An exciting and exceptional issue. The Iowa Review doesn’t label its contents by genre as many do, but that’s just as well — many of the pieces here defy categorization.
An exciting and exceptional issue. The Iowa Review doesn’t label its contents by genre as many do, but that’s just as well — many of the pieces here defy categorization. These include an unusual and thoroughly enjoyable essay, ostensibly about tables, by Pappi Thomas, and another, ostensibly about the telephone book, by Ilan Stevens (deftly translated from the Spanish by Harry Morales), and still another by Russell Scott Valentino, ostensibly about the history and uses of the word “bastard at home and abroad.” I.Y. Hashimoto’s essay, ostensibly about Seamus Heaney’s hair, fits right in, or is this actually a long prose poem or sudden fiction? An essay by Lyall Bush, ostensibly about photography, appears to be somewhat more conventional, but only at first glance. It is, in fact, a marvelous and original example of the happy intersection between personal essay and cultural commentary.
There is wonderful fiction here, in particular, stories by Chris Offutt (“Second Hand”) — heartfelt and moving without being the least bit sentimental, and by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (“New Husband”), whose forthcoming novel from Algonquin I now await most eagerly. The poetry is commendable, too; work by a number of poets who may not be as well known as these poems prove they deserve to be (Jerry Harp, James Denboer, Zona Teti). As with the fiction in this issue, there is much variety in form, style, and tone. A couple of lines from Deborah Tall’s “The Thing to Watch Out For” sum up, for me, what makes most of the poetry, in fact the whole of this issue, successful: “The thing to watch out for while living / is this.” [The Iowa Review, 308 EPB, Iowa City, IA 52242-1408. Single issue $7.95. www.uiowa.edu/~iareview] – SR