Originally coined by Lewis Carroll in the poem “Jabberwocky,” the term jabberwock is defined as “a playful imitation of language consisting of invented, meaningless words; nonsense; gibberish.” On the contrary, the Jabberwock Review contains a selection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that attempt to defy such a negative connotation. The works featured in this volume are undeniably character driven, focusing on narrators and protagonists that seek a deeper understanding of his or her identity. While there isn’t a specific theme to this issue, the organization of the pieces creates a smooth flow, creating a seamless transition for the reader.
Laurel Gilbert’s “My Particular Happy Ending,” is tinged with the electrifying excitement of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but pulsates with the bittersweet nostalgia of a youthful dream deferred. Gilbert’s protagonist, an optimistic musician with a cowboy’s masculine, jagged edges charm, reminisces about the fatal incident that broke up his former band. Hartman speaks with the drawl of a well-mannered farm boy but dreams of the fame and hedonism that rock star status brings. The dissonance that begins to splinter the camaraderie of the band is echoed throughout the piece and is further emphasized by Hartman’s inner monologue. Gilbert is adamant about preserving the authenticity of her protagonist, effectively crafting a narrative voice that is reminiscent of an early Bruce Springsteen song:
From where he was standing, this smoking-hot girl making eyes, begging autographs, posing all centerfold, and over that girl’s shoulder, his first love and Battery Blues’ vocals and fiddle, Irene Gibson, twenty-some-odd-years-old, Morgantown-born-and-bred, mezzo soprano, scared shitless by thunderstorms, crazy for Jon Bon Jovi, standing there on the stage door steps clutching their coats with something akin to fear on her face.
When it’s finally revealed that a flat tire triggered the untimely demise of the band, Hartman comes to a simple, universal realization: you can’t rewrite the past.
Although the journal features one work of nonfiction, William Bradley’s “Chrononaut” avoids the predictable pitfalls of personal essays through his usage of childhood comic books as the essay’s framework. Bradley utilizes his love of The Flash as a tool to further explore his experience with Hodgkin’s Disease lymphoma. Comparing and contrasting these opposing subjects, something as lighthearted as a comic book superhero and something as serious as lymphoma, form an interesting and unique connection. Bradley’s childhood hero worship symbolizes his struggles with accepting the past and moving forward. The pacing of the essay is pitch-perfect, sandwiching endearing childhood memories between adult experiences.
The featured poetry favors the confessional, the language exposing vulnerabilities that are relatable and familiar, whether it is the teenage trauma of trying on clothes in a department store fitting room or the desperate desire to return home.
The highlight of this issue is by far, Kate Myers Hanson’s “We Built Roads.” Like a modern day Holden Caulfield, Hanson’s protagonist, Jessie, condemns her sheltered and claustrophobic small-town existence. The teenagers in Bolton, Georgia, are hardly cultured; a particular group of jocks like to tease Jessie’s best friend, the intellectual and artsy Tucker. Hanson perfectly captures the voice of a sullen yet introspective teenage girl who is eager to escape. Character development is executed with grace and Jessie’s journey is chronicled with wit and sharp clarity. I loved this story and although I savored Hanson’s descriptions, I was eager to finish the story and find out if Jessie found her a path to freedom.
A compact journal with a plethora of talent, Jabberwock Review is a journal that you’ll want to devour in a single sitting.