Revolver Launch Party
September 8, 2012
Uppercut Boxing Gym
Summer is a difficult time for me. Bright colored clothing; hot, humid days; delicious ice cream I can’t actually digest; air conditioners groaning and rattling and dripping and clicking; beach goers whose ability to tan makes me feel like this strange phosphorescent thing washed up from the deep—at the risk of sounding like Lydia Deetz, I prefer the dark room. So it’s no surprise that September energizes me like nothing else. The air’s finally drying out. Even the sunlight goes out of its way to make everything more appealing. September also happens to kick off what we might as well call literary season. While the Purple People from Blaine are screaming in their fold-down seats, the bookish people are sneaking into the back rows of poetry readings, holding out hesitant hands for a launch party stamp, and buying every publisher’s flagship line up—the much-hyped and -loved Fall Books. At a reading on Friday, I showed up in black jeans, black shoes, and a black leather jacket, joining up with a group of writers all wearing black. “You got the black memo,” they said.
“It’s September. Who needs a memo?”
Black is part of the fall publishing mystique, along with the champagne glasses (aka paper cups) and champagne (aka Bota-Box); tables of books, bookmarks, t-shirts, and posters; and the unbearable excitement of returning to civilization. No more sweating. No more dusty beaches. No more fucking fun—let’s get back to work. Writers are all closet workaholics, as are the editors that keep them going. It’s a business that cannot function without passion, and a passion that cannot self-propagate without constantly being switched on. The first few weeks after Labor Day are often host to the most exciting literary events of the year, and in Minneapolis we’re already living up to that promise. On Saturday night, 600 locals packed themselves into NE Minneapolis’s Uppercut Boxing Gym to drink, show off their greyscale outfits, support local literature, and watch writers beat the shit out of each other. What more do you need?
As soon as readers learned that not only would Revolver provide drinks from Bin Wine Bar, a Chef Shack food truck, and music from DJ Shannon Blowtorch, but an actual boxing match, the event exploded all over the literary media, netting attention from Citypages all the way to Publisher’s Weekly. And they weren’t kidding. At 10:00 p.m., an hour after the party was underway, editor Ross Nervig took the stage—which turned out to be the tiny little ledge just outside the boxing ring—and announced the night’s first two fighters: Chris “The Architect of Destruction” Baker, “weighing in at one-seventeenth of a Prius,” versus Tony “The Polish Hammer” D’Aloia, known for his “Deconstructionist fighting style.” It was all very flashy—the Architect in his blue, sparkly shorts and matching tie, the Hammer not as snazzy but far more menacing, everyone’s cameraphone strobing around the ring—but after the bell rang and the two fighters approached each other the audience grew strangely quiet. Even after the punches came out, nobody quite knew how to react. They’re actually fighting each other, I remember thinking, wondering why anyone would take a blow to the head like that, disillusioned when the gloves didn’t make that satisfying, cinematic smack on contact with a helmet. It took the audience a minute or so to warm up to it, but it wasn’t long before we began to shout things like “Left!” and “Come on!” Even a room full of writers and espresso drinkers can turn bloodthirsty.
From the second I stepped into the door, fifteen minutes before the party actually started, you couldn’t walk ten feet without overhearing something about the fight. It was on everyone’s mind from the beginning, but it still turned out to be far more real that we’d bargained for. Sarah “Bobo the Mutilator” Moeding and Courtney “The Killswitch” Algeo, who would fight in the second match and make everyone’s night, had been training for weeks. Algeo had taken nine classes and two sparring sessions at Uppercut, getting up “when the rooster crows.” Editorial Director of Paper Darts and Marketing Coordinator at the Loft Literary Center, you wouldn’t think Algeo had a violent bone in her body, but after that first bell she proved both furious and spry, “like if you put a kitty in a bag and swung it around,” as one partygoer remarked. Moeding, the Twin Cities Producer of Literary Death Match, has all the aggressiveness you could ask for in a boxer, and yet is far more reserved. She swaggered up to the ring in a massive fur coat with a consort of eye-shadowed henchman, not in any hurry. Before the match, she talked about the training experience. “Every time [Courtney] hits me, she apologizes. We’re working on that.” Boxing is a serious thing, she explained. “I’ve been blowing little chunks of blood out of my nose.”
It is a serious thing, and if Baker vs. D’Aloia hadn’t warmed us up, Algeo vs. Moeding would’ve been absolutely traumatizing. “I was terrified,” said Kat Kluegel, retreating outside to smoke after the match was over. “I almost couldn’t watch.” While the Architect and the Polish Hammer were all about blocking, the Killswitch and Bobo were all about punching, and they never missed an opportunity to go straight for the head. Algeo used her shorter stature to her advantage, landing an uppercut whenever she could, and Moeding had no reservations in unleashing her trademark rage. At the end of round three, both were sweating, panting, shaking, their faces flushed so red they looked sunburned. “My mother told me to use my words,” Nervig said, and in the end, it was the words that mattered, along with the cheers, but nobody will forget the way Moeding can take a punch and punch right back.
Revolver, even with its ostentatious party, takes itself seriously, you can tell. It takes literature seriously. Considering the modern attention span, it takes balls to publish several thousand words of fiction in web format, but it also takes balls, and ovaries—gonads of all kinds, really—to put oneself behind literature in general. It’s not profitable. It’s not reputable. Most people alive assume you have some kind of personality disorder or superiority complex because you prefer James Joyce to Stephen King. What use is fiction? How did poets not starve and go extinct decades ago? Revolver isn’t afraid to engage passion without irony, to love books without having a cheeky excuse. The word literary is fashionable for some and an immediate blackball for others, but regardless of its weight, the real loaded gun is the writing itself. It’s worth noting that nowhere on Revolver’s webpage, as an “arts and cultural magazine,” does the word literary appear. Just as they eradicate the boundaries of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, it’s possible that magazines like Revolver will simultaneously breakdown our inhibitions over genre and style. I’ve read Ulysses, and that doesn’t make me an asshole. Dune is one of my favorite books, and I’m not the bane of the human race because of it. A good book is a good book—a good story a good story—and sometimes we just need to shut up and read. Sometimes a new magazine has to come along and remind us, using whatever violent means are necessary.