This issue continues the quarterly magazine’s tradition of intelligent, accessible writing over a wide range of topics in the arts and literature, in addition to high-quality poetry and fiction. As a previous NewPages reviewer commented, “It’s a bit like the New Yorker, only without the self-importance and the umlauts.”
Whether in response or not, the editors have added umlauts (for example, in Alberto Manguel’s short essay on Hungarian writer László Földenyi). But the modesty survives, along with several New Yorker-like features.
“Table Talk,” a series of terse, interesting essays similar to “Talk of the Town,” includes the Manguel piece as well as Mindy Aloff writing about an upside-down night-sky installation in the Hudson River, and Robert Eldridge’s reflections on epigrams. There are also knowledgeable, probing reviews of books, plays, music, and the reopening of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre.
Another regular feature of The Threepenny Review is a symposium on a selected topic. This issue’s focus is architecture, with ruminations by writers with and without formal training in the discipline. Two of them made me look at my own Midwestern ranch house with fresh eyes—Thomas Laqueur’s memoir of his neo-Bauhaus cottage in the Shenandoah Mountains and Katharine Michaels’s recounting of how she went to Italy to escape a bad love affair and found her life’s work restoring antique stone farmhouses.
Also memorable is a short story by Gloria L. Huang in which the central character feels her life spinning out of control with a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. She seems to regain a toe-hold, however, when she starts getting text messages—from her tumor.
Poets in this issue, each with well-crafted, moving verse, are Louis Glück and Kay Ryan (both consulting editors to the magazine), Dean Young, Andrea Cohen, Daisy Fried, Ciaran Berry, Julie Dunlop, Paul McMahon, and Nate Klug.
Published in Berkeley, the magazine’s previously apparent Bay Area focus seems to have diminished. The current issue reviews music performances in New York City and Moscow, plays from London, and the work of Romanian novelist Norman Manea.
The West Coast hasn’t disappeared entirely, however. The newspaper-style product has text in four columns, with visual relief provided by text boxes, ads from publishers and writing programs, and striking black-and-white 19th-century photos provided by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.