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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, April 03, 2003
    Topic #3 - Cities
     
    More city stuff. In London I stumbled into a newsagents on Oxford Street which was a dream for me, the mag-addict. It was stacked full of publications from all over the world, all subjects imaginable, many languages, many hours of potential avid reading. In normal circumstances I would have spent a fortune there. But on the Lent Challenge, the one thing I allowed my low-waged tourist self to buy was an edition of Topic magazine. Seven quid very well spent.

    They reckon it's the best new literary mag since Granta. Well, they would. And for all I know it is; I've never taken to Granta really. Don't know why. But Topic - produced out of Cambridge, UK, fully international in flavour, well, I've just about exhausted it now. Once I'm out of this financial straitjacket I may return to previous habits and whack off a subscription.

    As I said, it's more city stuff that got me into it. Each issue has a theme and cities is the current one. It's dealt with in a rich mix of ways, virtually all creative, with very few dull sociological pieces. You'll have to have a look for yourself at the articles freely featured on the generous website, but among those I particularly enjoyed were Robert B. Gilpin's colourful stroll around Mexico's city of MŽrida, Binyavanga Wainaina's sketch of Nairobi's art scene (a metaphor for wider changes in Kenyan society), and Brian Gallagher's engrossing docu-drama of his journeys in pursuit of the New York subway graffitti artist/diarist REVS (who leaves chunks of his life story on obscure sections of the city's underground rail tunnels).

    Reading Topic affirmed it to me again - city life's so full of variety and human inventiveness.