The Tusculum Review is two hundred pages of a bit of everything – all wrapped up in a glossy purple cover. Ordinary? Not even close. “New voices” – that’s what the editors tell us it is about. It contains fresh, exciting material – like a one-act play with only one character living out a “wide awake nightmare,” titled “Gone” by Roy Sorrels. It’s ingenious, compact, and a delightful mini-nightmare to read.
For nonfiction, there are warm, autobiographical essays to dig into, for example, “On Not Writing,” by Luciana Lopez. This essay, on a vacation that could not be fodder for a reporter’s tax write-off, begs how expensive are one’s roots, one’s soul? “Love Means Nothing” by Ethel Morgan Smith is therapy for anyone who loves tennis, or an education to those who don’t – a short history of an adoring fan’s evolving relationship to the world of tennis as she developed a discerning eye.
The fiction has some surprising stories, light and dark. Kirstin Eve Beachy, in “Me and the Martyrs,” manages to capture both brightness and bleakness in her tale of a young woman obsessed with martyrdom. There are two morphine stories, Jeff Dye’s “A World Open and Shut,” and Michael Leone’s “Three Sides of Dark. It begins: “I was a cruel boy, I am a nasty young man.” It will captivate your soul.
The poetry is down-to-earth, varied; the 2007 prize poem, by Ria Vords, a prose poem, titled “My Name” begins: “My name was born small and slept that first Hungarian winter / at the breast. My name inherited only sore eyesight, and turned / other’s soil.” Simple, yet rich. Then there are photographs of Mexican children and young adults in rustic settings with poems composed by Jamie Ross – “Postcards from Mexico.” These black and white photos teem with dramatic contrast and intimate, honest detail – not your everyday literary journal! Reading this journal is like opening a package of surprises; everything is unexpected.