This issue of Inkwell contains a batch of strong short stories, many of which focus on the female psyche. Besides a couple lapses into a male’s perspective in the opening story by Alethea Black, Peter Selggin’s novel excerpt and Anthony Roesch’s “Two Good Dogs,” the remainder of the stories are told about females or from a female’s point of view. These stories are not necessarily feminist; many simply deal with problems often attributed as “female issues”: Kathryn Henion’s “Translating Silence” with jealously; Amy Ralston Seife’s “What We Do” with depression; Edward Kelsey Moore’s “Ruth and the Beer” and Susi Klare’s “Cosmo” with unhealthy attachment; and Melissa Palladino’s “Spring Cleaning” with guilt (among other issues).
Palladino’s piece was my favorite in the issue. Though at first put-off by the gory details, I soon realized it is an allegory in which a mother does not allow her daughter to burden herself with her mother’s faults. The flaws are actual body parts the mother must physically remove from herself and her daughter: “My mother’s fall cleaning project was me. She took my eyeballs out so I could see what she was doing, and then opened me right on the living room floor – all chambers open, all drawers exposed, all surfaces unzipped…She found little gobs of ugly brown fear all along my nervous system…She scraped that off as best she could with a vegetable peeler.”
In the two remaining stories by Kama Falzoi and Jackie Shannon-Hollis, the narrators are both pre-adolescent girls. Although the subject matter and settings are completely different, similarities exist in the way both girls scrutinize their respective fathers and choose to love them despite their questionable actions.
The poetry is not as strong in this issue, but I especially enjoyed Martin Steingesser’s “Sonatina for Tristan, Who is Blind” in which the poet uses all the senses besides sight to explain colors to a blind man: “And yellow. Watch out! the baby’s crying, that big wail / attacking ears like a swarm of killer bees, everyone / running for cover.” The poem made me wonder how I would describe colors to one who could not see.
This issue of Inkwell is superb and best enjoyed by readers who give all the characters the rereading and sharp scrutiny that complex fictional people deserve.