Once upon a time in a charming corner of San Francisco, a print and design sensei named Johnny Brewton started the X-Ray Book Co. He owned a letterpress and wanted to publish fine and limited edition books, chapbooks, broadsides and ephemera.
The first issue of X-Ray Magazine, a literature and arts journal, was published in 1993. There were 10 issues in total. Each printing ran anywhere from 100-225 copies—an extraordinarily low limitation. Over the years, many greats graced its pages. Charles Bukowski, Billy Childish, Allen Ginsberg, John Cage, Jamie Hernandez, etc. etc. The pièce de résistance is the cover art for Issue No. 4, which was created by Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson took a photo of porn star and Ivory Soap shill Marilyn Chambers, shot it full of holes with a .45, put on lipstick (Chinese Red) and kissed each one. He did that 226 times; one for each copy.
Issue No. 1 originally sold for $7. The covers are made from actual x-rays. When a copy comes up for auction (which rarely happens) it usually sells for +/-$1,000. Brewton has produced work for Tom Waits, Mark Mothersbaugh, Barry Gifford and a host of others. His chapbook for Hunter S. Thompson, Mistah Leary – He Dead, is one of the crown jewels in my collection. That guy is the real deal, kids.
The chapbook was a eulogy for the recently-departed Timothy Leary. It included a sheet of blotter with Leary’s face. Do not drop, indeed.
X-Ray Magazine ceased publication in 2004 and from its ashes rose Bagazine. It’s a magazine! In a bag! Bagazine is an assemblage of hand-made original works of art. Bagazine No. 6 was just published and I’m happy and honored to be a contributor.
Issue No. 6 is limited to 100 copies. The stipulation was that all contributions had to be hand-assembled. I submitted a prototype back in June which was accepted and I spent all of July assembling 103 pieces. (100 for publication + 3 press copies.)
I made a small chapbook containing a poem I wrote many years ago about a conversation I had in an elevator. I had five rubber stamps made and used two colors. Each book required six strikes. Many strikes weren’t useable. I made close to 800 strikes in total.
I set up a print and production shop on my suburban backyard patio. I’d spend warm summer evenings and weekends cutting, stamping and binding. My fingers would blacken with ink and I constantly poked myself with a sewing needle. The Daughters would sit and watch, always begging to help. We’d listen to Ray Charles, Patsy Cline, The Platters, Johnny Cash and The Beatles. I filled their ears with the good stuff.
The book is two leaves; a heavy cover stock and a lighter grade paper for the text block. I printed the cover graphic in red and the title, poem, byline and limitation in black.
The two leaves were scored with a bone folder (yes, there’s a proper tool for folding paper) and saddle stitched with bookbinder’s thread (Wild Rose 18/3).
If you want to read the poem, click on the pics.
Also included in this issue is my old pal, Jim Camp, proprietor of the synaesthesia press. A long time ago, Jim and I published a chapbook for Bruce Springsteen and Nick Hornby. Artistic differences caused a time-out in our friendship that lasted a few years, but we have since reconciled. I still mourn the lost time.
Jim’s piece is a vintage black and white photograph tipped into a single-leaf chapbook. As he explains, “…everyone is a photographer…but nobody has any pictures.”
Each book contains a different photograph, making each copy totally unique and, therefore, totally awesome.
My payment was one copy. I’ve been paid a lot more to do work that wasn’t nearly as gratifying. I’ve been a fan of the X-Ray Book Co. for a long time and am genuinely thrill to be included. Hell, yeah, Merry Christmas.
It’s time for a holiday break. I don’t want to get all Oprah on you guys, but 10,000 thank-yous to everyone who took the time to visit, read, like and comment over the past year. Time and attention is your most valuable commodity and I am flattered that anyone would spend some of theirs here. Writing is a source of tremendous joy in my otherwise ordinary existence. If it weren’t for this outlet I’m not sure where I’d get my jollies. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Patience and Fortitude with their wreaths standing guard outside the New York Public Library on 42nd and Madison.
Or is it Fortitude and Patience? All these years and I still can’t tell one from the other.
Bagazine – what a great word!
I have a bone folder and I too have stitched books so I know where you’re coming from. I forgot to listen to Johnny Cash though….my bad.
Well, bloody well done you. Nice work.
Commenting here is a pleasure because the content both sates and amuses. Have a good one and do everything that I wouldn’t.
It’s that the perfect name? I think he should slap a patent on that sucker or someone else will.
I detected a certain quality about you but I couldn’t put my thumb on it. Now I know. You know what a bone folder is.
Thanks for your kind words, as always. you’re a regular so I should send you some cash. And I think it’s YOU who do everything that I CAN’T.
I feel all tingly for you.Um…that sounds like something your wife wouldn’t want to know. I mean I know the thrill you feel at this piece of work.
And if there was a spare, you know I’d buy it, don’t you?
You have the kind of Christmas you want and may 2016 bring you more wonderful things. Cheers!
Well, my wife doesn’t read this place anymore and even if she did I think she’d know what you were referring to. And it ain’t THAT.
Thanks for your holiday wishes.
Just lovely – all of it. The pics, the poem, the story. (Did you let your daughters help?)
THANK YOU. That means a lot to me and I appreciate it. The daughters could NOT help. The work was too exacting. Hell, *I* could barely line-up the stamps properly. And the sewing was out of the question as well. They weren’t happy about it.
Congratulations, Mark! This is so awesome! I love the poem – I would know that was you in a second! How are these distributed? For a minute there, I thought you were going to say you were sending us all a copy for Christmas!
(Oh, and don’t tell me you’re lazy ever again!) Happy holidays to you and your family 🙂
They’re for sale from the Bagazine web site (see link) but I think the run might be sold out. They go pretty quick. Believe me, if I could distribute a copy to all my readers I’d do it in an instant.
Happy Holidays to you, as well. The Giants broke my heart earlier today and now I’m waiting for the Browns to do the same. Whey do I CARE so much?
Sorry it took me a while to get back – last I saw, they were losing… Your loyalty is commendable, though!
Took friends down to the Christmas Story “mecca” yesterday, who had never seen it – I’m sure you’ve toured the house. It gets crazier every year down there. Selling kettle corn and charging to park, and the gift shop was packed. Went to the Velvet Tango Room last night as well, and saw Paulius in all his glory, apricot ascot and all. Even though it’s so pricey, it’s always worth taking out of town guests there.
I will check out the website for sure, love the design of the whole thing. Never knew you were so crafty, Mark!
Actually, in all the years I’ve been visiting Clevo for the holidays I’ve not once visited the Christmas Story house. I just never got around to it! I’m happy to hear that it’s doing so well. It makes people happy and the owners a few bucks for the holidays. Not a thing wrong with that.
I’m not sure what the Velvet Tango Room is, though. I’m off to Google it.
Well now you have two places you MUST visit when you’re back! The Velvet Tango Room is practically famous. Known for craft cocktails. It’s like a speakeasy, in the middle of a neighborhood in Tremont. You would love the place. There’s a leg lamp in the upstairs window, and at night, they just pull a big metal door down to close the place up. Browns just lost.
I’m just now back from its home page. Why didn’t I know about that place!? Actually, I’m happy to hear that there are joints in Cleveland that have yet to be discovered by me.
Thx for the Browns news. My two teams, Browns and Giants, are both awful, terrible. My support is the kiss of death for a franchise.
And I just looked at the Bagazine site! Please tell me what the subculture of Bagism is…
The Church of Bagism. I think you just coined that term. You can lay ownership to the name.
You, too, can contribute although it might be a year or so until the next issue. Submit an idea and a prototype. Don’t be insulted if it’s rejected. Senior Brewton is a studious gatekeeper. Everything must meet his rigorous standards.
No, it’s stated on the website in the fine print! Look! Ha ha!
Okay, back to my holiday blog visiting… so many nice messages out there spreading good tidings or whatever… lol!
Wow! Mark that is so cool. Congratulations. And Happy Holidays. I used to consider you one in a million. Now you’re 1 in a far more select number. Well done. The poem made me smile.
Thanks. Imagine if there was a way to make actual cold hard cash doing that type of work. what a joy.
OR it could ruin a good thing. That sometimes happens when you take the thing you love an make it an economic necessity. Tis’ a hard call.
Yup. But I am really happy for you.
That was so dang cool. I am not worthy to hang out with you! 🙂
Oh, please. I can feel your comment loaded with sweet sarcasm, but I’ll take the compliment and thank you.
How do you get paid to do the stuff you’d do for free? Isn’t that the game all humans play?
First, no sarcasm. I am incredibly jealous. Second, I sure wish I could figure out how to get paid for the fun stuff myself…
Doing something that makes someone I respect feel envy makes me feel like I’m doing something right. Thanks, tons.
I’m giddy for you. This is wonderful. Brother: you’re an artist.
Seriously, is there anything better than producing something you’re proud of?
Thanks, pal! It’s a good reminder to myself that things don’t necessarily have to have a monetary reward in order to have value. I tend to lose sight of that lesson every once in a while and something like this can provide real ballast. (Ballast a.k.a. a boot in the ass.)
I think you published that poem here previously, didn’t you?
I did! But I loved it so much I decided to use it outside the confines of my blog. I don’t consider anything that appears here to be “published” in the traditional sense of the word. That’s the first time anything I’ve written turned up in something that people had to lay money down for.
Magazine-Bagazine and you made your mark and put your stamp on it. Now that deserves a slap on the back. That project was a pure labor of love. The books look beautiful.
l’ll be danged but you admit you like to write but are still unmotivated to work with those journals form long ago. Oh well, one of these days. I haven’t read the poem but will go back and read it for sure.
May you and your lovely family have wonderful holidays and I’ll be looking forwards to more great reading from your posts in the coming year.
Well done on the ‘put my stamp on it’ metaphor. I didn’t see that coming. Funny, but it didn’t feel like labor at all. Lots of love, but no labor.
That’s a pretty astute comment regarding my unwillingness to massage my old journals into a book. I recently read a batch and they were written during a period when things weren’t going so well for me. They kind of dragged me down and made me sad. So now I’m off them for a while.
Thanks for your holiday wishes. The same to you.
🙂 🙂 🙂
This is pretty cool, even though I have to admit that never heard of this Bagazine or X-Ray book.
And now it’s only a matter of time before your work starts selling for thousands of $$.
Bagazine, X-Ray Magazine and the X-Ray Book Co. are little-known entities. Just a scattering of collectors and fine press aficionados around the country know of it. They’re just not high-profile enough projects to be in the public consciousness.
It’s only a matter of time and EFFORT until my stuff sells. The rub is that second part.
I hope for you, and for us there’s plenty more where that came from.
Thanks for sharing, and glad to be connected to your mind and heart — or is it heart and mind? Hard to tell the difference. Best, – Bill
It felt so good to do that you’d think I’d pursue other projects or start banging out my journals into something usable but the truth is that I’m really, really lazy. The world needs slackers, too. We make the ambitious feel good about themselves.
Well, what a clever idea is Bagazine, combining appreciation of art with the Christmas stocking! Congratulations on getting your cute little poem book accepted as one of the goodies. And thanks for mentioning Timothy Leary – his name always brings a smile to my face. 🙂
I don’t think I’m clever enough to come up with the idea of Bagazine, but I’m smart enough to jump on board when given the chance. Pretty amazing I followed-through when you consider how lazy and unmotivated I am.
I especially like the idea of Leary’s face used for blotter acid instead of the usual target or star. Pretty clever stuff.
Nice book, congrats! And happy holidays to you and yours.
Thanks, Sharon! Happy holidays to you, as well. More theater, please.
That is so impressive. Congratulations! What a great notch to add to your bedpost of life. Very cool.
Thank you, Carrie. I feel like I got a tiny taste of what you must feel every time a box of your novels arrive in the mail. It ain’t a bad feeling.
No, it isn’t. 🙂
What a lovely poem you had published, Mark! Congrats on that achievement! I think I’ve heard of Cindy before. Have you mentioned her in an earlier post perhaps? What a fond memory you have putting all those books together even if you stabbed yourself with a needle.
Thank you for all your writing. It’s always a pleasure. Happy Holidays to you, too! Enjoy that balmy weather of yours.
Cindy was my across the hall neighbor on the Lower East Side. Neither one of us live in the city anymore but we’re great friends and still get together to kick around ole times. Cindy has made appearances in my journal entries. She’s fun!
I hope your have a great new year. Keep Friday Fictioneers alive. I don’t always comment, but I always read. Highly enjoyable.
That’s cool you still hang out with Cindy. Thanks for reading my FF posts! You’d never believe all the thinking that can go into 100 words. I truly appreciate you reading them and thanks for the encouragement.
That’s so cool – congratulations! Looks like a real labor of love.
Merry Christmas and happy new year to you and yours.
Thanks, Pal. I’ll take a compliment from you any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Are you making a resolution? (Autocorrect wanted to know if you were making a REVOLUTION. How clever, she is.)
You deserve some time off from the blog, just a week or two, please no more.
It appears that a chapbook and Bagazine is the ancient forerunner combination to what we now have, twitter, text, instagram and a dozen other apps all rolled into one. It’s all about expressing our personal thoughts and feelings to the masses. Happy Holidays to you and the family.
Actually, I think it’s YOU GUYS who deserve a break from this mess! Those issues of Bagazine are endlessly fascinating. When I get one, open it and spill it out onto the table, it’s always a thrill to see what and who’s inside. It’s like Christmas morning.
Happy holidays to you, too, sir. Thanks for hanging around these parts for so long. Much obliged.
When Mom was a legal secretary [1934-ish], and needed to fold some papers neatly, her then-fiancee said she needed a ‘folding bone’ and she said ‘shut your dirty mouth.’ Well, having worked for a printer, he was right. They are both long gone, but I still have his ivory folding bone.
Lovely work, yours. Happy holidays and happy, healthy 2016 to you and yours
Hey, I think you’re new here, right? Welcome! Thanks for reading and commenting. Much obliged.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane. That’s a valuable bone folder, as I’m sure you know. And not just for sentimental reasons. They haven’t been able to use ivory for a long, long time. All I’ve ever used is plastic. Old timers SWEAR that ivory produced a crisper, cleaner crease but I wouldn’t know. I’ve never even seen one much less used one.
Way to go with the publishing! And a happy holiday to you and the family.
Thanks, brother. Not sure why I had to approve this comment. It’s not like you haven’t been here before. Happy holidays to you, too. Your blog is pretty fun fare.
I tend to overuse the word awesome, but I think this qualifies. Congrats! You da man, man. Now get going on getting your memoirs published.
Thanks, Darla. I think I’m going to forgo my usual I’m-not-worthy-of-a-compliment routine (it gets old) and accept your congrats and feel I earned it.
I hope you and all the Maineiacs, big and small, have a Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Thanks for stopping by.
Well done YOU! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours, sweetpea! Raise a glass on Dec. 31st and join my birthday celebration! 😉 xoxox
I’m back to give thanks for your thoughtful comment. Really, you’ve been coming here a lot longer than most and I appreciate it. Happy belated birthday. Double holiday. What’s better than that?
The ritual of the habit applies to creation as well, it’s a bit like the rush of good drugs when we make something innit? well done again sir and by the way i remembered that poem from a way back as well… oddly enough years ago when i actually still wrote poetry and before Hank died i was published a scant three pages away from the old grand master, so yes i can i say that i appeared in a little lit rag beside Charles Bukowski… then i quit writing poetry, in fact like Hank i quit writing period for about 10 years while i ran wild in the streets, gotta have something to write about right?
That’s only one of two poems I’ve ever written. The other one isn’t very good. I don’t know what I’m going to do if they want something for Bagazine #7. I pretty much shot my load with that one. Okay, back in town and just now catching up on reading/writing. Breaks are good.
Congratulations! This is a big damn deal, and you have worked hard to make it happen! i still love my Springsteen/Hornsby chapbook – and share it with those who appreciate such things.
i’m still trying to get caught up in my reader – the last six months have been chaotic, but good. Things usually slow down a bit for me in January. Doing another ‘cleanse’, which means no alcohol, sugar, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, grain, or alcohol…. Therefore, i’m home a lot more, and awake a lot more so i’ll be out here more regularly!
Happy new year, Mark! Here’s to a glorious year ahead!
Hope you had a nice holiday. I’m trying to play catch-up with the comments and reading. I had to blow out my Feeder. I’d never catch up with every new post that was in there. Hope the cleanse went well. Spare me the details, though. Happy to you. How is the good sir? Well along the road to recover, I trust. Give him my regards.
Seasonal merry stuff and wishes for the new year to you!!
A belated thank-you for that. Forgive me. I’ve been away. Once I was lost, but now I’m found.
Happy New Year, M.Pain!!
Oh wow this is fantastic! I feel strangely proud of you 🙂 And a real labor of love assembling them all. I love it, and the bagazine sounds great, what a fab thing to own one of those with its eclectic contents. Well done you! Hope you’ve been having a lovely festive time, and wishing you a great new year!
Thank you, dear. I’ve been out in the world but am back in the ether. Will catch up with posts soon but had to bang out these comment responses. You have to tend your own garden first. Happy New Year to you. Now that the holidays are behind us, the cold seems much colder.
It’ll get all of us, eventually. Even if we don’t live there… is the Cindy the Cindy from your backstories?
I bow in response to the work you put into that project. In this day and age, that kind of patience and devotion to art seems somewhat absent.
The best to you for the new year, Mark!
Hi, Trent. Where have you been all these months? Hope you had a nice holiday and all that glop. That is, in fact, the same Cindy from across the hall. She and I have a very long history together. Thanks for your props. Means a lot to me. Huzzah.
Hiding under the Canadian shield… work got insane and wouldn’t let up until recently, hoping 2016 is a little bit more balanced. I keep a stash of liquor in my office, it got chewed through pretty good the last few months…
That’s great, many congratulations. It’s always special to be “chosen” rather than “accepted,” especially in a magazine whose handmade ethic you have cleaved to for decades. It’s beautifully painstaking and will last longer than all this blather that we are posting into the ether.
Happy New Year to you and the Bride — I have already thought of an excellent Christmas present for you. Only 354 more days to go!
Thanks, pal. I submitted a prototype and was on needles and pins waiting to hear back. I know for a fact that he rejects work all the time because he doesn’t want to publish junk with his hard work. I’m allowing my self to feel pretty good about all this praise (as opposed to the usual “I’m not worthy” business).
Happy New Year to you, too. Don’t tell anyone I said so but your writing is the best of the best. I look forward to your posts.