Volume 9 Number 1
Sheheryar B. Sheikh
Fourth Genre is the cacophony of reality sifted through arcs of narrative. Each issue raises the bar of representing reality, because it gives a new slice of it to the reader. Good fiction aches for verisimilitude or its opposite, and this issue of Fourth Genre proves that the rules are applicable to both life and the “unreal” life of fiction. This issue contains the editors’ prize winning essays, Nedra Rogers’s first place winner “Mammalian” and Casey Fleming’s runner-up piece “Take Me with You.” “Mammalian” begins with bodily concerns and ends with a flourish of quotes, including Erich Fromm’s famous: “Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” A fixation on the concept of physical self pervades many of the creative nonfiction pieces in the issue. “Alone in Amsterdam” by P.M. Marxsen begins with a quaint conversation between the characters of a painting and its attendant observer, a woman “alone in Amsterdam.” Rebecca J. Butorac’s “A Self-Portrait of a Woman Who Hates Cameras” has a body-oriented narrative interspersed with pictures of her feet, shoes, and the various personalities of the combinations possible therein. Susan Messer’s great story, “Regrets Only,” focuses on the need for a group of people to get away from their troubled friend. The narrative shakes the reader out of lethargy and then further into shock. The reader begins to think, “Is trouble contagious?”
Master strokes of language are also found in Nicole Walker’s “Dam,” which contains the lines: “Growing up, we lived behind a mortuary, a cemetery, and a Mormon Church. The prospect of death seemed to follow us throughout suburbia.” and, “The cervix is an amazing body part.” A marvelous experiment results in Desirae Matherly’s “Final: Comprehensive, Roughly,” which is a series of questions designed to evoke narrative as well as ask for it, with true/false questions, multiple choice questions and essay questions to boot. A major feature of the issue is a discussion between four essayists on the role of research in literary non-fiction. This open discussion sets the standard for setting a standard in a genre. Fourth Genre is the best place for a non-fiction government, and this issue proves just that.
Fourth Genre Volume 9 Number 1, Spring 2007 reviewed by Sheheryar B. Sheikh