Sunday, November 13, 2011

Modern Rejection

'Le Petit Journal des Refusées' (The Little Journal of Rejections) by Gelett Burgess was a fun, modernist magazine published in San Francisco in 1896 on butterfly-shaped wallpaper by James Marrion. Only one edition was ever released.

silhouette head on red-patterned paper

typed editorial with erratic linear border on trapezium-shaped page

typed story (the ghost of a flea) with border on red-patterned paper

framed poem over stylised background rural scene

alphabetical list inside primitive figure border on red-patterned page

typed alphabetic list inside border made of caricature heads

alphabetical list inside border of absurd heads/spaghetti on red-patterned paper

humorous devil stick-figure border with typed story inside

stylised sheet music / poem with border on red-patterned paper

absurd head drawn border with story and mad graphic inside

typed story inside elaborate absurd border, all on red-patterned background

"The cover of Le Petit Journal des Refusées advertises that it will be published quarterly, but the magazine appeared only once. That issue came out in the summer of 1896 in San Francisco, California, a city that was not “attracting the same attention as that of other cosmopolitan centers”, but had a lively Bohemian scene. Le Petit Journal was the creation of Gelett Burgess. The other contributors, if there were any, are unknown.

Le Petit Journal is sixteen pages long, intricately illustrated by hand, printed on wallpaper cut into trapezoids, “and full of parodic references”. The small volume claims to print only “productions that have been ruthlessly rejected” at least three times “by less large-hearted and appreciative editors”. All of the pieces in Le Petit Journal are attributed to women whose names, such as Alice Rainbird and Lulu Lamb, signal to the reader that they are fictitious.

While the mysterious and short-lived journal is very humorous, it is also seriously well-informed of the trends of American and British magazines. Gelett seems to be poking fun at the quick rise of magazines because of the breadth and specificity of the magazines (real and invented) he names as having refused the “exceptional merit” of “female authoresses”. There is a magazine for everything, Gelett illustrates, yet there is not a place for these refused works. Until, of course, with playful absurdity, Gelett creates one.

Le Petit Journal des Refusees had a very small circulation that did not extend past San Francisco, but it is “important as a precursor of the more ambitious little magazines, offering hints of Dada and Surrealism before these modes of modernism existed” (Scholes)".
[Compiled by Zoe Balaconis for Little Magazines & Modernism. {nb. slightly edited for clarity}]

  • 'Le Petit Journal des Refusées' - :: A “reductio ad absurdam” [sic] literary journal in which works “ruthlessly rejected by less large-hearted and appreciative editors than [James Marrion, 2nd] are permitted to witness the light of day for the first and last time.” :: is online at Harvard University's Houghton Library. In fact, they have a second printing also which is worth seeing for comparison [via & via]
  • A couple of pages of an essay - 'Le Petit Journal des Refusées: A Graphical Reading' by Johanna Drucker, 2010 - can be accessed here for free (the full article is available for subscribers/purchasers).
  • Ms Drucker released a facsimile version of 'Le Petit Journal des Refusées' (with an Afterword) in 2007 through Rice University Press. See: Druckweb ::: also.
  • A joint Brown U & U Tulsa Modernist Journals Project - another (so-so quality) digital copy of 'Le Petit Journal' can be accessed here.


DCWID said...

Have you seen this?

Lovely stuff.

peacay said...

Thanks DCWID, I actually tweeted that link a couple of days ago. Great stuff for sure!

Sun Ira said...

Love this, thanks. I'm currently reading about SF literary life in one of Kevin Starr's histories, so this is apropos, plus my Dad read me Burgess' The Goops as a kid.

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