What a good idea: Smoke is a London fanzine. Not a fanzine about dodgy London pop music but a fanzine about London itself. Perhaps it has pretensions to be a literary magazine, but it neatly sidesteps them by billing itself as ‘A London Peculiar’. Very nice.

I’ll have trouble talking too precisely about the contents of Smoke because my copy has already disappeared into the curious hands of friends and I’ll be surprised if I get it back. That’s the mark of a decent read though, no?

Somewhere near the middle of the magazine is a photo of a blackboard on the street somewhere in town (is it outside a pub? Possibly). Someone has chalked a few sentences from Calvino’s Invisible Cities up there, and that’s my dream for Smoke: I’d love it to be made of weird fragments of London-experience simultaneously strange and recognisable. That need not mean swirly (sub)urban (sub)dreamscapes: I’d like the pieces to look to surprise as much as confirm, to avoid falling into observational humour.

Which this first issue does, for the most part. It leans a little heavily on a wry tone, an arched-eyebrow take on town. I like a bit of wry as much as the next man, but it can get a little stifling. I’m sure this is first issue syndrome (is there such a thing as first issue syndrome?).

Particularly pleasing in a fanzine published in the unfashionable paper-and-ink way is a healthy respect for unfashionable brutalism: Clare Wadd’s piece on the Empress State Building and someone’s nod to Bow’s dear old Balfron Tower, architecturally superior to the Trellick but so far away from fashionable West London…

(This article was pirated from my little-read and now defunct weblog.)