Boasting content creepy – in the best possible sense of the word – enough to match the eyeless, button-mouthed citizens congregated across the cover, Skidrow Penthouse is a lovely, straightforward literary magazine of avant-garde grotesquery. Definitely not for the easily disturbed, this issue displays numerous splashy images of sexual amorphous nightmare creatures, visceral flash fiction, and poetry rife with primordial images of animals, colors, and traumatizing childhood experiences. Anorexia, the Holocaust, street life, abortion, insanity, and BDSM are all addressed, often in excruciatingly, darkly humorous ways.
Highlights include much of the poetry, but particularly Heller Levinson’s “Smelling Mermaid” (“argonautic jubilee splash / mint ragas / requisition forms rise from the groin of the sea”), with Simon Perchik’s “*”, and Maryhelen Snyder’s “Grey.” In the area of fiction, be sure to read Roberta Allen’s “Bad Things Will Happen If You Are Happy” (the concluding segment of the issue), and Biranel Thomas’s “The Gorgon And The Salamander,” the longest offering of all. Also worth a look are Guy R. Beining’s collection of stark collages, and both visual art pieces from Spiel.
Some pieces might be considered over-the-top or absurdly wrought, but it all adds to the atmosphere of a wonderful, twisted carnival; serious subjects are treated in a ludicrous manner and invoke thought. If this sort of ambience appeals to you (as it does me), this collection is well worth your time. Its economy of space and unusual 12-point font size serve Skidrow Penthouse well, and at 199 pages it is easy to digest in one or two sittings.