Surreally strange

by Steve Watson in August 2010
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Working with independent magazines, you get used to seeing things that aren’t really very commercial. But when Polarity arrived a few weeks ago I was still taken aback by it.

Editor George Ttoouli teaches creative writing at Warwick University, and says he started the magazine to provide a creative outlet for surreal work. It’s interesting stuff, but it’s not easy going. It took me a few days of reading on the tube to and from work to even work out what it was (the magazine doesn’t do anything as obvious as mention the word ‘surreal’).

The first page begins with an ‘Argument’ – “Being an artefactual recontextualisation of the concepts outlined on the outer shell, through multiple media and minds.” Assuming the outer shell is the cover, I turn back there to look for clues in the cover lines – “Taxonomising, economising, the potty baron rambles through his halls then goes fishing”. Right.

Inside there are statements, poems, stories, photographs and illustrations, and I found myself fascinated and frustrated in equal measure. It has the sort of playfulness that I love in magazines like the Kasino Creative Annual, but it’s also dense with text and asks its reader to work hard.

This is an artistic endeavour for Ttoouli, so he’s not hoping to make a huge profit from the magazine. He does want to make enough to keep it going, though, and he says he firmly believes that there is a reading public out there that likes surprises – people that find Granta a bit predictable and are looking for something different.

I agree. Even with my rudimentary understanding of surrealism I was able to take something from Polarity – it has a power and direction that kept me turning the pages even as it baffled me. If you think you might be the sort of person who gets excited by a surreal surprise, get yourself to the Polarity site and buy a copy. Only 400 copies of issue one were printed, and issue two is due out at the end of the year. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes next.

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