If, say, one stopped paying attention to Cranky after writing a review of the first issue because it wasn't any good (one had hoped that if one gave a literary journal the visibility of a critique, the editors might make it better), then harping on the second issue because the editors had responded so theatrically to the first critique (the verdict on the second issue: "less awful"), then dissing Cranky whenever one got the chance, as a kind of sport, because provoking the hostility of its editors had become entertaining (but then it became boring, and one put it down and picked up other sports, like snowboarding, and one became so preoccupied by humiliating oneself out in the snow that lately one hasn't felt like treating oneself to the new humiliations of independent literary endeavors), well, it might be time to start paying attention again.

Last week I went to J & S News and spent $56.52. We can all agree that is too much to spend at a newsstand. But it couldn't be helped. The new McSweeney's, $24, was half of it (it's three books bound together with a big magnet, which is hard to resist, plus one of those books is a bunch of short stories by fiction writers using the ideas that F. Scott Fitzgerald jotted down but didn't get to before he died, and if that doesn't sound awesome at least in theory, we like different things), but Cranky, at $9, isn't wildly inexpensive either. Especially for something historically disappointing.

I picked it up, honestly, because of the cover. Something about it is more impressive than before. I showed it to someone familiar with the other issues and he said, "Wow." And did the logo change? And where did these editors come from? There are now five. And could it be? Is the content actually getting better? What is this long story by Norman Lock, "The Bitter and Melancholy Exile of the Mummy," doing in here? Who is this Norman Lock guy anyway? Oh look, Lock's story is followed by a long interview with Lock by John Olson. My god, this stuff is interesting. And these two poems by James Arthur? He's been in Cranky before—he got his MFA at UW—but nice work doing whatever it is that's keeping Arthur in your pages even though his career is taking off elsewhere (the latest: he's accepted a Stegner Fellowship for 2007–2009 and had his first poem in the New Yorker last week).

I e-mailed Cranky's founding editor Amber Curtis to ask: Are you stepping up your game? She replied, "We would probably agree that the overall content continues to get better and better as more people become acquainted with Cranky and our base of submissions increases." She said this latest issue has been on newsstands for two months. And that there was a reading with Lock in January. I wish I'd been paying attention.recommended


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