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Per Contra - Fall 2009

  • Published Date: Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle: Quarterly

This lit mag is generally considered to be one of the better on the web at the present time. They state rather proudly that they have received a special mention in the 2007 Pushcart Prize anthology, along with two Best of Web anthology awards, and a top ten Million Writers Award – pretty good stuff. In reading their latest collection of fiction and poetry, it is easy to see why.

Among the fiction entries, I particularly enjoyed “The Amma Who Took French Leave” by Rumjhum Biswas, a spare but engaging story about a housewife in India whose maid does not show up for work one day and she is forced to find another. The maid returns after a week, however, to relate a terrible tragedy which has befallen her, and the housewife is forced to confront the profound differences between the lives they each live.

A very good piece of flash fiction is “Vassar” by Gwenna Johnson, a haunting story of child abuse, all told in a single, long sentence.

A quick perusal of the archives brings forth a delightful story in issue 11 entitled “Mother of Pearl” by Sally Bellerose. The entire story takes place in a short space of time and concerns the banter of an eighty-year-old woman with her ninety-year-old husband about whether she was a virgin on their wedding day. The ending is perfect.

The poetry here is very powerful. Here are four stark lines from X.J. Kennedy’s “In Tiananmen Square”:

Mao’s countenance still held on high
Looks down where once had lain
Dissidents whose lightless eyes
Protested being slain.

H.R. Coursen’s “15 September 09” is more lyrical:

A hint of winter
in the wind,
as sunlight rides shadows past,
awash in the blue auditorium
of autumn’s long
slide past leaves coming to gold,
and losing grip on any season.

Per Contra refers to itself as an “international journal of arts, literature and ideas,” and to this end presents a number of poetic translations, including one by the great German master Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. There is also a brief interview under the heading of “Visual Arts,” and a book review by Joseph Danciger of Lewis Turco’s La Famiglia/The Family: Memoirs. On the whole, there is much to enjoy here, a website worthy of tuning to on a regular basis.

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Review Posted on February 14, 2010

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