The cover of this issue of Carve Magazine depicts a fractured two-story home engulfed in flames, and the image is appropriate for at least two reasons. The journal’s title and its ethos are inspired by the works of Raymond Carver, who certainly knew how to depict households in disarray. Further, the stories in this issue each relate to some kind of disaster, whether natural or personal.
In “The Possibility of Fire,” Jessica Barksdale’s first-person narrator confronts a domestic disaster. The narrator’s husband was physically abusive and even hit her in front of their two sons. After Robert left, “rehab fixed him up for a new wife” who took off after the man had a stroke. Now, the narrator has assumed the responsibility of caring for Robert, who is still abusive in spite of his inability to move his limbs very much or to speak clearly. Barksdale begins the story in compelling fashion; her narrator confesses that she wonders what it would be like to kill the man. Although Barksdale’s work is populated by people whose lives are unhappy, their respective disasters do not leave them broken.
Jeff Moscaritolo’s “A Chance to Get Involved” takes an unexpected look at the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami that knocked out Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The second-person story is told from the viewpoint of an American man whose wife is so affected by the devastation that she heads to Japan to try and help. After Bess abandons her husband, he finds it increasingly hard not to notice one of his fellow teachers. The narrator finds himself frozen before “the vividness” of Chloe Olsen’s face, “the colorful hues—pink cheeks, golden ringlets of hair, soft, dark lipstick, blue eyes.” Moscaritolo gracefully paints the picture of his protagonist’s loneliness in the wake of his personal disaster and ends the story in a tantalizing manner. As long as we are alive, he seems to say, there is the possibility that we can take steps to improve the lives of ourselves and others.
Carve sets itself apart with its focus on the writing and editing process. Each short story is accompanied by a comment from one of the journal’s editors that illuminates what made each piece stand out. The “Reject!” feature is an interesting idea in which the editors republish a piece that they had previously rejected, but that was published by someone else. The Carve reading committee liked Molly Laich’s “Make Do,” but turned it down because they felt the craft felt “a bit stilted” and the “ending was anti-climactic.” The story was later picked up by Corium Magazine, whose editor joins the discussion, describing why she accepted Ms. Laich’s piece. This look behind the curtain should be heartening for any writer who has felt the sting of rejection.
Writing is often a solitary pursuit and it can be difficult to know how our own processes measure up to those of other writers. Karen Celestan’s “Higher Ground” is set in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the piece is followed by a lengthy interview in which Celestan describes her motivation for writing the story. “Higher Ground” is a deeply personal work for the author; other writers may enjoy knowing that they are not alone when they get teary while composing a new story.
Although Carve is an invaluable resource for writers, the very slick journal will certainly appeal to anyone who enjoys the written word. In fact, enjoying the diverse selection of stories and learning the circuitous path they took to publication may inspire a reader or two to put pen to paper.