When a literary journal opens by recognizing the greatness of Dostoevsky and The Brothers Karamazov, it aims not just to entertain but to endure. Issue 80 of Toronto-based Brick embraces the world of words with arms more expansive than most literary journals. The giants of Russian literature are further celebrated in two memoir/biographies: the acrimony of Chekov's wife and his beloved sister is recalled by Gregory Altschuller, the deceased (1983) son of Chekov's doctor; Viktor Nekrasov journeys through post-Bulgakov Kiev to the house of Bulgakov's youth and place of his characters.
The three interviews in Issue 80 are conducted by such astute writers that the interviews are insightful conversations more than stock Q & A's. Any writer reading Stephan Bureau's dynamic conversation with Mavis Gallant will be both inspired and daunted: "All the writers I've known who have to talk about [the question of talent] have had the same doubts. They constantly need reassurance."
Carmen Aguirre's coming-of-age memoir, "Something Fierce," deals with a different sort of rite of passage: eleven-year-old Aguirre unknowingly follows her mother into an underground revolutionary movement.
Two sets of contributors argue for record-breaking cricketer Muralitharan and, separately, the charm of silent movies. Epistles of love and faith are excerpted from the Graham Greene canon. Stunning poems by Sharon Olds and Don McKay address a lifetime in one moment. Ondaatje's conversation with Gil Adamson is bolstered by her fearsome-uncle story, "Fear Itself."
Brick is heavy. With the weight of its contributors and content, Brick is more book than journal, something too valuable to dispense with after one reading.