You, the reader, may notice that this review seems to be split in half. How odd, you may think. Actually, I’ve combined the two because they are combined within the same two covers. You can tell, though, when the magazine switches from The Pacific Review to Ghost Town, as the pages abruptly turn upside down at the intersection. Now, to the first…
This issue of the Pacific Review contains fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. There is no editorial note to explain the shift, as it starts right up with a fantastic story about a nine-year-old learning to swim with instructions from his eccentric uncle. Written by Tim Manifesta, the cleverest passages, with their brazen humor and sly wordplay, are central to this story, and none made me smile more than the second passage involving Uncle Bill’s swimming-learning strategy:
Stretched out on a lounge chair, Uncle Bill tosses pennies and the occasional nickel into the deep end so you have to plug your nose and dive down all the way to the little plastic crate where the burden of water squeezes your tiny head like a boa constrictor. After fourteen cents worth, Uncle Bill says,"Pop your ears when you feel the pressure build. That’s the trick."
The story has its serious moments, too; heartbreaking ones, really, where you realize that Uncle Bill may be descending softly toward mental illness.
I also loved Joseph Huver’s poem “Reduction”:
There is a woman
because of first sickness
and love has peeled
its way out of a driveway.
But let’s not talk about all that.
Why don’t you go outside
in the fresh air where things are clear
and “Under the Surface,” a poem by Bridgette Callahan, has a reality to it that makes it a compelling read:
In the photograph
we look carefree,
for the camera
I can’t recall
who snapped the picture.
Not Dad –
he had already left.
though she was usually
too busy sleeping
it off to bother with such
It’s the vision of a broken home, and the all-too-real feeling of lost youth that makes this poem as powerful as it is. It’s fine poetry, and deserves more laudables than I could possibly muster.
Hope R. Ervin’s poem, “Sparrow,” is, like its title, a tiny little piece, and to relate part of it here would be unfair to you, and to relate it entirely would be unfair to Ervin. So I’ll just tell you that it’s a lovely poem, and well worth the read.
Finally, there’s a story by Elisa Grajeda-Urmstrom called “The Wendover-Grady Coefficient: Notes From the Chick Singer.” It’s about life in a band, and the choices that must be made for a band to survive, but there is one passage that is so finely wrought that I am duty bound to quote it here: “I suppose when it’s good – and a lot of nights it’s goof, performing’s like controlling the weather; a perfect storm of smiles and hips and breasts on the dance floor moving to the currents you create. And that’s a strangely sexy high. I have never been into drugs because there isn’t one out there that feels like that.” There’s more to this passage, and it’s filled with the same fabulousness as the rest, but if I don’t stop now, I may not be able to later.