An issue you can definitely sink your teeth into. “We finally have work by Phillip Lopate between our covers,” says editor Joe Mackall. Lopate’s “In Defense of the Essay Collection,” is preaching to the choir in some ways, River Teeth’s readers are already interested in the genre, as it is, after all, a journal of nonfiction narrative. But, it’s a great read nonetheless. Lopate is in good company. The 11 other essays in this issue are equally worthy of attention.
And best of all, these essays (by Robert McGowan, Kathryn Winograd, Maureen Stanton, Will Jennings, Kurt Caswell, Greg Bottoms, Eric Dean Wilson, Brad Modlin, K. Emily Bond, Jill Noel Kandel, J. Malcolm Garcia) demonstrate very different approaches to nonfiction narrative.
Winograd’s essay recounts an experience as a teacher in an education program for Navajo Nation teachers in Colorado and the ways in which she discovers links to a personal landscape of mystery and significance. Her writing is lucid, fluid, and satisfying.
Dean Wilson also offers a personal story of place linked to a larger history. Modlin’s “On the Day of a Death, the First Thing That Changes Is What You Want from Strangers,” is a brief (two and a half pages) and devastating rumination on grief. Kandel’s “Burial Cloth Removed” is a moving and un-self-pitying account of the aftermath of a car accident (her husband was driving) that occurred while she and her family were living in Zambia in which a young child was killed. The essay is told in short fragments linked and un-linked on multiple levels. Garcia’s essay is a portrait of an international humanitarian aid worker. I ended up admiring Michael, the essay’s subject, and Garcia for his skill and ability to recreate the story with an utterly invisible hand.
My favorite piece is veteran creative nonfiction writer Maureen Stanton’s “The Hours: In Pursuit of Sleep.” I confess that part of the essay’s appeal for me is that I, like Stanton, suffer from terrible insomnia. (You don’t want to know what time it is right now!). But, I also admire Stanton’s wonderful prose and the way in which she links her personal situation to larger issues and considerations, a universe larger than her own tossing and turning.
I do not recommend this issue of River Teeth if you’re suffering from insomnia and looking for something soporific. It’s just too stimulating.