Laura van den Berg
Land-Grant College Review, a beautifully produced magazine from New York City, offers a spectrum of strangeness.
Land-Grant College Review, a beautifully produced magazine from New York City, offers a spectrum of strangeness. The realities of the ten stories in this issue are all somewhat skewed and couldn’t be classified as straightforward realism, but there’s considerable variation within this framework, which is one of the qualities that makes the magazine so consistently interesting—the different shades of weirdness. A journal full of stories like Kenneth Bernard’s heavily annotated “On The Pill,” or Diane William’s abstract short-short, “Please Let Me Out Again of the Small Plugged Hole,” might read as impenetrable or pretentious, but the boldly experimental works are nicely balanced by stories with a more subtle oddness, like Mary Swan’s “Outlier,” the tale of a struggling single mother unusually impacted by the death of a man she barely knows: “They seem to have been driving for a long time but there are store signs that say Sycamore Cleaners, Subs on Sycamore, and she wonders if they’ve looped back somehow. Outside Sycamore Variety there’s a phone booth with someone inside, just a glimpse as they speed by. For some reason she finds herself thinking about Sam’s book report, the questions he had so much trouble with. At what point do you realize that you’re reading a different type of story? At what point does everything change?” It doesn’t take a reader of Land-Grant College Review long to figure out they’re reading a “different type of story,” and the fiction feels wonderfully innovative and fresh. The art by Marilyn Holsing, which graces the cover and the title page of each story, is also worth mentioning—darkly peculiar and graceful images that perfectly complement the work in this issue. [Land-Grant College Review, P.O. Box 1164, New York, NY, 10159-1164. Single issue $12. www.land-grantcollegereview.com] —Laura van den Berg