Occasionally I am provoked to mourn the insular, sometimes elite world of our nation’s literary magazines.
Occasionally I am provoked to mourn the insular, sometimes elite world of our nation’s literary magazines. A few of these journals are so wonderful, and contain such living work, that it seems a terrific travesty for them to remain unknown by the general reading public. If the spring issue is any indication, Inkwell is one such journal. The short stories presented here are vibrant and heartfelt, marvelously free of the stodgy, cerebral, or even aggressively explicit tone that often renders lit mags culturally peripheral—and yet the Inkwell editors do not shy away from the stylistic goading which inarguably ought to remain a cultural imperative of literary journals: instead, they offer several daring, inventive, but (importantly) never myopic pieces for good measure. “A Western State” by Linda Brewer epitomizes the vital, unempirical quality I’m referring to, telling in sincere, emotive prose the story of an aging couple choosing their approach to senescence—he, it turns out, through long-distance running, she through more melancholy reflection on the cancer within her and her shifting relation to her newly-athletic husband. Daniel Alarcon’s “Darkness” is completely absorbing in its first-person realism, and yet treads bravely into a shiftier prose exploring the blurry metaphysical lines dividing vision, existence, and memory. A Take-Out Taxi driver lost in grief over his deceased sister becomes obsessed with the ways of a blind couple to whose house he makes deliveries. “. . .what I know are the simple, necessary rhythms of their lives: that when he takes the pen from the drawer to write my check, he puts it right back, immediately—so that the dark won’t swallow it, so it won’t disappear.” Peter Orner’s brief piece “Reach,” about a blind man’s former secretary remembering her employer’s hunger for tenderness, is perhaps the most directly stylized in this issue, but is at every point expertly tempered, capturing the bittersweet synapse-flashes of possibility indulged or ignored by us each moment. And there are still six other short stories here, not to mention 17 poems. Inkwell deserves the kind of ubiquity enjoyed by The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly, deserves to be laid proudly on coffee tables everywhere. [Inkwell, Manhattanville College, 2900 Purchase St, Purchase, NY 10577. E-mail: [email protected]. Single issue $8. http://www.inkwelljournal.org] – MC