Literary Magazine Reviews

Posted March, 2007


Issue 3


Reviewed by Josh Maday

If pop culture irritates and disgusts you, then this magazine is for you. If you’re a pop culture junkie and your admiration for Patrick Swayze and Mr. T is rivaled only by admiration for your father, then this magazine is for you. Equipped to satisfy the panoply of individual tastes, Barrelhouse brilliantly succeeds at “bridging the gap between serious art and pop culture.” With a wide range of fare – essays, interviews, poetry, fiction, art – Barrelhouse has it all. I mean, come on, who else is publishing poetry about Ed Asner? Exactly. Fiction in this issue is strong across the board, and to be fair, each piece deserves its own review. Melissa Yancey’s “Recommended if You Dig” is a perfect example of the Barrelhouse blend, where the young indie protagonist may finally have fallen in love but becomes obsessed with the fact that the woman he’s seeing does not share his love for Neutral Milk Hotel, and this seemingly irreconcilable difference threatens to be the deal-breaker. Another excellent piece is Wendy Wimmer’s “Billets Doux,” an art/fiction piece (Barrelhouse art director Kylos Brannon does a top-notch job laying this piece out) comprised of emails tapped on a Blackberry, offering verbal snapshots cumulating in a portrait of loneliness and desire.

Essays include the winner of the Pop Culture Essay Contest, “This Essay Doesn’t Rock,” where Joseph Oestreich handles the slippery definition of what does and does not “rock,” as well as Dale Bridge’s meditation on the evil that is American Idol. David Barringer conducts an insightful interview with George Saunders, and Barrelhouse talks with Chuck Klosterman, effectively delivering two of the most distinct and relevant voices writing today about popular American culture and real people attempting to live in it without being consumed by it. In three issues, Barrelhouse has established itself as a magazine with a clear vision and a strong voice. Definitely keep an eye on this magazine. I recommend subscribing to Barrelhouse immediately; I’ve done the same based on the strength of this issue alone. []

Burnside Review coverBurnside Review

Volume 3 Number 1

2006 Published every 9 months

Reviewed by T.K. Dalton

If I were a better thief, I’d steal this entire sentence from “Zodiacs,” by William Doreski, one of a handful of stellar poems in the most recent Burnside Review: “I’m afraid / to live in the suburbs, afraid / that no one loves anyone / without consulting the zodiacs / half occluded by pollution / from coal-fired power plants.” Maybe Doreski will let me have it if I say these lines are transcendent, which, pretty much, they are.

A few other poets achieve similar heights of clarity. Kate Nurenberger, who manages to write a near-poem with just a title (“The Strange Girl Asked Politely to be Called Princess”), spins loose images like a mobile. Nuremberger’s protagonist, Sally Lida (the strange girl), collects “things that melt and things that tick” until she’s pinned on the playground, and cockroaches spill from a drawer in her navel: “She gathers up as many of the carapaces / as she can, tells them she is sorry / there is no lock, but the teacher says / good children don’t have secrets.”

Some works were hard to decipher, such as Richard Robbins’s vituperative villanelle, “To Those of you Deserving,” and Zach Savich’s “City (4)” and “City (12).” Virginia Mix’s interview of poet Linda Bierds digressed too frequently, and the premise of Paul Shepherd’s short story fiction seemed gimmicky to me. Still, most poems met “the task of the poet,” as Richard Jones puts it in “Grace”: namely, “to provide poems / that will help people live.” Jenny Browne’s work does this as well as any in this issue. In “Like the Universe,” she ranged (without rambling) from children’s thoughts on a school class as “a mighty family,” and her adult persona’s “feeling of being / so many others, small and learning / how to spell February or lightning.” The best poems in this issue answer some variation of the question that Browne’s persona asks a classroom of children: “Have you ever gone inside your poems?” []

Chattahoochee Review coverThe Chattahoochee Review

Volume 26 Number 4

Summer 2006

Reviewed by Sheheryar B. Sheikh

In N.D. Wilson’s story “Conversations with Tod,” the narrator lives across from an evangelist with twin nymphet daughters who have vowed to remain virgins for life. “God doesn’t ask a lot,” says one of the Lolitas, “just everything.” The narrator leers and Wilson steers the narrative to unexpected places, in unexpected confines. A crow plays a negative part (but have crows ever been positive other than in the two movies named after them?) One of the best stories in the issue is Jack Pendarvis’s “Outsider,” which begins to be about a father waiting at a restaurant for his daughter, but turns into a narrative about the one extended conversation on which he eavesdrops. So many things inform our lives, especially overheard things. Strong characters elevate Pendarvis’s story to a height achieved only by the most contagious and infective fiction. An interview with multi-genre writer George Garrett contains great advice for writers of military fiction. Even better, in the Garrett story that follows, “The Source,” there’s advice for writers of all kind. “‘Why did you become a writer?’ someone asked. Donoso didn’t miss a breath or a beat. ‘Because I was not invited to the party.’” Any more said about this issue of The Chattahoochee Review would only lead to giving away essential ingredients. As Ira Sadoff writes in her poem “After Hours”: “Of course, coarse, corpse.” []

Crazyhorse coverCrazyhorse

Number 70

Fall 2006


Reviewed by Jim Scott

Crazyhorse has been so good for so long, I opened the pages of this issue expecting to be bored by its brilliance. Instead, Crazyhorse Number 70 features stories that are so fascinating that boredom is out of the question. Crazyhorse does not rely on heavy plotting; the plots are, in fact, fairly mundane. It is the writing that contains much of the appeal. Fiction Prize Winner “Dog People” by Steve Mitchel tells the story of a divorced father and his children, love life, and ex-wife. Mitchel’s writing illuminates the fine details of suburban life with child: the snacks, the soccer coaching, the videos, the arguments. The story’s sense of humor drives it forward, with lines like, “I happen to have the hots for Pocahontas, though the real one, I’ve read, unlike the animated version, wasn’t built like some Playmate / pilates instructor.” Each story similarly finds an engine within the writing itself. The poetry works on similar principles. James McCorkle’s “Barn Fire,” despite the urgency of the writing and the situation described therein, takes its time, meditating on what is lost as much as how it happens. The rush of activity at the end of the poem, “And what did they see / When wreathed in fire / I ran towards them / The last one out,” underscores the stillness that preceded it. Crazyhorse is never in a rush. About the size of a 45 record, Crazyhorse could easily contain twice the material, but wisely allows the stories and poems to unfold like a beautifully slow song. []

Fairy Tale Review coverFairy Tale Review

The Green Issue (2)



Reviewed by Jeanne M. Lesinski

We might think of ourselves as too sophisticated for fairy tales, that is, if the term conjures up Disney-ish recastings of classic tales; yet, fairy tales provide a body of common knowledge upon which to draw for literary allusions, and thus serve as currency even in our modern lives. Moreover, these tales recast archetypes and tap into our deepest fears: there are still beasts (literal and metaphoric) to conquer, the distressed who need a rescue, the hope of bliss—but at a cost.

Although the theme of this issue is nature, many of the pieces included hover on the periphery thematically. No matter. The fiction, verse, and essay included here are worthy in their own right. For example, in her poems “Is the Rain My Bearskin” and “Ma Belle,” Jeanne Marie Beaumont cleverly puts a new twist on the Goldilocks and Beauty and the Beast tales. The beast makes another appearance in “Inheritance,” a story by Jedediah Berry, in which main character Greg must deal with the strange creature that he has recently found in the house of his long-estranged though recently deceased father. Throughout this skillfully told tale, Greg’s wife tries to humanize the creature, but Berry states in the contributor notes, “I see fairy tales as the best place for our symbols to rebel against us.” Rebel they do, in ways that readers will find interesting, if not earth shattering. Never fear: the gut-wrenching blast will arrive with Stacey Richter’s self-contained excerpt from her novel Fairyland. This modern tale opens as powerless waif Tina imagines various ways that her mother’s boyfriend might die, thereby ending the “home business” (read meth lab), and continues with her fantasies of rescue by someone who won’t call her ugly or useless.

Another take on the Cinderella tale is Kat Meads's riveting short fiction, "On the Palace Steps, She Pauses," which freezes the unnamed princess of the traditional tale upon her entrance at the ball, where she suffers a crisis of indecision. This bout of existential angst, the narrator indicates, ends with two equally negative possibilities. This tale, especially its climax, seems a subversive remake of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that elementary and middle-school children like so much. []

Five Points coverFive Points

Volume 10 Number 3



Reviewed by T.K. Dalton

A capricious God, a toad-killer with a nine iron, and a broke gambler whose only joy in the world is Howard Stern, walk into a bar called Five Points. The only question is, why aren’t you there already? This issue serves up poetry ranging from Charles Simic’s “Metaphysics Anonymous” (“The unreality of our being here, / an additional quandary we are cautioned / not to concern ourselves”) to Richard Howard’s challenging but compelling re-vision (“Look again, look closer.”) of Peter Paul Reuben’s painting, “The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus by Castor and Pollux.” Howard writes, “memory takes some time to compose / itself into a story all of us want to believe, / although of course it wasn’t like that.” These lines brought a 17th century painting of a myth directly into contemporary life—no small feat. There are smaller moments captured in the poems here as well, from David Wagoner’s snapshot “In the Green Room” to Jane Hirschfield’s tiny, haunting “Rainstorm Visibly Shining in the Left-Out Spoon of a Leaf.” Susan Wood’s “The Soul Bone” ended sentimentally. Though I appreciated Jana Martin’s observation that “Red-haired girls keep their hearts quietly inside,” perhaps the trio of red-haired girls made “Galletas” feel emotionally inert. Happily, Virginia Beth Shield’s gorgeous portraits of a Southern family provided the opposite reaction. In “What Kind of God are You?,” Michael Griffith offers trenchant thoughts on the relationship between writers and their creations, with an assist from Mark Twain, who Griffith quoted at length on the propriety, efficacy, and occasional necessity of character-drowning. []

GSU Review coverGeorgia State University Review

Spring/Summer 2006


Reviewed by Josh Maday

This issue of GSU Review showcases the winners and finalists of their 2006 fiction and poetry contests, as well as the art of Len Kovsky on the covers and six full-color pages inside, rounding out this solid collection. Taking first place in fiction was Midge Raymond’s “Forgetting English,” about an American teacher trying to start again in Taiwan. But in a place where “[…] amid the belief that souls are lost and lonely, that they drift through an eternal purgatory, appeased with food, drink, entertainment, gifts […]” she is led inevitably to face her own haunted past and decide what to do with her future. Stacey Leslie’s story “L.A. Cycle” follows a succession of characters whose lives intertwine physically while their innermost needs and desires remain hidden and frustrated. Be sure to catch the work of other finalists, such as Michael Shiavone, Sharon Hashimoto, Joan Frank, and Randall Norris, moving stories of people finding ways to connect, to deal with the irony of life. The poetry is solid throughout. One example is Todd Boss’s “More So,” where love exceeds the cute, clean ability to be captured in anecdotes and moves beyond the bounds of language, but maybe not without losing something along the way, confirming the insightful ambiguousness of the poem itself. Also filed under ‘Poetry’ is a piece by Ellen LaFlèche entitled “Hansel and Gretel: The Witch’s Side of the Story,” a prose poem that delivers a retelling in one page that is both moving and humane. This is not to discount the other poetry by Allan Peterson, Jane Knechtel, R. Virgil Ellis, Noelle Rydell, Jeannette Barnes, Catherine Carter, and more. I’m looking forward to future issues of this engaging literary magazine. []

Green Mountain Review coverGreen Mountains Review

Volume 19 Number 2

Fall/Winter 2006


Reviewed by Jim Scott

A good looking, glossy magazine, Green Mountains Review puts a strong emphasis on poetry. In fact, the best story in this issue is written by Therese Svoboda, who – not surprisingly – splits her time between prose (four novels) and poetry (four collections). The work “355,” about spies in the American Revolution era, contains the type of subject matter that most writers would spend half the story setting up so that they could splash their research all over the page. Svoboda pauses in unlikely places, such as the buttons a British loyalist asks for at the family store, “They should not have had these buttons except that her husband had traded with the gravedigger who removed them from the British corpses.” The story unfolds with the pacing and brevity of a poem. As expected in GMR, the poetry in this issue excels, from Katherine Sanchez Espano’s charming portrait of a father from the perspective of a child who loves toy trains, “In Miniature,” to Alicia Beal’s two outstanding offerings, “The Body’s Sermon” and “Desert Arrival,” each loaded with momentum and physicality. But Jennifer Perrine’s two humorous poems filled with unexpected but accurate metaphors stood out above the rest. In “The Amputation of My Brother’s Finger,” Perrine writes, “What remains besides is the knuckle: / its crayon pink hump gleaming amidst / his ochre skin.” As long as they keep printing such exceptional poetry, Green Mountains Review is well worth picking up, but one wonders when the fiction will reach the same heights. []

Hunger Mountain coverHunger Mountain

Issue 9

Fall 2006

Reviewed by Sheheryar B. Sheikh

“If this were another country, somewhere / in Latin America, say, or Eastern Europe, I could write lines like, / My country, take care of your light!, as Neruda did, / I could write, I am begging you the way a child / begs its mother, as he did… Oh, to live among those writers / who make unabashed use of vodka / and exclamation marks!” This is how Eleanor Stanford’s “Political Poem” goes, and it begs to be anthologized for its treatment of motherhoods and motherlands. James Tate and Dara Weir, two poets in constant conversation, are also interviewed and their poems prominently placed. Tate’s “The Ghost Soldiers” opens like this: “I saw a duck fly into a tree today. Boy, you don’t see / that very often. It must have been daydreaming…and now that I think of it, it had looked over at me just before / impact. It must have felt so stupid. Anyway, I didn’t stop to / see how it was. I wanted to, but I was afraid I would embarrass it.” How this prose poem turns into an account of a town whose entire population of war heroes is dead is worth witnessing. This poem alone makes getting this issue of Hunger Mountain worthwhile. There is also the D. Nurkse poem, “The Gods,” which contains the lines, “don’t we want absolute power, / if only over each other?” Possibly, the worst line in the issue is at the end of Georgi Gospodinov’s “Nightmare of a Lady.” But even the clichéd “And then she wakes up” is saved by the narrative that precedes it.

My favorite piece is one I will use as a marker in life from now on. I’ll quote it often to friends, make copies of parts of it for the special ones (and hopefully not get sued for violating copyright). Rui Zink’s “The Writing Bug” is a tremendous story, about the apocalypse to which we are all witness. From toddler to taxi driver, we are all writers. Zink says it like this: “The disease is highly contagious. It makes the Ebola seem like child’s play, so fast does it reproduce and spread…scientists have yet to isolate the virus or find an antidote.” The narrative escalates after a break into the description of a tragic world where nobody does anything but write. Zink’s a writer with a divine mission: to find others immune to the bug like himself – readers instead of writers. His piece is the best place to begin, if you’re not infected. []

Literary Review coverThe Literary Review

Volume 50 Number 1

Fall 2006

Reviewed by Sheheryar B. Sheikh

The Literary Review’s editors chose to begin their fiftieth anniversary year with a translation issue. They also chose Robert Pinsky to write an introduction to translation. And what an introduction it is. I have been a fan of Pinsky since I first read his poem “Shirt” for a workshop. That the former poet laureate has also translated Dante’s Inferno and Czeslaw Milosz’s The Separate Notebooks enables him to speak like the sage that budding translators need. “Translation is also the highest, most intense form of reading,” says he, in “On Translation.” For Pinsky, it is “also the only art that is like writing. All of writing’s difficulties, obsessions, challenges, thrills, impulses and second thoughts apply – everything but what to say next.” Each sentence strews together pearly epithets that, by themselves appear epigrams, and together coalesce to illuminate the artistry of translation. Translations are original too, is the message. After this essay, every piece, every translation in the issue of TLR takes flight from the page. Connotations are lost and new ones are made, like friends. Takashi Hiraide’s For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut is excerpted, and the translator Sawako Nakayasu notes that in English “fighting spirit” loses a connotation of “fiber,” and “walnut” sheds the other meaning, “wrapping,” which is only the beginning of Hiraide’s puns. In “24,” one of the numbered pieces, he calls the crow his “antagonistic friend.” The meaning is clear, but perhaps more etched in Japanese. In “Jaagup,” a love triangle by the Estonian man of letters Anton Hansen Tammsaare, the spurned woman Leena says to Jaagup, “If I had a boyfriend like you I wouldn’t let anyone else come in… I would rather be alone,” to which Jaagup replies, “Well, you’re not as pretty as Roosi…” Perhaps it is in translation alone that direct address does not make a reader cringe. There is also the effect of clipped sentences that only translations can and nearly always carry. TLR’s done a commendable job of representing a wide range of translators and writers, bringing together texts by Lithuania’s Venclova, the Czech Republic’s Peter Zelenka, Algerian-born French writer Assia Djebar, and others. Savory book reviews appear at the back, including one of Greg Herrige’s JD: A Memoir of a Time and a Journey, which is about the author’s attempt to locate the reclusive J.D. Salinger…the less said about the book and the review the better. This one’s worth reading in print. []

Natural Bridge coverNatural Bridge

Number 16

Fall 2006

Reviewed by T.K. Dalton

In its sixteenth issue, Natural Bridge features a special section “in response to women’s writing.” The “general” pages feature poems such as Paul Hostovsky’s “People in Pediatric Oncology,” Rachel Hadas’s “The Middle Way,” and Andrew Sage’s “Paradise.” Each introduce their subject while illuminating it, tasks that seem just as vital in works explicitly responding to a text or writer. Natural Bridge’s most effective responses do this double duty.

In “Tilt-A-Whirl,” Tamara L. Pavich transplants Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” to Nebraska, casting an adulterous graduate student as her anti-heroine. NewPages Contributing Writer Lisa K. Buchanan’s “May Day” adapts the provincial fascism of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” to a repressive gathering of charter school parents. Pavich and Buchanan respond by transposing plots and updating times, while other contributors draw inspiration from the biographies of Emily Dickinson, Sonia Sanchez, Ruth Stone, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. There’s range here, too; responses to Millay included A.E. Stallings’s playful rhymes and Liz Robbins’ erotic “Love of Mine,” which ends: “your desire’s really mine on loan, / as in your eyes I see myself grow wet, / thus ready to lure myself into the sack / (your want of me’s the aphrodisiac.)”

Then there’s the composed chaos of “Disorder,” Jesse Dwyer’s quirky, provocative memoir about living with ADHD. His essay clearly proves his claim that “a wandering brain is still a thinking one.” Interestingly, the most inviting and elucidating works share Dwyer’s formal playfulness. Barbara Crooker’s coy “Knitting” mimics unraveling yarn, Rebecca Ellis’s “Grasshopper,” follows (perhaps) the insect’s final flight. Helen Eisen’s “untitled continuation” punctuates the special section with a hopeful ellipse: “the flaw in this dream / rose from the memory / of an older dream,” as if suggesting that response itself is necessarily a work in progress. []

Pleiades coverPleiades

Volume 27 Number 1


Reviewed by Sheheryar B. Sheikh

I sensed what Anis Shivani’s argument would be in his essay, “Why is American Fiction in Its Current Dismal State?” before I flipped to it: lack of risk-taking fiction. Shivani’s tone in the essay is not sad, which saves the essay from becoming victim of its own subject. His attacks are scathing – “Fiction writing is the way it is because America has turned it into the last great Fordist model of production.” Elsewhere he argues that “the decline of American fiction is a sign of the decline of elite liberal consensus. The vacuum in political ideology is being filled today by an anti-politics, of personality and charisma…” Shivani’s essay is timely. Good fiction is in danger of being drowned out by rigid traditionalists and what Reginald Shepard calls “doodlers.” Shepard is the author of the other great and scathing essay in this issue of Pleiades. In “One State of the Art,” he does for poetry’s sake what Shivani does for fiction’s – makes a blanket statement against most poetry being published in journals and anthologies, with a strong set of arguments to back it up. Like Shivani, Shepard doesn’t hesitate to call a spade a spade: “Much of the work of the self-identified avant-garde feels like aimless doodling – there is little sense of urgency or necessity… gestures of rebellion are rehearsed, fueled more by a smugly self-righteous sense of superiority than by a will to change either the self or the world.”

Writers, poets, balladeers, beware… there are discerning readers out here, say these essays. Good for Pleiades, then, that this issue contains one of the most interesting quartet of poems, Catie Rosemurgy’s “Miss Peach” series, which has the lines “…So I met him. / I met the hell out of him,” and, “Call me tired, / but the world is hardly a stage. It’s too cluttered / with trees. Especially the budding ones. / They always steal the dying scenes.” Gibson Fay-LeBlanc’s poem “The Academic’s Prayer” contains the delicious rhyme, “Make me tenure-track. I can explain: / the streaking incident was after seven beers. / I’ve leered a little at first-years…” And this is only the basement of this skyscraping issue. Check it out for the poetry and fiction the aforementioned essay authors would be proud of. []

Prairie Schooner coverPrairie Schooner

Volume 80 Number 4

Winter 2006

Reviewed by Sheheryar B. Sheikh

Prairie Schooner is one of the few journals with impeccable credentials, having disappointed few writers and readers. This issue is no exception. All the pieces are so good, one almost wishes there were a droll article or story just for backdrop purposes. Cheap sex might do the trick. Then comes along Marilyn Kallet’s coupletted “You Weren’t There,” which begins: “Charlie adored me. / He made me sexy. // Screwed my brains out. / No one saw.” No, this is good. How about morbid sexual coming-of-age non-fiction? Check. Meredith Hall’s excruciatingly parched essay about her family’s rejection of her teen pregnancy, and of Meredith herself, whittled my jadedness. “He [her father] looks at my mother again. ‘Now what?’ / My mother looks at me coldly. ‘Well, she can’t stay here.’” And from that midpoint the narrative sizzles louder still. A moth-hunting “Bad Buddhist,” Roy Jacobstein’s poem, doesn’t let the issue slide from its nirvana height either. Enid Shomer, in her poem, “Pausing on a Hillside in Anatolia,” invokes Shelley from seemingly nowhere, but lands on her feet with the line, “Well I have lived in a punishing wind.” There is a near-precious Hallmark moment in Daniel Donaghy’s “Abigail’s Birthday Party,” but he saves even an altruistic last line from that pitfall by setting it up outdoors: “her car is glowing like a fire / because the sun is going down / and the roads she’ll take / without us are almost in view.” Seriously not least is Susan Scheid’s “The Cancer Patient’s Book of Grammar,” an essay that crafts a narrative through subheadings like “Use of the Paragraph” and “Avoid Adverbs.” Plenty to discover in this narrative even for word-scientists like myself. Reviews include those of Marge Piercy’s sixteenth novel, Sex Wars: A Novel of the Turbulent Post-Civil War Period. Methinks Prairie Schooner’s getting feisty. []

Sewanee Review coverThe Sewanee Review

Volume 114 Number 4

Fall 2006

Reviewed by Sheheryar B. Sheikh

It’s fitting that the journal whose health T.S. Eliot once lauded as an indicator of the world of periodicals should publish such an issue. The Sewanee Review’s issue comes subtitled “A Salute to British and American Poetry.” The opening pages are a list of books reviewed, including Wendell Berry’s Given, W.D. Snodgrass’s Not for the Specialists: New and Selected Poems, and the much lauded Adam Kirsch volume, The Wounded Surgeon. There’s a menagerie of material here. Two fiction pieces, several poems, among which Jay Rogoff’s “Death’s Theater” stands out with lines like, “It’s not all tragedy…” and “He’ll undertake conning supporting roles, / rebuild the sets, rewrite your lines…” All four of Rogoff’s poems are death-enthralled. “Weldon’s Song,” a masterpiece of scholarly fiction by Baron Wormser, ties a biography of an imaginary poet together with lines from Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott.” The effect is epic and haunting. But the masterpieces of this issue are the essays and reviews in the latter half, “Arts and Letters” section. Jeffrey Hart does an incredible job of tying together T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost’s interlinked “championship” of modernism. “Harold Pinter and the Nobel Prize” by Gerald Weales is a closer inspection of the political considerations behind the award. A. Bannerjee goes in search of “The Ever-Elusive D.H. Lawrence” while David C. Ward reminisces over “Something Like Nothing: Larking Again.” The essay begins with the sentence, “Philip Larkin’s life had no plot.” Interesting is a euphemism. []

The Southern Review coverThe Southern Review

Volume 43 Number 1

Winter 2007


Reviewed by Jim Scott

In the introduction to the seventeenth installment of the “Writing in the South” series, Editor Bret Lott questions the past, present and future of Southern literature through the lens of Walter Sullivan’s essay in the original “Writing in the South” issue, thirty-nine years ago. Sullivan wrote, “[…] the new Southern writer must be something other than Southern: his faith and vision must be fixed somewhere beyond the Southern experience: he must find his own source. Only then can he bring the old images alive once more.” Lott restates this hope, “Flannery O’Connor serves in Mr. Sullivan’s text to exemplify the true artist’s ability to transcend his or her own South and, through that transcendence, to return to that South in order best to illuminate, not southernness, but the human condition in relation to those southern streams and fields and crazy characters.” Using this as a measuring stick for this issue, what would be a fair success rate? One story? One poem? One transcendent moment? As it turns out, The Southern Review acquits itself nicely in the transcendent moment category, both with fresh and familiar writers. Newer writers include John Biguenet, whose short story “An Encounter at Nightfall” manages a great amount of tension without any grounding for the reader, and Remy Ramirez, whose poem sequence “Farm Stories” does exactly what both Sullivan and Lott suggest by sweeping in and out from identifiably “Southern” to more universal moments. Ramirez also pens one of this issue’s most memorable images, “There was only a shower / made of concrete that had turned / green with wet stains, and tiny / frogs would climb up through the / drain and say things under their breath / as I showered.” It is just this kind of image that transcends place and time, the clarity so startling that it had to belong to Ramirez specifically, but any drain I came across over the next few days threatened to be overcome by frogs. In this way it became mine as well. Which is exactly what Sullivan and Lott had in mind. []

subTerrain coversubTerrain

Volume 5 Number 44



Reviewed by T.K. Dalton

You could try cocaine, or you could read subTerrain. This Vancouver-based magazine is rough around the edges but compensates with winning, dark intense fiction and warm, intelligent nonfiction and poems. The piece I can’t stop talking about in this issue is “The Shark Tumour Collection,” a short story by Jill Connell. An 18-year-old pet store employee with cancer decides sharks, an animal made entirely of cartilage, would be the perfect anti-cancer talismans. A representative moment comes when the heroine realizes: “There was a shark-killing factory someplace, probably in Seattle, killing massive amounts of sharks just so these useless quack pills could snuggle up to my cervix. But I wasn’t crying about those fish either. All of a sudden it just seemed like everything was dying.” In “Flush,” a piece of creative nonfiction by Madeline Sonik, the first screenshot of a flushing toilet sparks ruminations ranging from censorship to feminism to family, especially Sonik’s alcoholic, constipated father. “The toilet flushes and the world changes,” she writes, making a claim so ridiculous she proves its truth. Maurice Spira’s political allegories gave texture (and color), and the clever visual poem “Backup,” by Tora Triolo, added playfulness. Though stories like “The House” and “Angel Dust ’83” don’t do justice to the troubles of their characters, subTerrain keeps its promise to present “obsessive new fiction,” plumbing most compulsions with pathos and warmth. If that’s not enough, they thrash Charlie Sheen’s poetry, which, having now read it, may be a new obsession of my own. []


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