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PEN America - 2004

With a few small exceptions, PEN America, the annual journal published by PEN American Center, is peopled with the work of world-famous or much-published writers, both contemporary and posthumous. Here you’ll find such familiar names as Samuel Beckett, Edward Albee, Susan Sontag, Wallace Stevens, Rick Moody, and Rainer Maria Rilke. So if you read lit mags with an eye for the never-before-published or emerging writer, this is not the best place to turn. However, if you seek a veritable anthology of provocative, scholarly, often experimental work, you couldn’t get a more comprehensive codex for your buck. A perusal of PEN America is like a reacquaintance with all those great voices who made you want to be a reader (and maybe a writer) in the first place. It’s a bound celebration of literature both cross-cultural and cross-generational. One exception to this issue’s roster of famous contributors is an unknown writer named Gary Farlow, whose brilliant short story “The Prison” wins a coveted four pages of space amidst the journal’s distinguished pantheon. The tale of an escaped prisoner who finds himself unpursued and at the mercy of another sort of prison vaster in nature than he could have imagined, it is written by an interned wordsmith from a correctional facility in North Carolina. – MC

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Review Posted on July 31, 2004

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