Four months ago, John Parsley launched an online literary publication called Lost magazine. On Monday, he hosted its first reading, for which literary fans came out to the Chelsea bar Half King, where they heard stories on the universal theme of loss.
The magazine, www.lostmag.com, interprets its subject broadly. Stories and articles on abandoned cities, lost islands, and dying parents are all within its thematic range. The monthly magazine has featured pieces on subjects such as a lost father, a lost computer game, circumcision, and lost memories, occasioned by the aging of materials in the National Archive. But, Mr. Parsley told The New York Sun: "Lost magazine isn't just about grief."
Mr. Parsley opened the program by musing on how people had asked him how he could host a celebration of loss. He offered a double answer. First, the magazine can celebrate that it's still here after four issues. Second, loss can coexist with joy. "When we lose, we ourselves are affirmed. We're still here talking about our loss, remembering it."
An inspiration for the magazine was his growing up in Binghamton, N. Y., a town of dying industry. There was a lot of remembering of former days of a town "that isn't as it used to be."
After majoring in English at Franklin & Marshall College, he entered publishing in New York City. He started working at Thomas Dunne Books, a division at St. Martin's Press, where he edits literary fiction and narrative nonfiction. One of the books that he is editing, slated for the fall, is a memoir of Andy Summers, the guitarist of the Police.
Also on the Monday evening program was Tom Bissell, a contributing editor at Harper's magazine. Mr. Bissell read an account of his journey to Vietnam with his father, who is a veteran.
Canadian-born author Grant Mc-Crea read a tale of losing $18,000 playing poker. Mr. McCrea is author of "Dead Money" (Random House/Canada), one in his series of mysteries featuring the character Rick Redman. He told the Sun that his series was about law, poker, Scotch, cigarettes, and babes.
Mr. McCrea works as a New York litigator specializing in international arbitration. He studied philosophy at McGill, where he wrote a thesis on "backwards causation." The concept examines whether it is conceptually possible for an event to precede its cause. He plays chess and told the Sun he organized the match in New York that featured Garry Kasparov.
An editor at www.flavorpill.com, Andrew Phillips, read a nonfiction piece about guilt. He once took out an album called "Anthology of Dutch Electronic Tape Music: Vol. 2" from a library in Washington, D.C., and did not return it. For a while, he hid it behind his dresser and later paid a fine to the library.
Dawn Raffel, author of a novel called "Carrying the Body" (Scribner), read a story about a women whose husband is dying in a hospital. The piece is partly about insignificant things that happen when one experiences a crisis, and how they mix with those things that are more significant.
The stories read that evening were as heterogeneous as www.lostmag.com. Under the link for "events" on the site, one finds listed a retail industry conference in Orlando, Fla., on loss prevention; a plastic surgery conference in Dallas, that addresses body contouring after massive weight loss; and a funeral directors association conference in Albuquerque, N.M. Loss, it seems, has many permutations. The June issue of Lost magazine will be called Lost at Sea and may feature articles about ships, treasure, and scurvy.
The Knickerbocker had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Mr. Parsley.
Would he consider hosting a literary event with Found magazine to be called "Lost and Found"?
"I've thought of that," he said.
What has he learned from editing Lost magazine?
"There are a lot of great unpublished writers out there."
What's his advice for people who want to start a literary magazine?
"You need staff and writers who believe in the idea."
After the reading, Mr. Bissell, whose book "The Father of All Things" will be published by Pantheon, was seated at a table with Emily Mitchell, whose forthcoming novel about World War I is called "From the Air" (W.W. Norton). Mr. Bissell said he reads both online and print journals. "There's no distinction to me," he said. "If it has good writing, I read them."