My first impression of Ontologica was that it published a lot of non-literary nonfiction, essays that take a strong bias or are very persuasive. And while I still have that impression, I now realize that it is part of their aesthetic. “Our journal is dedicated primarily to essays of philosophical work,” say the editors. In fact, two of their goals are “to publish provocative contemporary work” and “to challenge the status quo.” In this, they succeed (see Edward Lyngar’s “A Tale of Two Penises” which discusses why male babies should not be circumcised and Edward A. Dougherty’s “Lessons on Totalitarianism”). But for the purposes of this review, I will focus on the fiction.
But first, I’m going to break that rule. Because although Marina Petrova’s “The Pharmacy” is listed as nonfiction, it has the more literary feel to it. Written in the second person, it chronicles how your life, “all stages of it, tragedies and triumphs, could fit into a couple of pharmacy aisles.” Petrova takes us through the aisles, with a somewhat dark humor:
What’s in the aisle between condoms and beer? Pregnancy tests. Tons of boxes neatly stacked on the self all promising an early response, assuming you want to know. Do you want to know? There are only two possible answers on this text. Regardless of the one you get there is a 50% chance you will feel that you have failed.
If the test is negative, breathe out and run. Or go back to the beer aisle. If it’s positive, in a few months you will be right back where you started—in the diaper aisle.
The main character in James Pouilliard’s fiction piece “I Had a Ball!” is a character you’d find on the cover of Weekly World News next to bat boy. Having read the headline “Boy, 10, Gives Birth to Monster!” as a child, the main character asks his parents if boys can give birth. Years later, he proves his parents’ answer to be wrong. Out of one of his testicles, he births his twin brother, who then ages at a rapid speed, both losing all baby teeth and growing an entire set of adult teeth within 24 hours. All I have to say is that although the story is outrageous, the style it is written in (and the numerous puns and jokes about balls) will have you laughing for sure.
And lastly, in Michael Sukach’s “Boxing Anderson,” the narrator is able to step into the shoes of Anderson—a professor who forces his students to buy his published work to study in class and whose shadow the narrator will “soon be boxing.” In the piece, he takes over one of Anderson’s classes and later introduces a piece of Anderson’s work at a literary event. The narrator ends with claiming that had it not been a literary event, “there would have been a bell, we would have emerged from opposing corners, circled in toward the center of the ring, and started throwing punches.”
I enjoyed reading the fiction in the way that it does, in fact, attempt to challenge the status quo, both in terms of style and content.