Titled “War, Evil and America Now” isn’t going to get Salmagundi’s current issue any major attention. Any politically inclined journal can focus on that issue. But dedicating over a hundred pages to the discussion between formidable thinkers and speakers is a fantastic move forward. It’s not possible to summarize their various mindsets or cast an illumination on their thoughts in a review of the whole issue, however, and I’ll abstain from mentioning anything other than the fact that it hearkens to Salmagundi’s conference on the clash of civilizations, but increases its scope in all dimensions. That’s the latter half of the issue.
It begins, as usual, with columns by the regular contributors, on topics ranging from Kara Walker to modern cityscapes. Segueing from such into poetry is easier than into fiction, and so begins the verse parade. “Frequency” by Daniel Tobin contains the wonderful rhyme “I-pods / bringing the news; which is more how the muse / came before the hum of cathode tubes.”
Only one fiction piece, Mary Gordon’s “Au Pair,” which is also an austere enough piece to go with the general theme. Right afterwards comes an essay “For ‘Anyone Interested in Learning What Makes Us Human,’” an examination of the narrator’s experience of Body Worlds exhibit. With a predisposition for the spiritual, the author Mary Cappello almost taints the text with her prejudices in lines like: “We can’t call humans carcasses because even after death a man must be understood as more-than-his-body, an essence, a soul.” But then she rescues her work at the end by including the living spectators “as though they were the exhibit” too. Great fall, great rescue, in perfect harmony with the hard, cold surface of this issue, and its various depths.