The Southern Review prides itself on excellence, on not letting the reader off the hook. This issue has three essays on “Mind and Metaphor,” none of which are an easy task to read, partly because each of will unsettle your preconceived notions of those two abstract concepts. Michelle Herman's exploration of expert advice on her daughter's rare psychological condition makes for a terrific read. She meanders like a sure narrator going for the kill with a ready spear, and the insightful way her discussion weaves in the objectives and possibilities in metaphor astound the reader. Herman scoffs science, reveres it, magnifies its warm steeliness and fuses it on a nuclear level with literature. Her included discussion on story-telling is worth reading for every writer of character-driven narratives. Sonya Lea's “Creation Story” focuses on an amnesiac's reconstruction of his life story, much in the vein of the Harrison Ford movie Regarding Henry, but without the Hollywood ending. To keep an intellectual detachment is difficult in such a narrative, especially by a spouse, but Lea manages it artfully.
Three Steve Almond short-shorts are a highlight, as is the photo feature, an excerpt from “Travels with Van Gogh and the Impressionists,” with text by Lin Arison and richly colorful and textured photographs by Neil Folberg. A longer work of fiction by Naomi J. Williams, “Rickshaw Runner” recounts the early days of Hollywood and a Japanese community's interaction with a film director named Chaplin. Saral Waldorf plays on the title and subject of a Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden installation to make her fiction “In the Infield was Patty Peccavi” come ominously to life. Jay Rogoff's poem “Such Stuff” invokes Shakespeare and responds to Waldorf's story as well as to a sculpture by Charles LeDray. A magnificent cohesion results, and The Southern Review pulls it off with southern charm.