Mississippi Review 36.3 (2008) has a great issue on the history and current state of literary magazines.
The spring 2009 issue of the Sewanee Review once again has an essay by Ed Minus reviewing the previous year’s volumes of Best American Short Stories, Best American Essays, and Best American Poetry. Minus is unafraid to share his criticism, which is partly why his essays are usually quite delightful to read. One wishes, though, that he would expand the series within his purview to include New Stories from the South and, dare I say, Best of the West: New Stories from the Wide Side of the Missouri.
Gargoyle issue 53 (2008) has published Susi Klare’s “At the Intersection of Heaven and Hell,” a story about a narrator who attends Burning Man while trying to emotionally come to grips with their child being in Iraq. The ending is nicely done and Klare gets credit for trying to distill the wildness of the festival into a controlled narration. I happened to attend Burning Man a couple of years ago and was particularly intrigued as to how everyone seemed to imply that the Black Rock desert was extremely dangerous. “This is the desert man, you could die,” was a mantra I heard numerous times, the idea being that if you simply wandered far out into the desert without water, you wouldn’t make it back. Klare seems to be picking up on this in that she links this desert with Iraq and the war going on there. I thought the metaphorical linkage between the danger of both deserts was somewhat forced, but it was nevertheless an interesting “problem” in that it once again illustrates how we continue to misread the desert, interpreting the physical dangers of arid landscapes in metaphysical and/or existential terms.
Shenandoah has published several interesting pieces lately. “A Hunter’s Story,” by Jerry D. Mathes II in the winter 2009 issue (58.3) is about more than simply hunting; the narrator, unable to earn a living in rural Idaho where he has grown up, will soon move his family to Nevada where he has found a job. The hunting trip serves as a kind of goodbye that is made all the more poignant by the author’s clear familiarity with this particular landscape. The spring/summer 2009 issue (59.1) has a decent story by Geoffrey Becker entitled “Imaginary Tucson,” which explores how isolating it can be to try and carve out an academic career. There is also a wonderful essay by Mary Clearman Blew. “Shadowing” details how she came to be the dean of nursing at Northern Montana College. These two pieces nicely complicate one another and should be read together. Hats off to the editor, R. T. Smith, for publishing them in the same volume.