The blurbs on the back and in the ads in the middle of this issue of Post Road say things like “I often give away literary journals to my students . . . but I can’t give away Post Road—all I can do is show my copies to my students and then protectively snatch them back!” And “I trumpet Post Road not out of kindness but out of the purely selfish pleasure I take in a frisky, alert, independent magazine whose words and images spring off the page and sometimes turn a somersault or two before they stick their landings in my brain . . .” The former, by Aimee Bender, and the latter, by Walter Kirn, add up to something sounding too good to be true. However, let me reassure you: even a skim through this issue confirms their joie de la lecture.
Every page is rollicking good fun, a reward for all the time you’ve spent learning to make sense of letters linked together into words and sentences since you were a kid. It’s a reader’s mag, indeed. Jo Ann Beard’s “Seven Books in Seven Days” reminds you of all the ills that have befallen you since screens took over, then commands you to unplug and read. Books. “Read like it’s 1999,” she says and gives you her titular seven books in seven days so deliciously you pat yourself on the back that you’re already not at the computer but reading this magazine.
Did I say “delicious”? That’s the (almost) penultimate word in “A Tremendous (Experience of) Fish,” by Craig Reinbold, a marvel of a short work of creative nonfiction in which the quest, the search, the longing of a lifetime is finally achieved at Pier 39 in San Francisco: “It was all righteously delicious. And then, a little later, we went for a swim.” But I’m not giving you a spoiler. This compressed and concise meditation on what it means to trot after the thing we seek, whatever it is, and then be upon it, and in it—this will remind you why you like to read every word of a piece significantly longer than 140 characters.
Ryan Boudinot’s story “Readers and Writers” (which I hereby nominate for Best American Short Stories’s next collection) gives us a reader’s dream: the person who’s read every single book you’ve ever read, is reading what you’re reading while you’re reading it, emails you about it, gets drunk discussing it with you, and then gives you the gift you gave up hope for about the time you got married and took a lucrative job: the novel you were meant to write. Precise, sharp, hilarious—this story epitomizes all that’s good about Post Road.
But the whole section of the journal titled “Recommendations” (where Beard’s piece is located) also constitutes a most satisfying reader’s category. Pithy recommendations for Love, an Index (poetry by Rebecca Lindenberg), The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine (Donald Barthelme’s children’s book), and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (literary sci-fi by Charles Yu) all had me searching Amazon, eager to follow Beard’s advice and spend seven days doing nothing but turning the pages of physical, paper-and-cloth books.
There are also some non-reader-oriented pieces in this issue of Post Road that nevertheless make the reader glad to be a reader. The entire Guest Folio, “Writing the Body: Creative Nonfiction,” lovingly introduced by Amy Boesky, illuminates the power of CNF to illuminate our mortal coils. My favorite is Priscilla Long’s “O is for Old,” which urges readers alphabetically to consider “uber-old” age as an imperative, by really learning (not just doing Sudoku) and otherwise intentionally claiming alert, active lifestyle habits. Another alphabet piece, “The ABCs of Parting,” by Gail Hosking, is in a different section, but clearly our readerly need for the alphabet is at work on a number of levels. Back in the Guest Folio, Floyd Skloot’s beautiful personal narrative about managing new aspects of his disability, “Elliptical Journey,” is also my favorite. And so are the four other pieces in this section.
I haven’t even approached the poetry, or A-J Aronstein’s “#GentlemanlyPursuits in Paul Kahan’s Chicago,” a hilarious account of would-be journalism gone horribly awry. A central full-color art section by Valerie Brennan, Molly Herman, and Lucy Mink rounds out the joy here. Bender and Kirn just may be right. Readers, rejoice. Post Road is really, really good.