Sarah Legow's cover art for the latest 245 page volume of Cream City Review depicts ordinary objects inside eggshells. One shell holds sand. Another holds fur. Others hold clock gears, cigarette butts, shells, and twine. It's oddly perfect for the issue, as Cream City is crammed with strange, good pieces that give magic-realistic tinges to ordinary and gritty subjects.
J. Weintraub’s domestic science fiction story “The Couch Club” is about a human woman’s marriage to a space alien. In Nicole Callihan's “Violet Egan and the Magic Circle,” a regretfully childless woman is haunted by a TV-watching ghost. Tim Wirkus’s dreamy crime story “Thirteen Virtues of a Colonial Detective” is broken into disjointed sections, giving it a graphic-novel like feel.
Cecilia Johnson has a number of paintings accompanied by fables. One is about Snow White and her Prince’s glass coffin fetish. Another two-sentence fable is about Little Bunny Foo Foo.
John Porcellino has an excellent portfolio of comics, many of which are about the philosopher Diogenes. Others are about cats, or the importance of looking at an anthill and thinking “nothing matters except this anthill.”
The magazine's poetry is consistently good. One of the take-away pieces is “The Stranger Experiment” by Lori Davis, based on a recent scientific study that proves that when two people are put into a dark empty room and assured anonymity, they will usually start groping each other. Anna Leahy’s “Rules for Writing a Poem” begins unremarkably: “Be uncanny and brilliant. Be remarkable.” It's then salted with footnotes, such as the one following an instruction to write deftly about one's father's death: “More deftly, according to Louise Gluck, than did Sharon Olds in The Father. Get to it before your dissertation director does in Keep This Forever because you cannot be as witty as he is. You will not do your father justice anyway. No one ever does.”
This issue also has the work of its Annual Literary Prize winners (Haines Eason in poetry, Eson Kim in creative nonfiction, and Roger Sheffer in Fiction,) plus Amy T. Olen's translation of Edgardo Rivera Martinez's "Azurita."
There's also an excellent flash nonfiction feature, including Katherine Riegel's "All The Love You Want" about a stranger who leaves a poorly written note in the writer's car ("u are so prety i wil pay u 1000 dollers for to our of yor tim") then helps her fix a flat tire. Another is Ken Brosky's "Amazon.com: The New Meta-fiction," about the "Three-Wolf Tee-Shirt" made famous by the mock-reviews random people wrote for it. Brosky clicks on connected links such as "Black Toilet Paper" and "Fresh Whole Rabbit" and writes, "by surfing from page to page I was literally piecing together little snippets of Meta-Fiction, creating my own story as I surfed the Web's most popular shopping site."
Brosky’s piece and the other essays, stories, poems, and artworks in Cream City remind us of the beautiful and mad bits of magic that can be made from ordinary life.