Themed magazines are the best magazines
Gossamer no.7 comes with a velvety soft powder-blue cover and is dedicated to ‘touch’; a kind of ode to the physical connections we have lost, regained, and then lost again over the course of the last two years.
It is uncommon to pick up a magazine and want to read every single article in it, but Gossamer is an unusual publication. Nominally about weed, the material in here is always beautifully written, and intriguing without ever being sensationalist. The opening piece in this issue, for example, is about the psychedelic history of the remote controlled orgasm. Where a lesser magazine would have printed a salacious tale, Gossamer tackles the subject by way of a profile of a little-known inventor called How Wachspress. The man behind the 1970s ‘Auditac’ — a box that carried sound down a clear plastic tube that could be inserted into, or penetrated by, the “listener” — Wachspress is essentially the father of the sex toy. His machine allowed users to physically feel songs, but the trick was that feeling music in this way made them experience extraordinary pleasure: “[they] were flopping around like fish having super orgasms”, Wachspress explains.
What’s interesting about this interview, by Christopher Trout, is that it paints a portrait of Wachspress as an under-appreciated, and somewhat bitter man: “Today he seems defeated, a largely unrecognised inventor of unwanted machines, disillusioned by a world more worried about the bottom line than higher consciousness.” This unexpected twist to the feature is typical of Gossamer, which privileges truthful portraits over the kind of puff-pieces you might find elsewhere.
Another thoughtful contribution on the theme of touch is by the relationships therapist Esther Perel, who describes herself as a “connector”. Perel writes briefly about the birth of alternative therapies — CBD, Ketamine, MDMA, psilocybin — but the thrust of the article is not about drugs at all, it’s about the connections (missed or otherwise) between people. One excellent point Perel makes is that now, when we have more choice and freedom when it comes to finding a partner than at any previous point in history, what we want, paradoxically, is to be locked down: “‘How do I know?’ This is the question that every young person asks me. ‘How do I know?’ We want this certainty, this 100%, this ‘I’m sure this is the one’… At the moment when you have most freedom, people are craving certainty.”
I love themed magazines because a narrowed focus always provokes more imaginative interpretations of a subject. It is pleasing to pick up a magazine about touch, and weed, and read — instead — about the trials of an inventor, or the ways in which we contort ourselves to find “the one”. This issue of Gossamer has that rare quality of a really good novel; you open it up and you get sucked in; it is genuinely difficult to put this magazine down.