If you love a good story – and who doesn’t? – you must read Glimmer Train. It never, and I do mean never, disappoints. This issue includes exquisite stories by Carmiel Banaksy, Hubert Ahn, Cynthia Gregory, Johnny Townsen, Marc Basch (first time in print!), Lindsey Crittenden, Diana Spechler, Scott Schrader, Mary Morrissy, and Kuyangyan Huang, as well as a critical essay by Sara Whyatt on the theater of Raisedon Baya and Chris Mlalazi, and an interview with David Leavitt, conducted by Kevin Rabalais.
Many of Glimmer Train’s trademark elements abound here. Well rounded stories that offer the traditional rewards and pleasures of solid, time tested narrative techniques. Strong, memorable voices and characters whose experiences and problems manage to seem at once both ordinary or realistic (as in believable) and interesting (as in worth telling). Well crafted prose that reads with a kind of natural ease, but which is never disaffected, sloppy, or deliberately edgy or “cool.” And, finally, a kind of love for, appreciation of, and tenderness about our flaws and foibles and faults.
Despite these similarities, or perhaps because of them, there is no confusing these stories. They are unique, distinct, original. Banaksy’s “Save” is written in a style that is especially attentive to the lyrical potency of a sentence, for example: “The family store went down like a sinking stump in the swamp.” Townsend’s “Pronouncing the Apostrophe” reads much like a memoir, long, but quiet and revealing, an intriguing tale of a gay man’s life as a Mormon convert to Judaism (I am not suggesting here, however, that the story is or is meant to be autobiographical). Spechler’s “Proximity,” the story of a struggle with bulimia told from the perspective of a young woman in search of self-respect, love, and the strength to “eat like a normal person,” is convincingly youthful, yearning, and painful.
Gregory’s prize-winning story, “Melting at Both Ends,” is the funniest of the issue, exhibiting a wry, mature voice that is exceptionally effective and appealing. (You want to meet her narrator.) Morrissy’s “The Scream” is less casual in diction and tone, more poetic, deeply affecting, the story of a life remembered from the suspension of time created by lying prone after a fall. Huang’s “Noodles” is a beautiful, earnest fiction that often surprises with subtle, but sharp wit and insights. (“He can’t possibly ruin the entire year” responds the narrator’s mother when his father complains that a visit from an old acquaintance in China, Teacher Zhao, will prove disastrous. “Who can do that besides you?” she argues.) “Who can control what happens on the fringes?” Huang’s narrator asks as the story draws to a close. I think I know the answer: the editors of Glimmer Train.