Confession: It’s been ten years since I last read The Sun, and I’m not sure why, but now I feel a sense of regret for all I have missed. If you don’t read this three-decades-old, ad-free publication, or don’t know it at all, get this issue (at least). The interview with Edward Tick is an absolute, tell-everyone-you-know-to-read-this-now piece. Tick currently directs Soldier’s Heart, a nonprofit initiative to promote “community-based efforts to heal the effects of war.” As a college teacher working with returning vets, I felt guided by Tick’s insight. The most poignant comment for me: “We have a parade and shoot off fireworks, which scares the hell out of many veterans. A better way to honor them would be to listen to their stories. We should give them new ways to serve and an honorable place in our communities.” Thanks to Tick, I have already started an initiative in my community. This interview, read in combination with Edwin Romond’s poem “Brother in Arms,” about the treatment of ‘Nam vets in a particular workplace, gives voice to the sorry spectrum of response our “warrior class” experience.
The spectrum of autism in Poe Ballantine’s son is the subject of his personal essay, “These Dark Woods”: a chronology of seeking, accepting, and resisting in response to his son’s borderline diagnosis. Borderlines between acceptance and rejection or resistance seem thematic in this issue. Dana Wildsmith, in her essay “Survival Guide,” recounts her experience with a poisonous snakebite and the decision to accept or decline the antivenom (no spoiler here; read it!). Jack Paris, in “The House Painters of Southern California,” focuses on the professional lives of illegal workers and comes to a pointedly delivered statement on the love/hate/denial-of-need/scapegoating relationship this country has with its underground work force. Though prose, his writing lilts poetic, like his painting, appreciated as art by those who see his mastery of skill:
There are times, rare blessed afternoons, when you have the perfect amount of work to do in a room; heavenly, engrossing times when the screeching of tile cutting is distant and the late daylight falls through a window on your work, the cracks in the cabinet joints disappearing beneath the smooth white trail of vanilla-smelling caulk. The occasional worker drifts through to trade barbs and ball scores, then leaves, his steps receding down the hall, and the silence is slowly recaptured: just you, the work, the swish of sandpaper.
On those afternoons, you’d do it for free.
The fiction in this issue is tight. The conclusion of Zane Kotker’s “Grand Boy” literally made me catch my breath and churned emotions still unresolved. Austin Bunn’s “Everything, All At Once” is a smooth-as-silk rendering of a caustic breakup, with a deeply satisfying finale.
The Sun: No sappy sentimentality. No overwrought dramatizations. Life as it is; the weight of emotion conveyed through stories well told. I will be back to reading this.