Like a bolt from the blue, The Stranger this week births an entirely new publication entitled A&P. Given the near-permanent lacuna of information I'm kept in, this came as a surprise. I discovered A&P the way everyone else will: It slid out of my copy of The Stranger and into my breakfast, nearly puncturing a poached egg.
The real surprise is the evident good faith, restraint, and high-mindedness that went into A&P, which according to the fine print is short for Seattle Art & Performance Quarterly. The masthead has a few august names on it, including opera editor REBECCA BROWN (smart move), poetry editor HEATHER McHUGH (an even smarter move), and fiction contributor SHERMAN ALEXIE (you can't win them all). Whereas The Stranger is a weekly pastiche of pro-drug, neo-"punk" propaganda doused in a homosexual glow and then urinated upon, A&P feels like the work of writers and critics who would like you to take them seriously. Such determined striving comes across as ridiculous within the context of The Stranger—I love to imagine the facial expressions JEN GRAVES makes while writing about "important" art exhibitions—but within the context of a quarterly publication that lacks Savage Love, Drunk of the Week, and lurid adult advertising, Ms. Graves's work can be seen in a new light. Her essay on a Seattle artist's foray into overt feminist intention, coupled with a visual aid illustrating nine other notorious feminist artworks, is rather edifying. And no, I cannot believe I just typed that, either.
Also in A&P is a map of the Olympic Peninsula, a large swath of land you would never guess exists based on the supposedly local coverage The Stranger peddles. The peninsula is a trove of natural resources and Northwest history—including literary history, as MATTHEW STADLER amply demonstrates. In pointing out sites of literary significance, there are flashes of the usual Stranger shallowness (Raymond Carver on cocaine, Steven Jesse Bernstein's suicide spot), but names like Betty MacDonald's are a welcome surprise. Betty was an acquaintance of my father's back when; I came home from college one winter and found her reading aloud a draft of The Egg and I in our living room. It fills me with gratitude and something approaching happiness to know that young people may yet learn about her.
Elsewhere in A&P, BRENDAN KILEY interviews three dancers (while continuing to ignore them in the weekly paper); CIENNA MADRID writes a column about architecture that has nothing to do with architecture (no surprise, coming from her); CHARLES MUDEDE interviews John Coltrane's erstwhile colleague McCoy Tyner (amazingly, Marx isn't mentioned); and BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT implores readers to eat at Le Gourmand (marking the first time in history I've ever agreed with her).
As for The Stranger itself this week? It is as thin and baleful as ever. I have already submitted a request to become the public editor of A&P instead, which would reduce my output to once per quarter but immeasurably improve my health; I will keep you apprised. For now, consider the usual paper a mere vessel, a delivery device for A&P, and toss everything else immediately.