Juked’s website says, “We don’t adhere to any particular themes or tastes, but some people tell us they see one, so who knows.” I’m not going to make any broad declarations of a theme connecting the stories, poetry, and interviews in this issue; I’m just going to highlight a few of the better selections.
Matthew Baker’s “The House of Jenny, Jen, and Mrs. G” starts with the opener, “You can’t judge a man on the things he’s done, only the things he’s doing. Like the me I used to be—we don’t share shit except a body.” It goes on to say that the current “me,” if given a baseball bat, would walk to the nearest ballpark, but the old “me,” if given a baseball bat, would walk to the nearest mailbox—and so how do they compare to each other, or function as the same person? The rest of the story is narrated, by the supposedly new “Mutt” (the main characters name) about the old “Mutt.” Mutt steals the vice principal of his high school’s magnificent chair, leaves a portable toilet in its place, and then drops out of school, moving into the house of a woman who stops to help him when his car breaks down (after stealing the VP’s chair). This woman is a drug dealer and comes with a baby and husband who doesn’t live with her but who still harasses her. Over the course of the story, Mutt struggles to find his place, either in her house, on his own, or possibly with his parents. The writing is crisp, compelling, and darkly hilarious.
Benjamin Rybeck’s fiction piece has the best title in this issue: “Shop, Drop, and Roll.” The story follows a woman who’s maybe not all there, who’s maybe a little too caught up in her past and what didn’t happen even though she wanted it to. The open-ended image that concludes the piece lingers, even after the story is finished. Another interesting story, perhaps more for its set-up than content, is Jenn Scott’s “Narrative Time.” The content of the story is “A day passed, and another day.” That line then contains a footnote that makes up the bulk of the tale, in small print, which is about time passing in a café.
David O’Connell’s poem, “Influence,” contains rumination on Woody Allen and the role of comedy. The poem is about Allen debating between two types of films and which is more satisfying—escapist films or films that investigate existential questions. The writing in the poem is clear and uses examples from Allen’s films to illustrate the narrator’s thoughts, concluding:
he’s come to see that comedy
may serve the greater good, if only
since—his words—like air conditioning,
it gives us all a break before we face it
That line is demonstrative of O’Connell’s compelling style, which is deceptively simple while pushing a broader point.
There is also a fascinating interview with Caitlin Horrocks, author of This Is Not Your City, in which she discusses topics ranging from her new novel about Erik Satie to “Befuddled American Abroad” stories and how she wished to avoid that, although her writing often features locales outside of America. She gets around that genre, in part, by featuring characters who are not American. The interview nears its close with the question of her favorite beer—because she mentions that where she is currently living, Grand Rapids, MI, is a beer town.
And, so, if I were to make one conjecture about a potential theme for this issue of Juked: it’s the type of journal where an interviewer can ask, what’s your beer in the middle of a wide-ranging, and in-depth interview. A bit casual, a bit fun, and always interesting.