The table of contents for Red Fez 30 sprawls down the scrolling page, heralding articles and reviews, comics and other artwork, poetry, and stories. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the array of choices, I wasn't quite sure where to start, but I ended up choosing well with Eric Day's essay “The Class of 1987.” Eric is reluctant about attending his twentieth high school reunion, and yet for some intangible reason he felt compelled to go. Eric has come a long way from his class clown years, having moved away and earned a master's degree, gotten married, and become a teacher. But none of his former classmates know any of this. When Eric approaches the greeter's table and sees all the name badges lined up, he observes that “just a glance at them filled me with terror.” Much of what follows is to be expected: stilted conversation, awkward moments with an old girlfriend, and social dynamics that seem to have frozen in time. But as the night progresses, Eric finds that a few things actually have changed and he even ultimately makes a few tenuous connections.
I dove into the poetry next and was pleased to find David Chorlton's poems, especially “Holiday Walk,” where the narrator's view from the river bank is of
radiating from a solitary grebe
in a break among the reeds
while a Monarch butterfly
drifts along a concrete line
drawn hazily on air.
That one was an easy sell, as I do have a weakness for nature themes, and this use of a grebe is a particularly rare poetic device. Meanwhile, in “Maybe You Should Write Down What I Say,” Antonia Clark explores what it feels like waking from a dream:
I'm afraid to leave
whole cities of bright ideas.
Of the fiction, the story that gripped me hardest was Kim Farleigh's “Landscape of Worry,” a well-paced description of a harrowing trip through Iraq to the Jordanian border. Farleigh's figurative language, in terse yet strong phrasings, carries the suspense of the story, moving it along with ease and painting its setting with distinct tones: “Pastel vapours sat in rainbow bands on the world’s edge.”
This issue rounds out with a few small press publication reviews, including those of books by Scott McClanahan, Eric Beeny, and Jason Jordan.