Instructing the young, reforming the old, correcting the town, and castigating the age.

In October 0f 2001 a small-format newspaper appeared at book and magazine stores across at least 4 of the 5 boroughs of New York. Copies showed up in coffee houses. Copies were seen on benches. The occasional copy was perhaps taken aloft by a discerning wind. Amid the lunatic crush of printed bombast and color-glossed offal, literate residents of the great city might certainly be excused for having missed its arrival and subsequent departure completely. But if you did it’s a shame, because for its year-long run Three Weeks was without doubt the best written publication the city had to offer.

The title, Three Weeks, did not constitute some snickering school-chum in-joke, nor was it plucked, between clever forefinger and aping thumb, from some Borges or Beckett quotation. No, the title Three Weeks was an simple admission: This will be quite possibly the only paper which intentionally adheres to a tri-weekly publication schedule.

It seems significant to us that in our lives and in our language we have demarcated ‘days,’ and ‘weeks,’ and ‘months,’ and some of the dodgier individuals present will even pay homage to the ‘fortnight,’ but that the intermediate period of twenty-one days is left without a single worshiper. And that, ever devoted to this vestigial influence of the Mayan, Egyptian, Arabic, and Hindu calendars, our modern American commentators, publishers, and literary trendsetters all adhere to a publication schedule that is either overwhelmingly too frequent, or else, agonizingly, too precious.

Not so lazy as a monthly, not quite so incessant as a weekly, and never as precious and obsessive as one of those capitalized Reviews, THREE WEEKS will appear, to the best of its editor’s abilities, in that last gap of the information continuum after which it is named - careful and thoughtful, and also carefree, and impulsive. - From the First issues introduction.

For 18 issues, three-weeks-in, three-weeks-out, the editor Henry William Brownejohns, delivered a stylish, funny, and highly intelligent paper, which believe it or not was free, or effectively so, in that the asking price (after issue #3) was “two cents, voluntary.”

In a 2001 piece titled High-Button News New York Press columnist John Strausbaugh took notice and conducted what I believe to be the one and only official interview with Brownejohns, beginning:

Since it began last October, Three Weeks has been very quietly infiltrating New York City bookstores and coffee shops with a look as old-fashioned as celluloid collars and an eloquent writing style that consciously evokes a more genteel epoch in American letters. Lede stories of the 16-page newsprint journal have had titles like “On Hope: Whether It Is Worth Having Any,” “On Sleep: A Universal Human Vice Examined” and “On Pigeons, Rats, and Cockroaches: A Worthy Cogitation Upon Our Most Ubiquitous Companions.” There’s a regular column on “The Weather,” in which the editors take turns discoursing upon such subjects of weight as those vexing gusts of wind that knock a gentleman’s hat off when he is innocently reading his paper on a park bench…

The paper also featured a column called The Eavesdropper which transcribed interesting overheard conversations and predates Overheard in New York (and its book deal) by a good long stretch. 

In all the paper followed its spirit guides admirably, they being a beaming Washington Irving and a scowling H.L. Mencken.

I had the good fortune of having been acquainted with Mr. Brownejohns. We would occasionally share a libation on MacDougal street or browse the nearby record shops. (I remember distinctly that we disagreed on the musical merits of Steely Dan.) This was before The Nonist existed and though he seemed amenable to the idea of my contributing something to Three Weeks I was at that time still focussed mainly on the visual arts and didn’t posses the discipline to be a contributor to any undertaking of even moderate import, let alone a wonderful paper such as Three weeks. It’s a missed opportunity I regret to this day.

Since the last issue of the paper was published in October of 2002, I’ve lost contact with Brownjohns. He was nice enough to hand over a small package containing a complete run of the paper as a birthday gift that year, after which he seemed to disappear utterly. A shame.

I’d always intended on doing a post about Three Weeks here in that I admire it greatly, but I could never decide how to approach it in such a way to do it justice. Short of transcribing every issue there didn’t seem a way. Well I’m happy to say only recently I was dumbfounded to find that some other enterprising soul had done every groaning moment of the heavy lifting for me:

BROWNEJOHNS.ORG The Henry William Brownejohns Appreciation Page contains transcriptions of all 18 issues as well as cover scans and a few subsequent pieces written by the paper’s staff after its cessation.

I think it’s wonderful that those who were not around New York during the small window of the paper’s existence can now enjoy Three Weeks online. I heartily recommend that any of you with a love for the written word bookmark the site and begin reading straight away. You will not be disappointed, I promise.

Lastly, on the off-chance that Brownjohns has finally made the begrudging leap into cyberspace, or at very least randomly logs on for the guilty pleasure of a “vanity google search” and happens upon this post, let me direct a statement directly to him:

Do get in touch. I’m curious to know what has happened in the intervening years. It’s been too long.