Don't tell David Holub you think a joke's gone on too long. That's the kind he likes.
"When I say Kugelmass is a journal of literary humor, people say 'What do you mean by that?'," says David Holub, the still-young publication's founder and editor. "I enjoy reading work that is funny but also has a literary value to it. The New Yorker runs stories like that, but they're usually very short. 'This American Life' has some extremely well-written pieces, but they're more storytelling. No publication is devoted to that sort of writing, at least not longer-form pieces." Holub named Kugelmass after Woody Allen's "The Kugelmass Episode" (from the collection Side Effects), a classic that inspired not just the journal but Holub's whole fascination with the lit-humor genre.
Kugelmass looks for comic writing that can sustain itself for several pages of high literary standards. It solicits stories from well-known humorists and accepts submissions from unknowns, as long as the piece runs between 1000-4000 words. For the second issue of the twice-annual journal, Holub's corralled such known names as novelist Aimee Bender, New Yorker staffer Ben Greenman and (in an interview about the craft of writing funny) candy-lover Steve Almond.
"Sixty percent of the issue is writers I solicited. It was hard to convince these really funny writers to give me their work for nothing, but it gives the journal a sense of legitimacy." As for the unsolicited submissions, "We sort of get the gamut, basically. A lot of things these days are influenced by late-night sketch comedy, or are parodies of something. I'm a fan of those things, but it's not really what I want to do here."
"One of the true gems of issue #2," Holub says, comes from Daniel Galef, who'll also be reading at the issue's launch party Saturday March 31 at Real Art Ways. "I happened across his piece ["The History of the Cheese Danish"], liked it, and contacted him," Holub says. "He turned out to be 15 years old, and never before published." Holub and Galef are meeting in person for the first time at the launch party. Holub openly wonders what a 15-year-old intellectual humor essayist might look like. The other Kugelmass contributors reading at the live event include Jenny Allen, whom Holub heard on The Moth storytelling series and deems "a powerhouse"; UMass Lowell Prof. Jonathan Silverman (whose forthcoming column on the Kugelmass website will be titled "Dr. Funny"); and former McSweeney's Internet Tendency "Diversity in the News" columnist Ellen Ferguson.
A writer and graphic designer who worked for a decade as a journalist and graphic designer (including several years at the Hartford Courant) and now teaches at the University of Hartford, Holub not only edits Kugelmass but designs it, lays it out and adds witty one-liners to the bottom of each page. "Up to this point, I've really done everything," Holub says. But expansion is nigh. ""Issue #3 will have poetry, so I'm getting a poetry editor." He's also quick to mention that Kugelmass wouldn't exist without his friend Brian Clements, who publishes the journal through the small press Firewheel Editions in Newtown.
Holub's committed to putting out regular semiannual editions of Kugelmass. "There's a lot of prestige that goes with having a print publication," he says. Even if people are laughing at it.
Kugelmass Issue 2 Launch Party
7 p.m. Saturday, March 31 at Real Art Ways, Hartford. Free for RAW members, $5 non-members.
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