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The Tusculum Review – 2010

The Tusculum Review plunges into an odyssey of self-reflection, confession, and recollection. The review calls itself, “an annual venue for new voices,” and each voice within its pages is entirely unique from its counterparts. The sampling highlights a fusion of character voices within the short stories, drama, poetry, and illustrations; each piece retains a beautifully rendered resonance to its own statement.

The Tusculum Review plunges into an odyssey of self-reflection, confession, and recollection. The review calls itself, “an annual venue for new voices,” and each voice within its pages is entirely unique from its counterparts. The sampling highlights a fusion of character voices within the short stories, drama, poetry, and illustrations; each piece retains a beautifully rendered resonance to its own statement.

The first voice to greet me was from Alex Quinlan’s speaker in “The Solstice, The Armistice”:

I may have loved you once
under the egg moon, but
the way the light

scrambled our faces
makes it hard to say
judging by the pictures.

I still cannot get the sound of those six lines out of my mind, and they never fail to make me crack a smile (pun intended).

The first full piece, aside from the cover, is “Table of Contents” by Kaveh Bassiri. The piece vocalizes a story through title chapters followed by increments of numbers. Cleverly placed at the beginning of the review, it seems to mirror the insight to all the pieces following it.

Following “Table of Contents,” the voices of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Mike and Sara in “Shooting Sparrows” lead to Jan LaPerle’s “Roses for the Bedroom, Daises for the Kitchen”: “Though Helen was very small, her loneliness filled their little house from the bottom to the chimney-top like a teapot filled with tea.”

K.T. Landon, in my personal favorite, “She Wishes She Smoked,” gives a narrative voice to loneliness, which harbors the emotions of a woman who thinks “If she smoked, no one would question five minutes on the front steps.

Michael Danko paints “Red” and all the color’s associations with such specificity that the narrator explains all of his own associations with the color that he’s newly exhausted his memory until he conveys to the reader, “I’m getting a second wind.”

Allison Joseph, in her beautifully abrasive “Ode to Kristie,” places the reader into the seat of her speaker, as well as the ears of the “you” of the poem—a young, tragic, HIV positive homeless mother of children by numbers continually multiplying. She leaves the reader with the ringing words,

You waddle to your feet,
bid me goodbye, dirty sweatshirt

concealing your bulk, swaddling
your hefty stomach no matter what
dwells there: baby or myth, child or lie.

These stories are all carefully placed within the context of Ralph Slatton’s pen-and-ink cover illustration, “Transmigration.” Another use of ink that visually assaults the reader into falling down a rabbit hole of eerie whimsy, where the party favor is a story just as black and white as his illustrations.

Since the review is bountiful and rich in voices, I expected a section dedicated to each genre. Thankfully, and very masterfully done, the short stories, poems, drama, illustrations, and pieces incapable of a classification were not isolated from each other. Readers will be as pleasantly surprised as I was to finish a poem and immediately be greeted by a short story or illustration. I say to disregard the collection’s impressive length, because once read, one finds there should be not a page spared in this collection.
[www.tusculum.edu/tusculumreview/]

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