The Brooklyn Quarterly # 1: Garages and Grassroots
Where do you go when you want to make something new? In the last seventy-five years, if you were a band looking to find a raw and undiscovered sound, or a start-up venture in search of space to dream big, the answer was probably similar: you found the nearest available garage. It’s a motif that unites areas of American life that are otherwise worlds apart. Yet these worlds have started to converge, and as start-up entrepreneurs ourselves, we seek here to explore beyond the now-familiar tech culture to take a broader view of what it means to start something from nothing. From aspiring artists to community builders to actual revolutionaries, with stories from Canarsie to Cairo, the people featured in our first issue are all entrepreneurs—whether we think to call them that or not—who have used their literal and metaphorical garage spaces to build other things: alternative currencies, punk rock bands, surfboards, publishing houses, global social enterprises, performance art projects, major book festivals, activist organizations and political revolutions.
Many of these creators have something else in common: a grassroots vision, not only for the marketplace of ideas, but also for the marketplaces of commerce and power. Every garage band or start-up needs a grassroots community at first, of course, but the entrepreneurs featured here are going further. They’re building a cultural paradigm that is open, democratic, participatory, and socially conscious, yet one that is still unmistakably a marketplace—with more producers and small enterprises and with less dependence on large institutions. By juxtaposing garages with grassroots, we have sought to examine ways that these creative developments reverberate throughout literature, politics, and civic life, which raise some provocative questions for this issue and beyond. Does opportunity still exist in America today? Is contemporary American fiction open to ideas and arguments? What is the relationship between artists and their communities, their cities, and the world at large?
These are questions we are still trying to answer, and we invite readers to be a part of the conversation. With our new blog, you’ll be able to sign up for an account on TBQ and not only comment on a piece but also write your own. Rather than a singular statement from our editorial perch, we want each quarterly issue to be three-month-long discussion on selected themes or a constellation of ideas. In the coming weeks, for example, we’ll continue to post further discussions and multimedia content related to Garages and Grassroots over at the blog, and we hope you’ll sign up for our newsletter as well as an account with TBQ. We look forward to hearing from you.
We as editors are proud of all the essays, interviews, poetry, fiction, and journalism we’ve gathered to share with you here in Issue #1. We hope you’ll think of this issue’s theme as both a starting point and a rallying cry for a digital magazine of literature and public ideas that’s here to stay. The Brooklyn Quarterly is our garage and you, our readers, are the grassroots. Welcome.