Wow, this issue of Georgia Review is a true literary bonanza! Subtitled “A Home in Other People,” the issue offers a broad retrospective of selected stories and art from 1984 to 2007. This is the second retrospective that the Review has done; the first one came out in 1986, and now the staff is both celebrating the 25th anniversary of that first retrospective, in addition to marking the start of the Review’s 65th year.
As one can probably imagine, just about every story in here is stunning. The issue kicks off with “Time and Fear and Somehow Love,” a Lee K. Abbott tale first published in the Spring 1985 issue. The story is told through the device of a mother writing to her son, whom she has long been separated from. The letter explains why she left, and what role drinking played in her departure:
It was booze?the charm and wiles of it?which had sprung her free of the times he was reading about; and it was booze which had given shape to her life, made it an enterprise of the elements he could look forward to in his own?namely, passion and want, and the darkness which imperils it all.
Jack Driscoll's “Wanting Only to Be Heard” follows a group of boys as they find serious trouble out on a frozen lake. It's a story about the fine line between bravery and stupidity, and being of the age when that line hasn't yet been demarcated. Jim Heynen then strings together several short-shorts under the rubric “Stories About the Boys,” a fine depiction of growing up on a farm surrounded by all the inherent wonders and dangers lurking out in the fields and in dusty corners of the barn.
One of the more gripping stories in this issue is William Gay's “I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down,” which later inspired an award-winning feature film titled That Evening Sun. In the story, an older man decides a nursing home is no place for him, and so he returns to his old homestead, only to find a man he has no respect for living there with his family. Being a rather stubborn and cantankerous fellow, he refuses to leave and his persistent antics spur a rapid-fire chain of events.
National Book Award winner Barry Lopez's story “The Mappist” instantly drew me in with its air of mystery surrounding an unknown rogue mapmaker. It's a beautiful way of speaking about changes to the land throughout history, and provokes thought on how and why those changes have occurred and continue to occur. As the mappist says: "I've nothing against human passion, human longing. What I oppose is blind devotion to progress, and the venality of material wealth. If we're going to trade the priceless for the common, I want to know exactly what the terms are."
There are far too many excellent stories in here to mention individually. Additional writers include Lee Martin and Joyce Carol Oates, among others. It's a real treat and a serious bargain to find all of these writers with some of their finest work represented, all housed in one volume.