South Loop Review, a journal of creative nonfiction and art/photography published by Columbia College in Chicago, “publishes essays in lyric and experimental form.” The editors prefer “non-linear narratives and blended genres…montage and illustrated essays, as well as narrative photography.” While a good deal of the work in Volume 11 is considerably more traditional in both form and style than this description, there are a number of provocative “non-linear” and “blended” efforts. Among them are Kristen Radtke’s “Fragments of Teenage Magazine,” an essay on images of women in popular culture that takes the form of a survey or quiz in a popular magazine; Robert McClure Smith’s “The Spit: A Memoir of ’77,” a memoir that takes the form of an academic article with dense and complex footnotes; Sophie Ulmer’s “Waterproof Mascara,” a memoir/personal essay about self-image that takes the form of an outline with photos; Josalyn Knapic’s “Transfer: Journals on a Train,” a personal essay that takes the form of journal writing; Katherine McCord’s “My CIA,” a memoir that combines narrative and lists; Natalie Tilghman’s “Practice,” a memoir about illness recounted in short numbered fragments; and Pamela A. Galbreath’s “Three Note Song,” a family story told in brief discrete fragments.
Artwork, too, reflects the editors’ predilection for the intersection of genres. Two extraordinary portraits by Michelle Scott were painted from photographs she took, “Hero,” of a young man before he shipped overseas to Iraq in 2007 (where he remains) and the other of two men in Southern Sudan. These paintings are extremely powerful, capturing the essence of personalities in a particular moment. Deborah Pieritz’s cut-up schoolbooks on wood (“A Midwestern Prayer Wheel” and “Farm Girl”) are wonderful examples of mixed-media successes. One is mythological, the other folksy.
This volume includes a number of striking photographs, including “Blog Photo (#1)” and “Blog Photo (#2)” by Megan McIsaac, self-portraits accompanied by long self-revealing captions. Perhaps the most exciting photo is Daniel Shapiro’s “Louis Dog of Tarzana.” In a brief note Shapiro explains that he tried unsuccessfully to bond with his subject. It’s not hard to see why an affectionate relationship would be difficult with this rough little Chihuahua photographed against a wall where he glares at the camera, and his shadow appears menacingly behind him doubling his size and the impact of this ferocious little image.