This summer’s edition to Canteen’s canon is filled to the brim with amusing essays, thought-provoking poems, and a couple of fictional, yet introspective short stories. One such story is Justin Taylor’s “In My Heart I Am Already Gone.” Its protagonist, Kyle, is a cousin of some sort to the family with whom he spends Wednesday nights. His Uncle Danny, in referring to his medically sound, but mentally unhinged cat, says: “This was a long time coming.” He is, of course, talking of rubbing out, or knocking off, the poor, poor Buckles. Danny has asked Kyle to ‘take care of it’. Kyle, as naturally as Holden Caulfield without the sarcasm might, muses that
In my heart I have already left this miserable town for a place and future so bright with promise I cannot look directly upon it . . . When he comes to his uncle’s house, a week later, under the belief that he can get away with the felinicide unbeknownst to anyone, he strangles and drowns the cat simultaneously. Though it is a clever allusion to ‘sleeping with the fishes’, it is, after all, simply, the family pool – sans fish. Then he notices his aunt behind standing in the doorway behind him. How much did she see?
The story is finely wrought, and a joy to read, despite its rather grim subject matter.
On the magazine’s beginning pages, the ‘State of Creation’ is expertly explored in an essay by Eric Puchner. Puchner, the title suggests, offers to the readers his experiences in what is titled, “I married a novelist.” The novelist to whom he refers is Katherine Noel, whose annotations appear as footnotes to Puchner’s essay. It is a truly enjoyable story, given both writers’ contributions. To wit: As Puchner admits, “Somehow I don’t think a lawyer would be quite as understanding when I wake her up in the middle of the night for advice on a semicolon.” To this, though my husband is not a lawyer, I can relate. I’m likely to get a primal grunt instead of essential grammatical assistance. Puchner asks, “How can she write such beautiful novels while listening to Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine?” Katherine does not comment, but, when he talks of her and writes, “Now I can picture the face perfectly: a beautiful, sleepy eyed woman who happens to be sitting in the room at the end of the hall. She’s listening to Loveless, [What? No more Sonic Youth?], a cup of lemon-ginger tea steaming by her side." Her sly comment is, "I never drink lemon-ginger tea.”
Other standouts in this edition of Canteen are Ben Fountain’s “Four Stories,” of which I particularly enjoyed “Mean,” and Heather Kirn’s prose poem “The Last Word: A prologue.” Reading this issue of Canteen was, indeed, like a cool drink of water after a walk in the desert.