Post Road has everything. The sixteenth issue contains short stories, flash fiction, poetry, nonfiction, criticism, portions of a play, an interview, excerpts from journals, literary recommendations and full color artwork.
In Dawson Wright Albertsen’s “Chris Stops the Boys,” a paranoid single father interrogates his two young sons about their weekend with their mother. The story is 90% dialogue with a bounty of ‘he asks’ and ‘he says’ tags. The boys’ sedate behavior only highlights the perversity of the father’s position. There is no neat conclusion and the world seems a little crueler after observing this fractured family. It’s an ending worthy of Carver, saying this is how it is, better start changing if you want to make things better.
Two titans of the flash fiction realm are also featured: Diane Williams and Kim Chinquee. In her piece “Body Language,” Chinquee tells of a woman watching a nature TV show while her boyfriend calls his mother in Greece. It is a rich story as the plight of inseminated pandas is a backdrop against the couple’s attempts to avoid making babies, all in 300 words.
Christopher Higgs’s “Hold Your Horses the Elephants are Coming,” a eulogy for circuses, gives an accelerated and uncanny history of performance artists from Roman times to the late seventies in America. This essay includes short recaps of Europe’s wars, plagues and famines in the Middle Ages and anecdotes of famous performers who succumbed to early death, topped off by an account of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey (“this monumental troupe began with a single stilt walker, a pallbearer who went to the cemetery with other stilt walkers to mourn the death of a comrade”). It is a highly entertaining look at this neglected and lost art of entertainment.
On the poetry side, Sarah Murphy’s two poems stand out with their shock and awe of attack verbs exemplified by “Breathless, My Venom Spent, I Lay Down My Weapons” – the title and also last line of this unflinching confessional poem. Though “Horoscope” is quieter, it is no less powerful “I swore you sold my soul for a song. But / what if I forced it? What if I’m wrong?” This plain, blunt language contains echoes of Anne Sexton’s rage and Elizabeth Bishop’s finely wrought lines.
Post Road is 270 pages devoted to the love of literature. While the recommendations section touches on some of usual suspects (Faulkner, Yates) and some not so (Mikhail Bulgakov and Roger Charles Wilson), the wonderful, two-page odes are written by the likes of Noy Holland, Robert Olen Butler, and John McNally, who says of Yates’ Revolutionary Road, “I am no less astonished by this book’s perfection. Every word is the right word; every semicolon is perfectly placed.” The same can be said of this issue.