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The Portland Review - 2005

Although it's not meant to be a special theme edition, it almost reads like one: "the men's fiction issue"—approximately 75 percent of the magazine consists of short stories by male authors. These are conventional, but highly satisfying pieces for the most part, the sort of well plotted tales that take one, ever so briefly and deeply, inside another's life. While these stories are quite different from each other in tone, in style and in the subject matter they treat, they have in common their uncommon psychological insight. Each one of these stories is narrated with close and astute attention to what moves and motivates people. While there's not a single dud among the group, for me the standouts are "In the Picking Room" by Randy Nelson and "Numbers for Everything" by Gary Fincke. "In the Picking Room" is narrated by a former "binner" in a denim factory in the days before these tasks were automated. Nelson's prose is exquisite, his sense of pace and timing are absolutely perfect, and the story is both poignant and realistic. Fincke's story is narrated by a woman married to an obsessive compulsive who cannot stop counting and his prose is spare and clean, creating a powerful balance to the compulsion it describes. While the emphasis this issue appears to be on prose, I must mention two marvelous poems by Quan Barry. []
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Review Posted on July 31, 2005

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