This issue of The Journal reads geologically: something is always happening but its effect is perceptible only with the distance of narrative. A tornado, referred to “in code” by one family, is revisited decades later in “Finding Oz,” The Journal’s William Allen Creative Nonfiction Prize Winner. Connie Vaughn rediscovers affections for her father she had long since dispelled: “If our differences are the centrifugal forces that have sent us flying apart throughout our lives, the tornado might be a form of centripetal action bringing us back together.” That thesis-sounding sentence – and the tidy structure – are more essay-ish than creative nonfiction, but it’s a damn good story regardless.
Another subtle stunner was John Fulton’s long story, “Sleeping Woman,” which took up nearly one-third of the entire journal. The slow, internal beginning of Evelyn, an aggressive divorcee, trying to pick up Russell, a shy, inexperienced man whose wife has been on life support for three years, eventually gathers into a riveting psychological look at the personality of relationships. Place calms and disrupts, binding and releasing its subjects throughout The Journal. Poet Carol Potter frames “the F word” around farm and land, a theme that resounds in Daniel Bourne’s “To The Old Country, Illinois.” A parolee deliberates his destination as he finishes his community hours at an animal shelter in Alan Rossi’s story, “Time in Texas.” Alison Stine’s layered poetry demanded more readings, as did David Moolten’s three poems, whose opening images are noteworthy: “Well into her first mile beneath a bridge / She understood his eyes right away” (“The Rape of the Sabine Women”); “Boasting after a wedding and her third / Mai Tai that he hadn’t touched her even once / In twenty years, she means no fat lip, / No cigarette brand stubbed in her arm” (“Tolerance”); “The bullet has no judgment, passing through / The school bus’ thin skin” (“Prodigal”).
The patience The Journal provides its writers – and readers – gives it a traditional sense of authority, one that endures.