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The Missouri Review – Summer 2007

A fanciful painting of a woman dressed in a flowing blue brocade-patterned gown and an elaborate masquerade-ball mask, her mouth jet-red and her head tilted coyly, graces the cover of The Missouri Review’s summer issue, which bears the tag “Truth in Fancy.” The work inside lives up to this promise – especially the fiction, the surreal cast of which mirrors the lush strangeness of Ray Caesar’s cover painting.

A fanciful painting of a woman dressed in a flowing blue brocade-patterned gown and an elaborate masquerade-ball mask, her mouth jet-red and her head tilted coyly, graces the cover of The Missouri Review’s summer issue, which bears the tag “Truth in Fancy.” The work inside lives up to this promise – especially the fiction, the surreal cast of which mirrors the lush strangeness of Ray Caesar’s cover painting.

The eerie green half-twilight of the painting’s backdrop finds its correlate in Michelle Richmond’s “Hum,” the story of a couple who have become “quietly lost to each other.” Paid to live in an apartment used for surveillance, they are separated and driven into silence by “the continual hum coming from the second bedroom, the source of our livelihood and of our growing discontent.” The wife violates the cardinal rule of their living situation – not to look in the second bedroom – and then seeks out the man she finds is being monitored. The story becomes a cautionary political fable and a meditation on modern-day alienation.

“Man and Wife by newcomer Katie Chase is also set in contemporary America, but rather than overlaying Eastern bloc-style totalitarianism, Chase introduces child marriage, bride prices and the abrogation of women’s rights. The narrator, seventeen-year-old Mary Ellen, tells of her marriage at age nine to a man her father’s age. As her voice oscillates between her childhood perspective and her present-day maturity, Mary Ellen comes to possess strange indeterminacy of age of Ray Caesar’s masked feline girl/woman. Mary Ellen’s situation is better than most women’s in the world she inhabits, as her liberal husband allows her to work in his business, but remains radically circumscribed. At the story’s end, Mary Ellen muses about her marriage and her parents’ view of her as an investment with an open-eyed resignation: “The benefits mature with time,” she says, borrowing her husband’s business-speak to address the nature of marital – and parental – relationships.
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