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The Open Face Sandwich – 2010

The Open Face Sandwich shares a great deal in common with its edible namesake. It’s strange, isn’t it, to sit down with a menu and see that you can order a sandwich without a top piece of bread. Giving it any thought, you have to ask why. Why the unorthodoxy? On a pragmatic level, why give up the bread? What’s the gain? Maybe the experience is the gain. Maybe it’s enough to say you tried it. Maybe only having half the bread, rather than leaving you hungry, leaves you satiated in a way you didn’t expect. Consuming the breadless bread, or something Zen like that.

The Open Face Sandwich shares a great deal in common with its edible namesake. It’s strange, isn’t it, to sit down with a menu and see that you can order a sandwich without a top piece of bread. Giving it any thought, you have to ask why. Why the unorthodoxy? On a pragmatic level, why give up the bread? What’s the gain? Maybe the experience is the gain. Maybe it’s enough to say you tried it. Maybe only having half the bread, rather than leaving you hungry, leaves you satiated in a way you didn’t expect. Consuming the breadless bread, or something Zen like that.

For me at least, The Open Face Sandwich is unorthodox as a literary magazine. Or would it be avant garde? Cutting edge? Maybe anymore it is orthodox. I don’t know. What I do know is the only thing I can bring to a review is my reading sensibilities. Admittedly, my tastes lean toward the more traditional style of fiction. Still, I’m not afraid of trying something new off the menu. The Open Face Sandwich is something new—new fiction, at least for me.

One of my favorite bites was “The Marsupial” by Adrian West. What a strange little story, but strange like a foreign film. Tasty—touching some taste bud that hasn’t been put to work in a while. The story is about a son and mother relationship, a very bizarre relationship. Following the death of the father in a motorcycle accident, the son feeds, bathes, and even escorts to the toilet his enormously obese mother. At times he is even sexually attracted to her. I know, I know—but that turns out to be the least of the reader’s discomfort.

In a very Kafkaesque way, the main character undergoes a metamorphosis, which starts with a tooth growing in his hand in “the membrane that stretches from the palm to the thumb…” The tooth becomes a mouth, and more. A doctor later explains: “‘Somehow you’ve acquired a parasite or perhaps some genetic anomaly is only now unraveling itself, and you appear to be undergoing some sort of transformation whereby you—what you’ve formerly been—are disappearing, as fuel, you know, for some other entity that’s taken up residence inside you.’”

I appreciate that even though the story is quite surreal, West still takes the time to develop some character history, which pulls the reader all the more into this fabulist world. This one, more so than some of the less character-driven stories, really stayed with me.

Another flavorful nibble among the morsels was Agnes Gerner’s “Babies.” In this piece, a woman laments her husband’s desire for them to have a baby. Her not wanting the baby is so palpable throughout the piece as she contemplates the idea of it. She seems petrified, to the point that she also doesn’t protest everything having a baby will mean: “But babies, to decide to have them, to think of yourself that you’re capable of raising a human being. Remembering to feed it, remembering to love it, remembering that it hasn’t asked to be born, that you made this decision, that the baby is never to be blamed.”

The ending is so perfect for this piece, and to read it you’ll need to pick up this issue of The Open Face Sandwich. You’ll need to do the counterintuitive thing and order that perplexing-sounding sandwich.

When you’re finished with it, you’ll know you’ve tried something new. It won’t be like any other lunch you’ve had. You’ll have taken a chance, and it will be memorable. You’ll taste it in between your teeth throughout the day. Maybe you can even be a little smug toward your co-workers who insist on ordering close face sandwiches exclusively. Where’s their sense of adventure?

The Open Face Sandwich—it’s a literary lunch everyone should try at least once.
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