If you are looking for consistency in content, do not look to The Gold Man. This is clearly a group of editors who have not settled into deciding that “this one” is only what their journal will publish when it comes to genre style. And readers looking for a variety of what’s new in contemporary writing—all in one neat package—should appreciate that. If you are looking for consistency in content, do not look to The Gold Man. This is clearly a group of editors who have not settled into deciding that “this one” is only what their journal will publish when it comes to genre style. And readers looking for a variety of what’s new in contemporary writing—all in one neat package—should appreciate that.
The Gold Man publishes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, with this issue heavy on fiction and poetry. Only three nonfiction pieces, but each excels in their form. In the essay “Bridalplasty,” Jay Duret explains that while doing research on reality TV for a novel, he came across this little known show that only made one season on E! Entertainment. Bridalplasty women fought for the coveted final place of winning their dream wedding, and along the way, received nip-and-tuck surgical procedures. The winner also got her prize package of final surgeries to “prepare” for her wedding. Gack! Duret connects one of the brides to the Biggest Loser program, showing the deeper networking of this strange “reality” world, how some people seem to make a reality out of appearing on reality TV shows.
The nonfiction “Bari with Spicy Peanut Sauce, Peace Corps Gabon Style” by Anna Monders is a fun 18-step experiential process piece on how she made this dish, but don’t look for a recipe here. Rather, its steps narrate the lifestyle of a Peace Corps worker, as in step two:
Eventually, ask if there is any pate d’arachide. Hold out yellow plastic cup while Nimata transfers two large spoonfuls of peanut butter into it. Teach friend how to say peanut butter since she would like to add English to the eight languages she already knows.
Of the poetry, while style varies slightly between selections, the clear common denominator is some presence of strong imagery, be it in subject or in concrete or metaphoric details. “On the Evening before Homecoming Parade, my Dog and I Visit Odysseus and his Wife” by Penelope Scambly Schott is set in couplets, but could also have been a prose poem for the way its details narrate through an evening visit, while “Trestle” by Graham Murtaugh reads in a syncopated rhythm of images:
Shuck corn, beans; later: shirts
at the slough, us boys with our daddy-hands
already swollen (slap-back rough
-housing) girl-hips hitched up
watch us not watching. Mooning. Icehouse. Cigarettes
stolen out the drawer.
Of the others included, what I appreciated most was their end lines, which I won’t quote off here, but Elizabeth McLagan’s tribute to Mark Rothko’s “No. 61 1952,” Nancy Flynn’s “An Elegy for Alice,” Faith Allington’s “Scarecrow’s Last Winter,” and Amy Miller’s “Worried Man Blues” each left me on that kind of language that transcends the reader the next plane of consideration, connected to the poem, but serving as a launching point as well. Perhaps the poetry editor does show some consistency for preferring this style, but even at that, each poem remains unique.
Lots going on in the fiction in this issue of The Gold Man, with seven authors getting over half of the real estate of pages. Liz Prato’s “Riding to the Shore” is included, but I’ll skip it because I’ve just written a review of her full collection of short stories, Baby’s on Fire, here.
The third nonfiction piece I did not mention earlier is Joyce Tomlinson’s “Invasion of the Oldies,” and I saved it to pair alongside the fiction “Easter” by Patrick Mathiasen. The subject of both is aging parents needing help and having to temporarily live in with an adult child. The sentiments of compassion and resentment are twin themes in both works, showing the internal conflict adult children of aging and needy parents experience. While I’m sure we were as much trouble to our parents as children as they can be as aging adults, as these stories show, the unabashed truth is, our parents couldn’t wait for us to grow up and move out, but for the adult child, sometimes the only “move out” the aging parent can do will be death. And wouldn’t that be a terrible thing to wish for? Both Tomlinson and Mathiasen touch on this in their perspectives, with characters is different positions on the matter—one fiction, one nonfiction, both true to life.
Also in fiction: “George Steps Out” by Les Brady, about an OCD gamer who finds someone who may be able to get him to break his patterned isolation; “One Big Coffin” by Harry Demarest, about a neighbor who befriends a man who lost his wife and children in a tragic accident; “Intermedium” by Richard Beckham II, about a man who invents a means by which people can leave a cyber-account of themselves behind after they are deceased for others to access; and “The Workout Artist” by Geronimo G. Tagatac, in which a frumpy husband who thinks his wife is cheating on him with an aerobics instructor hires the guy to be his personal trainer, getting into shape to get back at what he assumes is his wife’s infidelity.
As a group, it can be said that the character development in these works is their common strength. The neighbor who is a gruff, isolated vet in “One Big Coffin” is well played through Demarest’s descriptions of his softened behaviors and interactions with his depressed neighbor. Brady’s character George is detailed in such a way that his OCD seems natural and endearing. A couple of the stories verge on that edge of “The Twilight Zone” surreal for some of the subject matter, which is why there may be difficulty in several with simple verisimilitude. Even in fiction, I expect there to be a sense of reality (like why didn’t George seem to own more than one set of nice clothes? or why weren’t Cecilio’s clients contacted? that would seem the business thing to do. how did Amy just happen to be on the cliff the same day, same time as Ed? was she stalking him?). Gaps can sometimes break the reader from the fictional world when the mind simply says, “That’s not how it would really be.”
To close, fiction “Lower Lights” by NT McQueen was my standout favorite in the journal. McQueen gives the story in the third person of Homer Bagby, a hoarder, from his initial collections to the eventual takeover of his whole home and life. The insight into this particular illness as McQueen portrays it is both horrifying and fascinating in an empathetic way, leaving me hoping Homer can find some relief, which I’m uncertain even the dramatic end point of the narrative will offer him.
The Gold Man is a journal for readers who are willing to experiment with variety of form and style, and for writers looking for venues for the same. The non-conformist sensibility of the editors is a benefit, though it does mean readers will occasionally find some work not to their liking. The Gold Man requires a willingness on the part of the reader to try it. For myself, there was nothing to disappoint, and much to recommend.