Dedicated to sisters and to dreams, this issue of Glimmer Train offers its readers, in addition to a dozen stories, an interview with author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Pen/Faulkner Award, Michael Cunningham. “What would you say to new writers working on their first stories or novel?” asks Sarah Anne Johnson. His advice: “Have patience. Don’t panic.” Know what type of a writer you are, he seems to say, and be yourself. Writers published in this issue seem to have already passed this test; they know themselves. They create stories which are good because they are allowed to expand on their own terms. Some of the stories, like “The Shadow Man,” are good at building tension. In the very first line, a construction elevator with four men inside is about to drop from its place alongside a tall building. Author Susan Fox uses third person to tell the story through the eyes the men trapped inside the elevator, the shadow man who is the first to the scene, and Marlene Hendrickson who, not long after arriving for her usual work day inside the 40-story building, heard “a sound so loud, so entire, that she thought for a moment that the sound had come from herself.”
Other stories explore stressful emotions through the immediate environment: the family. “People say, Nothing prepares you,” says the narrator in “Terrible Crying Stories.” The central conflict involves an infant who won’t stop crying, even though the doctor can find nothing wrong with him. Parents, Davis and Rebecca struggle to hold onto reality by telling each other terrible crying stories. Weaving back and forth, from past to present, the story explores Davis’s growth as a father, and the development of the couple’s relationship.
The stories in this issue lean toward definite conflicts and logical endings, endings which, on occasion, leave the reader with a strong image, as in Author Nic Brown’s “Trampoline,” where I met and followed behind the main character Manny, trying to discard of a trampoline, under Amelia’s firm orders, and find their dog, Casper, a dog Manny truly despises.
There is also a unique, personal touch throughout the journal: before each story, a photo of the writer (most often before they could even write) and a bio. Author and journalist Siobhan Dowd’s bio, in “Silenced Voices: Elif Shafak,” alerts readers to the predicament of writers who await trials exploring certain off-limit topics or using sensitive words or bringing up ideas which go against the political or social official version. Shafak was put on trial for “insulting Turkishness,” said Dowd, for having an Armenian character in her last novel use the word “genocide” to describe the events in Turkish Armenia in 1915. All combined, I found in this journal a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat reading experience.