by Talore Bishop, 2018-19 Baltimore editor and co-director of social media
Losing my best friend after high school was a significant moment in my life. We had been friends since the second grade. We knew each other inside and out. I confided in her, and she confided in me. We were more than best friends. We were sisters. Losing her was like losing a close family member. If you’re wondering: no, she did not die. People simply change. They distance themselves or grow away from the people they are close to. I was hurt, but it’s a part of life. Looking through a pile of scattered magazines on a table, I was drawn to one that had a sincere photo of two young girls embracing each other in a serene, open field. They possessed different body compositions and were clothed in very different bathing suit designs. The magazine reminded me of that past friendship. Instantly, I picked it up. For the first time, I was face to face with the thirty-sixth issue of Cabinet magazine entitled “Friendship.”
Opening its pages, I was expecting the theme of friendship to run consistently throughout the publication. Instead, I was met with an eclectic assortment of works. Themes such as food, death, the significance of detritus, movement theory, taxidermy, and the act of judgment were flooding its pages. What was disorienting at first drew me further into the issue. As a reader, my curiosity was ignited. It was evident that the purpose of Cabinet as a literary magazine was to dismantle any previous thoughts about what a literary magazine should be. The works were meant to explore obscure aspects of our culture.
One of the featured works, “Leftovers: Where do Teeth Go?” by Helen Denise Polson, explored the cultural significance of tooth decay and its relation to the folklore of the tooth fairy. As a child, I remember losing my tooth in a tootsie roll on Halloween night. Imagine pulling a bloody tootsie roll out of your mouth with a tooth protruding from it. Needless to say, I did not eat tootsie rolls for a couple years after. But, I cannot deny that I was super excited for the tooth fairy to come that night. Polson’s article made me relive that experience. Did I ever think I would ponder the tooth fairy or why my parents used her as an excuse to collect my fallen teeth as a child? The answer is a hard no. But, I can proudly say that I read every bit of Polson’s article and she gave me knowledge on a topic I didn’t know I needed. I was fascinated. The photos published alongside the article—a vintage picture of a dentist examining a girl’s teeth, George Washington’s dentures, and milk teeth—were eye-catching and helped to capture my interest.
This issue of Cabinet was divided into three sections, the third being the section where the theme of friendship made its debut. A photo series that followed two young girls who grew up together as best friends, an interview about the literary accounts of friendship by great philosophers, and typed instructions about how to erase a former friend were all creatively used within this section to give a serious, yet humorous context to the exploration of friendship. The content in this issue is an intimate reflection of the nature of friendships within our social culture. In a featured work, “Scenography of Friendship” by Svetlana Boym, the reader is taken on a voyage through the different stories contained within one friendship between a political thinker, Hannah Arendt, and political journalist, Mary McCarthy. It gives an intimate and relatable scope of what friendships can endure. Boym even admits that since she was writing for Cabinet, she researched and ate anchovies because Arendt rejected anchovy paste from McCarthy in one of their stories. This was a comical and genuine touch that led me to relate to the definition of friendship she was defining. Throughout the other featured works, I was able to gain what I needed from the issue. I related to the publication in terms of what it means to have a friendship and what it means to lose one. Within this issue, Cabinet does its job as a literary magazine. It provides the reader with what they want to read while giving them content that they never knew they craved. It was a beautiful compilation of obscure, eclectic, and relatable content worth discovering.