Volume 58 Number 4
Flight, as a magazine theme, can suggest numerous interpretations including a state of transition, a secret passage, or confronting the unknown, according to TLR: The Literary Review Editor Kate Munning. She, along with her crew, chose several pieces to reflect this broad theme. Flight, as a magazine theme, can suggest numerous interpretations including a state of transition, a secret passage, or confronting the unknown, according to TLR: The Literary Review Editor Kate Munning. She, along with her crew, chose several pieces to reflect this broad theme.
But Flight can also mean searching. Essayist and fiction writer Peter LaSalle ponders that aspect of the theme in “Invisible Travel: A Cycle Concerning the Creative Imagination, in Nine Parts.” In his essay, LaSalle searches to understand the meaning of French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss’s quotation, “Journeys—those magic caskets filled with dreamlike promises.”
The other two essays in TLR focus on the death of a father. Erica Hunt’s “Chasing a Ghost: Portrait of My Father” and Moss Kaplan’s “Viewing the Dead,” however, bear no resemblance to each other. Hunt’s is based on memories, while Kaplan’s more intense piece shows some majorly unpleasant details of his father’s unembalmed body, which tend to overpower other parts of the narrative. And though Kaplan’s essay is serious, lines like these relieve the severity:
The cremation chamber has three large buttons. “Door Up,” “Door Down,” and “Load/Cremate.” Apparently, any three-year-old could burn a body to ash. I picture my own two kids fighting over who gets to do it. “It’s my turn!” “No, it isn’t! You burned up the last body!”
Among my choices for best short stories interpreting Flight is A.A. Srinivasan’s “Before This Decade Is Out.” She really knows how to pull you in, as shown by the intro to a story surrounding patients in a mental clinic: “The floor slants from the door down to the window, so that if the occupant is struck with a sudden compulsion to fly through glass and air, this room provides an adequate runway.”
Another story, “Earthlings,” by Susan White Norman, pits emus against a family with a bipolar daughter. Add to that a puzzling response after sending a women’s “DNA sequence to a remote star in the recesses of Hydra’s head, along with a message: Behold! The ideal earthling,” and the result is an entertaining read.
The scariest story, though, is Kendra Fortmeyer’s “The One the Wolf Forgot.” Children have disappeared, and we learn upfront that the neighbor is accused. The girl narrating tells about her previous encounters with the neighbor. He had asked harmless questions like what’s your name:
I hesitated. I knew better than to talk to strangers, but really, nobody over the age of ten can say “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.” Eventually, talking to strangers is a life skill. Eventually, everyone’s a stranger.
The last time she sees him he’s chillingly shoving a bag into his car.
Prose dominates this volume, but don’t ignore the poems. Start off with three from James Galvin, whose eighth book of poetry is due out in August. “Entering the Desert” poses a new way of thinking about an arid region:
The everlasting swoop inside your chest
Is grief, not fear. Get used to it.
It’s not the desert’s fault.
Despite its name, the desert never
Allan Peterson, author of five books and multiple chapbooks, gives us another view of the desert in “Virga:”
This is Nevada It is raining
but the sand is still gasping
rain often never
reaching the ground
agave turned leather in self defense
Ed Skoog’s “Paintings and Drawings” immerses us not in a desert, but in a museum of art:
If at night my co-workers climbed into frames
of their own portraits, my love for them
would be confirmed. The security chief
smelled like lemons and slept in his office,
suffered board meetings with a mug of gin.
This issue of TLR contains a bonus in the form of an excerpt from Elias Khoury’s latest novel, Broken Mirrors, translated from Arabic by Humphrey Davies. The novel takes place in Lebanon, Khoury’s home country, and it’s enough of a teaser to make me want to read the book.
TLR is published in association with Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison NJ for a worldwide audience. It shouldn’t be confused with the British magazine Literary Review. TLR contains an intelligent variety of writings on Flight. The contributors, with their distinct styles, beautifully capture the many variations on the theme.