PRINT February 2010


The Thing

The Thing Quarterly 8 (September 2009). Trevor Paglen’s coffee mug.

HALF MACGUFFIN, HALF HOLY GRAIL, the “impossible object” driving Jonathan Lethem’s novel Chronic City (Doubleday, 2009) is a vase of transcendent attractiveness called a chaldron. Some readers may take the word to be the author’s coinage, but it dates back to at least sixteenth-century England (an early spelling of cauldron) and denotes an inexact measure of volume, generally of coal. For an elusive object that appears as different things at different times and whose meaning shifts depending on who’s looking at it, the name is well chosen, carrying metaphoric weight that implies specificity but remains indeterminate.

Such is the case with The Thing Quarterly, a “periodical in the form of an object,” edited—or, better, curated—by Bay Area artists Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan, with each “issue” commissioned from a different artist, writer, musician, filmmaker, or designer

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