Glimmer Train delivers a journal stock full of great stories. In this issue, the sometimes unusual jobs of characters seem as central to the stories as the characters themselves. The jobs both define the characters and the time periods as well as propel the plots forward.
In the opening story, Danielle LaVaque-Manty’s “The Safety of Milk,” Oscar helps his brother-in-law gain independence from Oscar’s wife by cutting blocks in an ice field. This choice of work leads to estrangement between Oscar and his wife and a potentially fatal accident for the brother-in-law.
Rico’s thirty-year stint as a bartender in Al Sim’s “Soledad” makes it possible for him to encounter many women throughout the years – including one who may be his long-lost daughter.
And the narrator’s descriptions of and interactions with other men who have his job as a longshoreman highlight the racial tensions both latent and explicit in Eric Trethewey’s “Jefferson Street.” The narrator describes a pier: “White men and black mingled, exchanged perfunctory greetings, although they seemed to gravitate toward opposite ends of the shed.”
The issue also contains interviews with Ruth Ozeki and Jay McInerney. According to McInerney, fiction writers are broken into two groups: those who “shut themselves in and let the world seep in under their windowsill” and those who like going “out on forays into the world.” If you know anything about McInerney, you know into which camp he falls. And Ruth Ozeki insists how writers must be both attuned to voices in the world as well as the voices and the language of previous writers.
Glimmer Train writers support Ozeki’s advice: their ability to combine beautiful sentence structure with realistic voices and characters makes the stories exceptional.