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Short and sweet. Those are the kinds of magazines we're looking for, in the crunch of time and credit that defines this holiday/ice storm season.

These two sharp little magazines are great stocking stuffers.

Pindeldyboz and The First Line are rather unique in the glossy publishing field. They carry no advertisements, they're about the size of TV Guide and they beckon to readers with their curious titles and stylish looks.

They're not anything like TV Guide.

These mags celebrate words. Pindeldyboz contributors all seem to be slumming editors who would rather be writing for McSweeney's. You'll recognize the names if you visit McSweeney's Web site. Ben Greenman, who edits volume three, treats his intros like a literary prank. They're always funny--and they always end at exactly 1,000 words. Neal Pollack set the humor standard as Pindeldyboz's first editor. (A lit double-double, Pollack contributed to the first issue of McSweeney's, too!)

What's most fun about reading a magazine like Pindeldyboz is trying to guess which writers will become household names in a few years. This mag is a great incubator of talent: All of the writing is good, much of it is often witty and entertaining. All of the writers are well connected to literary networks on both coasts. Someone in this crew is going to win fame and fortune.

Who's it going to be? I'm betting on fiction by Jason Wilson, Dave Reidy and Matt Summers.

The award for most original launch idea goes to The First Line. Here's how their 2-year-old magazine works: They give "the first line" of a story, and then readers write the work that follows their lead. Then the editors pick their favorites and publish them in the next issue. This party happens four times a year. How can you not join in?

The most recent issue is titled "I can't believe I just heard that." Eleven writers from Las Vegas to Georgia, and Illinois to Brooklyn, contribute the winning tales.

You can imagine the breadth of plots implicated in this collection of second lines: "You want some eggs?" "I quickly forgot my anger." "God Bless Alexander Bell."

Story tangents are equally eclectic, imagining Steve McQueen, golfing misadventures, and yard sales.

Editors Jeff Adams and David LaBounty have given many writers a lot of fun. The First Line web site already has posted the four first lines for 2003. After the holidays--or during the next ice storm--go ahead and get started on this first line for January: "Paul Fisher was a graduate student studying biochemistry at Emory when he met my mother."

The deadline's Feb. 1. Another reason to fill their in-box with entries: Jeff and David are now paying their winners.

Find out more at www.pindeldyboz.com and www.thefirstline.com.

More by John Valentine


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