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The Literary Review – Fall 2012

The 2012 Late Fall issue of The Literary Review is out of control. No, really, the issue is dedicated to loss of control. “Control is an abstraction and a grail,” says Editor Minna Proctor. “Humans are driven to maddening distraction, dangerous and untenable lengths, in pursuit of control. We don’t ever get control, yet we hunt it.” The writers in this issue contribute a great selection of fiction and poetry that examines this hunt and shows how easy it is to lose control.

The 2012 Late Fall issue of The Literary Review is out of control. No, really, the issue is dedicated to loss of control. “Control is an abstraction and a grail,” says Editor Minna Proctor. “Humans are driven to maddening distraction, dangerous and untenable lengths, in pursuit of control. We don’t ever get control, yet we hunt it.” The writers in this issue contribute a great selection of fiction and poetry that examines this hunt and shows how easy it is to lose control.

Ben Stroud’s “Amy” shows how a college professor loses control to his sexual desires. The narrator has a stable career and is married to a beautiful and successful woman. His life would appear to be ideal, but he confesses that something is missing: “I saw all my future years spent waking to wrestle with murky thoughts, to put cold words on cold pages no one would ever read.” He leaves the States to teach in Germany but has an unexpected reunion with an old friend from high school. They have sex and tour the country together like the lovesick teenagers they used to be. The narrator finally seems content with his life but then gets another unexpected surprise when his wife comes to visit. What I like most about this story is how there is no clear villain. All the characters have redeeming qualities, which makes it hard to say who is right and who is wrong. You will just have to read it and decide for yourself.

As I write this review, the gears of sequestration are being set in motion. Many Americans will be forced to find new jobs and polish their résumés. Christine Sneed’s protagonist in “The New, All-True CV” is also looking for a new job with her unique résumé in today’s estranged job market. It is a work of fiction in the format of a curriculum vitae letter. The author, Camille Roberts, is applying for the position of Chief Recruiter of a large corporation, but she is writing in an unorthodox manner: “Although I realize that my CV should only stress the positive, my scholastic and professional accomplishments in particular, this document’s viability is doomed . . .” Roberts tells her life story in the following pages of the CV without censorship, revealing of her heartaches and failures. Here is a sample from the Formative Years/Education section of her letter:

1982–83 – If you were female and grew to be five feet, seven inches tall by sixth grade and had largish front teeth that made you look, in some people’s opinion, like a fur-bearing, rapidly reproducing creature, and you needed a bra as big as a few of your classmates’ mothers’ bras, bigger in a few cases, you learned early on that life isn’t fair, that life is actually a cosmic joke played out over and over on the young who are sometimes desperate enough to consider suicide by mixing bleach and chocolate milk but (luckily) never find the guts to drink this lethal, disgusting beverage.

Sneed’s work is full of humor and tragedy as it reveals the faults of a very relatable character. It was great to read this wonderful story in such a unique format. One can only hope that this will be the future of CV letter writing.

There are many talented poets appearing in this issue, but my favorites are Alex Dimitrov and Jynne Dilling Martin. Dimitrov’s “This Is Not a Personal Poem” is personal (despite what the title says) and is not afraid to have a little fun:

This poem wants you to like it,
please click “like.”
This poem was written during a recession.
I’m so politically conscious
the word “politics” is in my poem.
This is not a New York poem.
There’s not enough room for all the wars in this poem.
Gay marriage is now in this poem.
Have you liked this poem yet?

Martin’s poem, “Autopsies Were Made with the Following Results,” loses control of reality and sends you into a dream-like trance:

I draw uncounted fugues from pianos but no consolation,
and recall the ogre who mistook hot coals for roasted nuts,

and dream of riding atop my sadness like it is a horse.
My horse may be black yet in darkness is easily mounted,

This issue also includes reviews of books and poetry from authors such as Per Petterson, Lesie Adrienne Miller, Benjamin Stein, and Karl Ove Knausgaard. There’s plenty to like here, so don’t be afraid to lose control of your senses to the spells of these wordsmiths. Sometimes you have to let go and let the writing take you away.
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