Since Stop Smiling transitioned from a periodical to a book publisher, the Second City has had a gaping hole in its journalistic output where long-form creative nonfiction is concerned. The Handshake, a new publication helmed by editor-in-chief Daniel Duffy, seeks to change this.
Taking admitted inspiration from Stop Smiling (the first issue of The Handshake features an interview with its founding editor, J.C. Gabel), Duffy continues its legacy of long-form interviews. Yet he aims to deviate from that publication through inclusion of five structured, recurring sections.
“I think offering these five very distinct things, with only one of each in each issue, gives us enough focus to really keep putting out a good product every time,” Duffy says.
Each issue will include one long-form interview and one “conversation, where two authors, artists, comedians, meet to talk to each other about their lives and work,” Duffy says.
In addition, the magazine includes a single experimental essay (“in tribute to David Foster Wallace,” reads the website). New Journalism influenced Duffy in constructing this section, causing him to realize the allure of subjectivity in reporting.
“We’re a very kind of selfish culture. We want to know what we’re going to get out of something.,” he says. “We also want to know how someone personally feels about a certain topic, and what our experience will be like going to a certain event more so than the event itself.”
With The Handshake, Duffy is attempting to restore this kind of intimate and subjective style of nonfiction to Chicago, harkening back to a period in the 1960s and 1970s in which this brand of writing was taken up by icons like Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson.
“What journalism does, and does quite well, is it covers an event, or talks to someone about what they’re promoting,” Duffy says. “I think what New Journalism has to offer is the opportunity for us to get someone’s experience at an event, or their experience with a person.”
“It gets at how we might react in the same circumstance,” he adds.
A piece of short fiction (provided in the first issue by novelist and Columbia College professor Don De Grazia) and a photo-essay titled “On the Road,” chronicling road trips across the country, round out each issue.
“I’ve always been passionate about travel and just getting out and seeing new things,” Duffy says of this section. “When you’re living in a city, and just trying to get by and pay the bills, you don’t really get a chance to get out as often.”
“So I thought, what if I had a section where, every time [the reader] picks up an issue or checks us out online, I could let someone go with us on a trip, and see things we could see, from Chicago to New Orleans for instance, seeing Memphis and Saint Louis. With just enough to get a sense of the trip.”
But Duffy has been careful to resist the tendency of such subject matter to fall into the traps of stultifying tourist writing. Rather, “On the Road” takes the approach of a photographic travelogue in the manner of its namesake, focusing upon curios and artifacts along the highway that draw the traveler’s eye.
Future installments of the section include trips to the Sleeping Bear Dunes of Michigan, and a ride to Maine, involving interviews with local fishermen.
The reception for The Handshake, which was launched in late June, has so far been “outstanding, more than we ever expected” according to Duffy. “I think people are excited to have a new literary magazine on the scene that’s mostly focused on nonfiction—on actual things happening around Chicago—written in a more creative kind of way.”
As for future directions for The Handshake? Maybe a full-time publisher.
“I’m having a hell of a time mailing these things out myself,” Duffy says. (Mike Gillis)
The inaugural issue of The Handshake is available in print through orders online. Featured content is accessible at TheHandshakeMagazine.com