Shining a light on Too Much Night

by Steve Watson in May 2010
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Too Much Night by Syntax Editions arrived last weekend and since then I’ve spent a good few hours with it, but I’m still not sure what to make of it.

A couple of things are clear:

// It looks lovely – the cover and format make it look a lot like a Dick Francis novel from the outside, but get inside and it’s a stylish, sophisticated magazine that sticks for the most part to one or two columns of text per page and some very striking art and fashion photography.

// It’s dense – like I said, I’ve spent a few hours reading Too Much Night and I’m only just over halfway through. There are no adverts in its 386 pages, and there are a lot of words – including a 50-page short story printed on a middle section of matt stock.

But I’d be hard pushed to say what it’s about. Most magazines can be summed up in a couple of words – they’re about film, music, canaries or cycling. Too Much Night is about film, visual art and fashion, but it’s also about death and truth.

It has several obituaries of recently deceased artists (Alexander McQueen, Jocelyn Quivrin, Jack Goldstein) and single pages on ‘Artists in Peril’ (Roman Polanski and Annie Liebowitz). It never sensationalises, and is always sensitive and empathetic towards the artist without lapsing into adulation. But as often as it celebrates artists, it seems to despair of modern culture – for example in a long piece on how arthouse film has become degraded by the ‘Miramaxification’ of the movie business.

This disdain for popular culture is best summarised at the end of the magazine’s opening story. Describing last year’s Cannes Film Festival, editor CS Leigh is disgusted by “too much representation, too much acting, too much posturing, too much hairspray, too much make-up, too much Botox, too much bullshit and too much fraud, all caught red-faced within the sprawl of the red carpet… I walked away from what felt like too much night.”

So it’s probably best thought of as a concept magazine, an attempt to find a way through the night. Whatever it is, I like it. There are some stories that get just a bit too dense, and one graph charting the life and work of French writer Guillaume Dustan that I found completely impenetrable, but when you’re holding nearly 400 pages in your hands there’s always something else to turn to.

There’s very little information online about Syntax Editions, so if anyone can shed a little light on who they are, where they are and what they do, please illuminate me using the comments below. And I’d love to hear from anyone else who has picked up a copy of Too Much Night – what do you think it’s all about?

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