Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Nonna," by Laura Valeri

I like the confidence of this narrator’s voice in the way chunks of imagery spool with ease the specific details of character. Try this: “… in the kitchen where her fingers play with egg and flour, where her flat thumbnails push cheese inside pillows of dough …”. Language here sings like a song. There’s yearning, love, and unspoken, unfinished business beating a silent rhythm below the chronicle of this grandmother’s life. The writer has heeded well Henry James’ warning to at all costs avoid the ‘weak specification.’ Indulge your reading pleasure here in The Adirondack Review.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Requiem," by James Joshua Wilson Mattern

I like the voice of this writer. I especially like the control that reigns in the story to the present moment before the beginning of a funeral. Authentic feeling is here: anger, recalling intense teenage desire to fly free from his dad’s influence, judgment by the young boy of his dad, and the deepening retrospective look. This narrative has a masterful way of turning corners and brings into focus the young man’s view of his dad while touching irrefutable connections. The practice of hate and anger has a self-sustaining life of its own. Without apology, this character’s emotional honesty enables him to honor a complex of feelings he has for his deceased dad. Read it here in Sleet Magazine.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"Cover Story," by R.A. Allen

I first heard about kudzu one night in the late ‘60s when James Dickey gave a reading from Helmet at my college in New England. Before reading his poem “Kudzu,” he went to great lengths to describe the invasive vine with which we students at the time were not familiar. He described for us the kudzu-covered cars in a junkyard in Georgia. With the soft drawl of his voice, he said the vines served an unintended purpose in his youth. In the back seats of discarded Cadillacs, he’d crawl with adventurous girls and the vines provided them with the necessary comforts they needed when stealing away in the night for sweet romance. So when I read this story, my memory quickly recalled that night described by Dickey in his own words about his youthful escapades into taboo, sheltered by kudzu. Read a retrospective on kudzu in Mississippi here in LITnIMAGE.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Winter's Coming," by Mark Wolsky

Winter can be a bitch as documented in this story. We all live through our versions of winter but this writer evokes a Cormac McCarthy kind of bleakness and physical violence that takes us to the edge of what is probably better avoided. The attention to detail in this short-short works wonders in creating a whole atmosphere just in the description of eating a piece of pie. The good news is you don’t have to go there; you can read about it here in Our Stories.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Third Lesson," by Summer Block Kumar

As a kid I delighted in staying outside once the summer sun went down and felt a wild connection to nature, the damp air, the prickly grass, the other kids running around playing tag and screaming. Joy in the moment had intimations of immortality! This story evokes a childhood delight in spinning around outside in the dark until she and her sister would float and fall down on the ground that would “bob and bow like a sailboat” under them. But the story is deeply sad running over memory and present moment with language that mines the connections between experience and feelings. Read it here at Identity Theory.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Spontaneous Generation," by Louis Bourgeois

I responded positively from the start just because of the title. As a kid I recalled feeling the duality surrounding ‘spontaneous generation,’ the magic and the derision by science. But the writing here is what carries the moment. It’s a coming-of-age story with hindsight offering such strong images like the goat, and the song “Tom Sawyer” by Rush. Something about goats and the way they see with those peculiar eyes harks back to pre-evolutionary time. The image of Tom Sawyer coupled with rock music suggests a variation on spontaneous generation, the change from boy to man, from play and exploration to abiding by social rules, or commenting on them. The writing is lyrical and delivers a punch. Read it here in Shaking Like a Mountain.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Off the Map," by Jon Morgan Davies

The news story is a familiar one. An abandoned baby only hours old is discovered in a trash bin outside a fast-food restaurant. We’ve experienced the story from the side of the newscasters who jump at the chance to report the story repeatedly with horrific details minus the desperate story behind the story. Here we are given a chance to consider the choices made and the possible consequences that might happen after those choices are made. The narrator’s voice relies on a strong imagination that evokes great empathy from the reader. Leaps of human emotion and thought are heartbreakingly convincing. Read it here in The Summerset Review.