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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted January 17, 2012

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  • Issue Number Volume 28 Numbers 3 & 4
  • Published Date Fall & Winter 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I believe (but I might be convinced otherwise) that my favorite piece in this issue of the Alaska Quarterly Review is Charles Wyatt’s “An Accidental Dictionary”—a listing of strange, delicious, and mostly obsolete words taken from three late-twentieth-century specialty word-books. “Bomolluck: . . . not a thing in the night, but what you fear in the night. It can sit on your chest.” “Kist: a basket for the baby Moses or Noah’s ark or Queequeg’s coffin, or the cup of the sea, or the stinging stars pursuing . . . and the heavens see only fog, neither rising nor falling. Tuned. All attention. Will.” “Gardyloo: . . . there is no truth in truth and I have lost my cats.” To word lovers like me, these changeling glomerations of sound are glorious, and Wyatt’s explanations are grand spills of imagery. I can’t resist the temptation to use them to talk about the rest of the issue.
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  • Issue Number Volume 11 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Last week my creative nonfiction writing class workshopped a piece about one student’s experience with ADD in elementary school. He described zigzag thoughts, hypersensitive ears, rising frustration, and a positively entertaining rage, in a perfectly modulated eight-year-old voice; he then took us through the process of diagnosis, disastrous prescription of inappropriate meds, and ultimately courageous development of a customized program that enabled him to manage the disorder satisfactorily. His understated irony, his consistent voice, and the beautifully appropriate imagery made the piece one of the most successful our class has seen this semester.
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  • Issue Number Volume 2 Number 5
  • Published Date November 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Aaron Milstead’s short story “The Pickled Man” was such an easy and captivating read that I suggested to my twelve-year-old son that he read it as well. As I predicted, he devoured the story of Wilber Will’s World of Wonders that features a mysterious oddity floating around in a pickle jar. That night, at around two a.m., I awoke to a shadowy figure standing at the foot of my bed. I knew immediately that figure was my son and that he’d just had a nightmare featuring, not surprisingly, the pickled man. After putting him back to bed, I thought about the power of Milstead’s story. It had left an unsettling impression on my son—one that lies just below the cerebral surface—long after he’d finished reading it. It is the titillating payoff that you hope for when you read something particularly spooky. This is exactly what Black Lantern Publishing’s fifth issue offers its readers with its collection of short stories, poetry, flash fiction, and artwork, all within a macabre theme. Despite my recommendation to my son, this is not a collection intended for children. BLP offers an assortment of haunting contemplations that deal with the subject of death and ushers readers to a darker side of literature.
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  • Published Date December 2011
  • Publication Cycle Weekly online
Run by the MFA program at Butler University, Booth publishes something every week on their website and has a print publication each spring. I have never seen the print edition, but found the online material quite intriguing. I was especially impressed by their selections of poetry.
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  • Issue Number Volume 5
  • Published Date Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
This fifth publication of Cake contains exceptional writing, including poetry, fiction, reviews, drama, and interviews. Breauna Roach’s poem “Scrambled” left me a bit unsettled, but there is no doubt as to her genius. Roach begins by revealing her discovery that cupcakes are never found in a garbage disposal, they are sweet desserts that would be shameful to waste; however, eggs are a whole different story:
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  • Issue Number Volume 61 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?” As the venerable Carolina Quarterly enters its 64th year of publication in 2012, the answer from discerning readers, and good writers, must be yes. Poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, and graphic art accepted by the CQ’s editors provide a select tour through recent works of both polished and emerging writers and artists. Thematically, this issue features that which is certain—death and Texas.
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  • Issue Number Volume 20
  • Published Date Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Faultline is the journal of the English department at the University of California-Irvine. The journal has a quiet, slightly offbeat feel to it. Much of the fiction is the kind that could be about people you know—but, then, there’s just something different, something slightly magical and slightly weird about it.
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  • Published Date Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Helix is a biannual literary magazine run by students of Central Connecticut State University and is comprised of drawings, paintings, photographs, prose and poetry. Like helical strands of DNA, the art and literature printed in The Helix represents vast permutations of human experience and possibility.
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  • Issue Number Volume 1
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Magnolia: A Journal of Women’s Literature broke into the literary world just this year. The first guest editor, Gayle Brandeis, is an author of both young adult and adult fiction and has also been honored for her work as an activist. A little blurb on the back of the collection promises that Magnolia is “a diverse collection that will open your eyes, challenge your thinking, and break your heart.” And Magnolia certainly delivers.
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  • Issue Number Volume 16 Number 4
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
I really like the way Main Street Rag fits in my hand; it's the perfect size for a literary magazine. It's also cool that MSR publishes letters from readers. In my experience, that's a rarity for a literary mag, but one that I think adds to the experience of reading a magazine. It's always fun to see what other readers have to say. Publisher/Editor M. Scott Douglass clearly puts a considerable amount of work into Main Street Rag, and marks each issue with his own “Front Seat” and “Back Seat” columns that bookend the contents. Not shy about veering into political territory, Douglass launches this particular issue's “Back Seat” into a commentary on American economics and class struggles, offering up his own solutions on tax issues (two options to choose from!). This sort of diatribe within a literary magazine may seem out of place to some readers, but I found it refreshing. It helps to project the image that MSR is quite comfortable in its own skin.
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  • Issue Number Volume 37 Number 1
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I’ve always viewed the New Orleans Review as one of the silverbacks of the modern literary journal scene. Despite the obvious setbacks in dealing with Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, it still surges ahead as one of the leading reviews with a promise of great work by great writers—those well-known, and those not. Some have said it is better than ever. This current issue does not disappoint, especially with Jacob M. Appel’s story “Prisoners of the Multiverse,” winner of the 2011 Walker Percy Fiction Contest. Not wanting to ruin the story for future readers, I will quote Nancy Lemann, judge for this year’s prize, in her introduction to the piece: Appel’s story “preserves the mystery” of a thing of beauty and delivers “what I seek in literature: inspiration, hope, and possibility.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 17 Number 4
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Off the Coast, based out of Robbinston, Maine, publishes poems, artwork, and reviews. It seems to me that this particular issue has a strong focus on nature and animals interacting within their natural surroundings. The title of each issue is chosen from a line or phrase from one of the issue’s selected poems. The Fall 2011 issue is entitled Everything Here. The editors make a very honest effort to live up to the promise of such a title.
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  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The subtitle of Palooka seems to indicate that editors Nicholas Maistros and Jonathan Starke have something of an outsider’s mindset. This “journal of underdog excellence” contains work that, according to Maistros, responds to the “storms” we experience in “different yet collectively elemental ways.” From the journal’s colorful and playfully disturbing cover art to its entertaining contributors’ notes, Palooka turns the difficult trick of making itself accessible to a wide range of audiences without talking down to them.
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  • Issue Number Issue 5
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Editor's Note for this issue suggests, "Texts, like lives, are precarious projects." And Iranian ex-patriot Moniru Ravanipur, whose writings are banned in her homeland, interviewed by Miranda Mellis, reminds us that, "Stories are a testament to their time, especially in countries like mine." Ravanipur knows too well the vital connection between writing and living. She describes how, "The short story for me is like a mirror that reflects different worlds—worlds that already exist, or worlds that could be or should be." No matter what else, writing allows for confronting and challenging any established order.
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  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
It’s possible that the mark of an evolved soul is the ability to pass at will into whatever state of consciousness is useful or appropriate at any given time. Over twenty distinct such states have been observed, with names like reverie, lethargy, trance, and rapture. The question of when such states are useful or appropriate is the subject of story and song from time immemorial. That they are essential to our lives if we are ever to be whole is the conviction behind a compelling new journal whose title hints at this ability I’ve described: Phantom Drift.
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  • Issue Number Number 21
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Post Road offered me surprises that I don’t believe I have actually seen in other magazines. For instance, during my first official flip through, my thumb stopped on a page where Micah Nathan reviews The Stories of John Cheever, claiming that, although not a “titan like Hemingway or Faulkner . . . there’s room in the pantheon for gods of all types. We reserve a temple for him.” I can’t recall how many reviews (celebrations?) of Cheever I have read in modern literary magazines—because I don’t believe that I ever have. And then on the page opposite began Asad Raza’s review of the 1983 Lizzie Borden movie Born in Flames, a movie that, according to the author: “makes most New York movies seem like sentimental fawning.” These two pieces represent the eclectic, brilliant choices the editors have made in putting the magazine together, which I think is its greatest strength. It caters to many different tastes, and, according to the magazine’s website, each submission is read by three different people before accepting or rejecting it—thus ensuring a strong collection with each biannual issue.
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  • Issue Number Volume 13 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
One of the merits of nonfiction narratives is that they indulge human curiosity about others’ lives. The fall issue of River Teeth, a magazine dedicated solely to narrative nonfiction, includes eleven true stories, all of which quickly and convincingly pull you into the authors' lives for brief, powerful episodes. While some stories uniquely explore common phenomena like homesickness, others offer coveted glimpses into rare experiences. The four most memorable stories in the collection are those whose subject matter and narrative voice are equally captivating.
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  • Issue Number Volume 6 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer/Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
As most people know, the Silk Road was a many-thousands-of-miles-long trade route linking Asia with the rest of the world in ancient times, a network of land and sea avenues over which civilizations traveled and cultures interfused. The goal of Pacific University’s literary journal is to “give readers a vivid point of exchange or interaction that could occur only in a specific time and space . . . ‘place’ is the touchstone the magazine uses for the pieces we publish.” In this issue, there are eight stories, six pieces of creative nonfiction, work from sixteen poets, and a provocative interview that “take readers somewhere crucial, defining and relevant.” The issue as a whole is a journey worth taking.
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  • Issue Number Volume 5 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Straylight is pure, enjoyable entertainment. It is eclectic enough to satisfy any reader’s mood. This collection of fiction, poetry, an interview, and visual art is pretty darned amazing. At first glance, the selections may seem disjointed, especially for literary magazine readers who have become accustomed to themed collections, or high literary selections. Straylight is just plain fun, and the works that make up this volume are like a colorfully arrayed salad bar where you, Gentle Reader, get to pick the most enticing morsels.
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  • Issue Number Volume 13 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
A little of this, a little of that, effectively used white space, not over-crowded by images or advertisements, Tin House provides for a generally pleasant read. This issue of Tin House is subtitled “The Ecstatic.” This, along with the sheer caliber of her writing, explains the inclusion of Kelly Link’s “The Summer People” in this issue. Her characters are most definitely of ecstatic stock.
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