and wine with friends, and they brim with anecdotes and ideas. The format reminds me of the American literary establishment and podcast, The Moth, which takes its inspiration from conversations around a fire pit late at night. Last month, we got an insight into the workings of Table Talk in our At Work With with Benjamin, and issue two proves that the young editor’s mind is still aglow with philosophical intrigue and curatorial delights.
Issue two explores the idea of ‘Dyno’, ie. leaps, and its list of contributors includes poets, writers and artists, but also a rock climber and a diving instructor. The discussions focus on leaps of the mind and leaps of bravery, and so the imagery of rock climbing that strings the pieces together is an effective metaphor. Dusty hands clawing at rocky surfaces become the visual chapter headings of each feature (above).
The stories are leaps apart from one another, yet all tied together by this theme of jumping into the unknown. An interview with filmmaker and essayist Frances Negrón-Muntaner explores the writer’s work in charting the experience of fellow Puerto Ricans “jumping the puddle” between the island and the US. As has become Table Talk’s distinctive aesthetic, photocopies from essays by the interviewee accompany the piece (above). These little moments of digression are like what happen during a discussion at dinner, and eventually after glancing through the essay page you find your way back to the main topic of conversation again. Following this piece, a comic about a little-known NASA trip to an asteroid belt by James Anthofer and Rebecca Gernes pushes the theme into other unknown and intriguing territories (below).
The selection of poetry is particularly pleasing, including contributions by Noah Sneider as well as Pulitzer prize winner Yusef Komunyakaa. The former’s work is accompanied with photographs of fallen objects on grass (below); little tokens like the wings of Icarus that evoke the moment when leaps of faith don’t quite work out.
In terms of content, Table Talk is a gem of a magazine, bringing together known and unknown minds to think about those concepts that we all experience day to day but rarely discuss. The concept of the imagery works well, but the publication could do with a slight aesthetic tweak so that standard of the design matches the high standard of its content. Table Talk is the kind of magazine that you find yourself repeating stories from to others, so new discussions and thoughts emerge from the content, and the conversations continue.
Review by Madeleine Morley