What is the Milan Review?
The Milan Review is a publishing house and design studio that I founded with my friend and current Milan Review Art Director, Riccardo Trotta. It is based in Milan, but we count on the help of a few good friends in Paris, Berlin, LA and New York. We publish a semi-annual lit-mag which is also called The Milan Review, as well as stand-alone books of comics, photography, fiction, poetry and non-fiction. Some are in English, some are in Italian. We also sometimes design books for other people, as was the case with the Oma & Bella cookbook that we designed for the film director Alexa Karolinski, who is very smart and awesome.
Give me a brief history of the Milan Review.
Well, me and Riccardo both love books. I love to read them, and Riccardo loves to hold them in his hands and look at the paper they’re printed on and checking out fonts. We were both kind of stuck, creatively, at VICE Italy, where we worked together, and we needed an outlet where we could just do the things we loved. So that’s how it began. We went out one night and had pizza and planned our first issue and decided we’d make two issues a year and that sooner or later we’d move into making other books and comics and whatnot. Two years later and here we are.
What magazines inspired the creation of the Milan Review?
Quite simply: McSweeney’s. We had a fetish for the Penguin Classics Deluxe editions, and some of the stuff that Lorin Stein put out when he was at Farrar, Strauss & Giroux. The FSG edition of 2666 is so gorgeous.
Are you Italian? Are you American?
I am an Anglo-Italian man who was born in Milan thirty years ago. I moved to England when I was seventeen and lived there for six years. After that I moved back to Italy, where I was the editor-in-chief of VICE’s Italian edition for seven years, during which time I also wrote a bunch of articles and essays and interviews for other magazines, curated art shows, translated a book of stories by Jim Shepard in Italian, and edited a couple of books.
Why is there an English-language literary journal coming out of Italy?
Basically, because I don’t read in Italian. I was always more Anglo, culturally, and I just can’t break the habit of reading in English. I don’t like contemporary Italian literature, but I’m sure it’s my fault and I simply lack refinement in that area.
Who is the best writer to come from Milan?
Who is the best reader to come from Milan?
Does a Florentine who works in Milan count? If so, I’d say Roberto Calasso.
What is the literary scene like in Milan?
I guess it’s kind of boring. There isn’t a lot of drinking and poetry and riding in cars at night. It’s all very sombre and angry at capitalism or very art-oriented. It’s almost Germanic. It’s no fun at all.
What is the best bookstore in Milan?
I would have to say Hoepli. Also the Armani / Koenig bookshop in via Manzoni has a great selection of art books.
Each of your reviews has its own look and feel and content. How do you come to decide what an issue is going to contain and look like?
I try to go for variety and come up with fun ideas. The first one was The Milan Review of Ghosts because it seems to me that there isn’t a single living person on earth who doesn’t like ghost stories. The second was The Milan Review of the Universe because Riccardo wanted to do something with astrology, considering how everyone’s going nuts about it, and I think he was also attracted to the world of illustration that was inspired by that whole thing. So we came up with the idea of having twelve chapters, each one named after a Zodiac sign and containing a different portfolio and a different short story. As for the third issue, The Milan Review of Adultery, well, it’s taken up entirely by a Clancy Martin novella called Travels in Central America. I’ve alway been fascinated by issues of magazines that are taken up by only one massive story, be it when DFW more or less did it at Harper’s or when Salinger took over an entire New Yorker.
How did the novella come about? It’s such a wonderful story. How did you get it from him, or did he write it for you?
I’ve been in touch with Clancy for almost four years now. I interviewed him a couple of times and commissioned his first stories for VICE and I always loved his writing. I had commissioned a thing about divorce from him for VICE a few years back which ended up becoming a piece called Advice to a Young Man from an Old Man Twice Married, which was just awesome. As I said, we’d kept in touch, and I always thought that there was more stuff behind that story – that there was more material there. So I asked Clancy to expand it for the third issue of the Review, which was going to be three short novellas, but then the other two writers bailed and Clancy took it to a whole new level and his piece became the whole issue.
Could you tell me a bit about KutiKuti, the art collective from Finland, whose works you published? Their comics and drawings are amazing and full of energy. What are they like? How did you come to know them?
I came to know them through Nazi Knife, a French visual publication run by Jonas Delaborde and Hendrik Hegray. They did a show in Milan, curated by a friend of mine, Valerio Mattioli, and it included a Finnish artist named Roope Eronen, who I fell in love with. I commissioned a few works from Roope over a few years and soon came to know him a bit and learned about the collective he was a part of, which included a bunch of awesome artists, like Tommi Musturi and Pauliina Mäkelä. A few months later, I was at a meeting with Volta Footwear, a shoe company based in Milan, who were looking for international content, so I pitched them the KutiKuti collective and we ended up making a book together. They’re awesome and funny and nice and weird, like all Finns I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
What’s next for the Milan Review, and what do you hope to be doing in ten years?
Ten years from now I hope to be living in L.A. or somewhere else in the United States. I am tired of having to stay up until 2 AM to watch NBA games and not having any Vietnamese or Mexican food anywhere. I’m also writing a couple of film projects that I hope will kick off soon. I’m also writing a novel, but don’t tell anyone.
As for the Milan Review, we are putting out a lot more books this year. At least three comics in English and two or three in Italian. The next issue of the Review will be out in July and it will be called The Milan Review of Liars. I’m thinking it will be fairly traditional in terms of structure, and it will probably be golden. The one after that, I have big plans for. I want to make it all in Rome, about Rome, by Romans or people who have lived in Rome, and I want to call it The Rome Review. Then, in 2014, we’ll launch of our first series of books of fiction. They will be mostly American contemporary novelists translated in Italian for the first time. So far we secured Karl Taro Greenfeld’s Triburbia, short stories by Sarah Manguso and Deb Olin Unferth, and The Loom of Ruin by Sam McPheeters. I’m trying to close deals on another three or four books. I also want to reprint some out-of-print classics. Of course, I hope I’ll have found a partner to help me by then, because I want those books to be in every single bookstore in Italy. Which, by the summer of 2014, will probably mean FIVE bookstores.
Where can I buy the Milan Review?
The easiest way would be to go to our website and head to The Store. Alternatively, you could click on the section called The Where and look for bookshops that might be near your house. If you live in a city where we aren’t stocked and don’t trust buying online, then you should definitely call your local bookstore and have them stock us. We can always use more business.