Literary Magazine Review, p.70-71
January, 1986

U AND I

Crystal MacLean Field

U and I No. 1; Dick Russell, Editor; U and I, P.O. Box 93427, Los Angeles, CA 90093; pages this issue; $5.00 a copy; color cover (coated stock) "apocalyptic" art with friendly dragons like pets, wound around a man's shovel and braced against a woman's knee.

At first I thought the magazine was more beautiful than readable no page numbers, no Table of Contents. I was skeptical of writing done by a commune of anonymous voices. When I put my reservations aside and began reading, I discovered definite individual voices. Different writers have been given different type-faces; a letter from a bass fisherman, a punk's history, an exchange of letters between lovers, a conversation among teenagers about God, a magazine writer's discovery of his feelings, and "The Journals of a Mad Artist" who cannot maintain a relationship with a woman because he automatically wants distance to keep "beautiful images or bright colors." All of this could seem, to a fast reading skeptic, a stage set for cliches. There are some, but much more frequent are the written-from-the-soul pieces of people who believe that the heat of their lives is expressible in words. For the writers the magazine is "an exciting new experiment in interpersonal communication" dedicated to "the necessity for honest dialogue in these difficult times." Quoted in "A Letter to My Son" is F.D.R.'s statement, written the day before he died: "Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships."
So how does a letter from a bass fisherman explore this science? Two color photographs introduce it each shows a man kissing a large bass with the postcard message: "Hi Look at us tagging, kissing, and releasing . . . all on account of you. Love/Will." The humor and the letter describe the process of people loving an endangered species enough to obtain a three-year ban on keeping bass caught along the Atlantic coast.
When the punker confesses that "Punk was something I did, somewhere I went . . . a short road with an abyss at its end . . ." I was ready for rueful generalizations but began to pay attention when he admitted:

I was utterly humorless . . . But these so-called "punk rockers" . . . I used to live with, most of them never got past the point of masturbation . . . They go no further because in order to go any further they have to sacrifice their horrible little society of hurting each other and warmth-sucking and they have to accept that they suck too and good LORD! (gasp!) they might actually have to feel a little real PAIN of the non-self-inflicted variety and EEUW!
The letters between lovers get at the heart of lack of communication without ever mentioning the word:
Here's a bit of the truth; it's real simple. I didn't write you a mean letter; I just tried to say how it was. I'll try again.
And the reply:
Here's a bit of the truth; it's real simple. You did write a mean letter. You didn't say how it was at all except for expressing yourself which you did very accurately and which again makes me say fuck you and I don't believe in your tears because you're not crying for anyone except yourself which I have tried to explain to you, but you will never be able to step aside from all that you know and live in the dark, like live in My Darkness which is terrifying even to me . . .
The magazine writer begins his letter quoting a drunk about the magazine business: "It's just like the movies, except it's dirtier and for less money." He goes on to describe the coldness of the business:
What makes it so chilly is all the degradation and prostitution of all the enormous artistic talent involved therein . . . But the artistic businesses there's nothing quite so icy, bone-chilling cold as the business of art, which at first was only God, after all.
After not having written a poem or song in two years, he begins to fool with it again following a "straw of communication that broke something in me." He begins to buy beautiful things for his apartment, describing them and himself in vulnerable detail:
. . . and looking at this painting I felt so soft, and pleased, and liquid . . . you know, and then lonely . . . 'cause I was alone, looking at it . . . I think maybe that being understood is the most excellent form of beauty.


Mel Lyman