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Santa Monica Review - Fall 2009

The Santa Monica Review has little space for drawings or photographs. From cover to cover, pages are packed with writing presented in a generic font as though it were simply a college essay waiting to be graded. It is rare to see a nationally distributed literary arts journal with a layout entirely devoted to sharing high quality writing without unnecessary visual distractions.

Published twice a year, the magazine promotes work by both well-known and promising authors. While I enjoyed the ten selections, I did find it difficult to determine which genre each belonged to. The contributors’ notes provided this crucial bit of information and some background on each author, yet I would have liked to know from the start whether I was reading fiction or nonfiction. The editors do dedicate opening pages, or what is titled the “AB INTRA,” to excerpts that tease at the content while also providing a suspenseful look into what’s to come – minus clues on genre, of course.

All ten excerpts did grab my attention. Dawna Kemper’s story entitled “Rondo” is presented with this alluring quote:

Mother told me once that my father died on the day I was born. This detail, along with the heroic swamp business, was all she would say, and eventually I grew weary of asking. But, oh, that night rescue mission – that was mine, and in childhood, in that drifty free-floating state just before sleep, I played it out on an endless, murky reel.

I enjoyed the sneak peek and found myself eager to move forward.

Matthew Crain’s essay titled “Emphasis Mine” starts out in the form of a letter and creates an intimate bond between author and reader. Not only are styles diverse throughout this issue, the content is as well. Nina Dutkevitch’s story, “Nady,” introduces us to a character from Cambodia while Steve De Jarnatt’s essay, “Chronicles of an Umbra Hound,” describes the splendor of Australia’s outback. Language is vivid throughout the journal and it is easy to become immersed in each author’s work.

The length of these pieces, some quite substantial, is unusual in literary magazines. While this editorial preference limits the number of authors the Santa Monica Review publishes with each issue, it does allow the reader a fuller grasp of each author’s work and the chance to stay immersed in good storytelling. Overall, this issue is unique and worth a good sit down.

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Review Posted on January 17, 2010

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