As I traversed the hilly, citrusnamed streets of Dumbo to attend the BOMB Magazine Summer Bash at the powerHouse Arena, I glanced up at the Statue of Liberty and contemplated BOMB, one of the most prestigious places for a fiction writer to be published—and therefore seemingly as unattainable as a Dumbo loft at this point in my life. "If only I could be published in BOMB," I thought, "I would finally have my perfect New York City life here in Dumbo."
I was so certain of this that by the time I made it to powerHouse I was deathly afraid to walk in to the actual party. Halfway through a cigarette, I worked up the nerve to talk to another partygoer smoking outside. Danny Lambert, a philosophy student from the U.K., confessed to me that he hadn’t read much BOMB before the party, but that it seemed "indistinguishable from other literary magazines." Instead of trying to explain why I thought BOMB was the key to happiness, I asked him what he thought of the party.
"It seems all right," he said. "There’s a lot of people with their organic babies inside."
Finally brave enough to walk inside, I immediately spotted a few babies in the children’s section of the bookshop but had no way of telling whether or not they were organic. The adults were scattered throughout the room, enjoying the selection of Brooklyn Brewery Lager, Pennant Ale and Pilsner beers and white wine. Across the room from the drinks table, a man in a navy sport jacket and white turtleneck with billowing dark brown hair seemed to command the crowd around him. There was no way that this guy wasn’t a BOMB published writer with a beautiful Dumbo apartment. I tried to nonchalantly mosey up beside him, but I quickly became too conspicuous and had to identify myself as a reporter.
The dapper young man turned out to be Simon Van Booy, a BOMB writer and novelist who would be reading as part of the evening’s event. I asked him what he thought of the festivities.
"It’s just fantastic," he said. "You could be trapped in an elevator with anyone in this room and it would be interesting."
The reading kicked off with a young Nicholas Elliot reading his poem about a road trip taken by ex-lovers. Van Booy then took the stage, reading the opening pages of his novel Everything Beautiful Began After, his poetic prose sounding not unlike the short stories of Italo Calvino. To cap off the evening, playwright Richard Maxwell and actor Scott Shepherd played dueling guitar and ukulele, respectively.
Before the party’s end, I made a beeline for BOMB’s editor in chief. After exchanging smiles and shaking hands with the demure Betsy Sussler, I asked her my go-to question for the evening.
"What allows BOMB to persevere when so many other literary and art magazines are dying off?" "Me!" Sussler replied. I laughed far more than was appropriate and then asked my real question.
"What does it take to get a story published in BOMB?" "It’s not just about great writing. I’m really interested in subject matter and what compels the writer to write about that subject matter. I’m really traditional in a way when it comes to good storytelling. I want it. I expect it," she said.
Heading toward the subway, Dumbo, BOMB and cobblestoned streets named after citrus seemed slightly more attainable than before.