Zymbol is steeped in summer. A journal of surrealist fiction and poetry, this issue’s transcendence—occasionally incorporating the grotesque—appears with a tinge of nostalgia for warm days that have slipped away. With this nostalgia comes a feeling of loneliness, and an issue filled with introverted voices trying to find a connection to the world around them.
Lost in a moment, Ben Nardolilli’s “The Latter Time” savors a brief escape from linear time. Taking a full breath of summer, his poem teases us to escape through our own associations. Disorientation caused by a fragmentation understanding of place and time is central in Kevin O’Sullivan’s poems. Easy to read and rich in imagery, “Hap” was a favorite of mine. His “Nunc Stans” questions time: “in a meaningless synchronization / a no-hands agreement of timelessness / on high and pocketed pointlessness.” Through a pocket watch, he stresses how arbitrary it is to align collective analog times and highlights the experiential, individual time’s tendency to exist outside chronology. His poems will make you think.
A bit more depressing but equally interesting is Zachary Kaplan-Moss’s “One.” The story takes on similar themes of isolation, and epistemological limits—especially as they are reinforced by modern technology: “Umbilical phone, tenuous link between self and other, the people we suppose we know.” Kaplan-Moss tells the story of a highly perceptive man on the edge of something frightening: “Though he had outlawed thinking about Andrea, he cannot rid himself of her memory. It stays around and decays like rotting meat. Andrea’s rejection has meant more to his life than her love ever could have.”
One story pulls us into a cat-mouse romance. Ilya Lyashevsky’s “Chasing It” has the most enticing first paragraph of a short fiction piece I’ve read in a long time. What seems like a simple study of a man who wants what he can’t have and a woman baiting him progresses from a simple chase to something much more complex. The story itself is written like foreplay and its developments whet our appetite through to the final turn.
A tension between freedom, limited agency, and responsibility become physical in this issue. It is released in a few stories by metaphorically ripping off masks, literally eating flesh, and pulling away skin. Leonora Carrington’s “The Debutante” evokes sympathy for an introvert who just wants to be left alone, who finds more comfort visiting animals at the zoo than she does among her peers. The story indulges the fantasy that springs from obligations—of letting someone take your place in the public world, while you hold fast recluse desires:
In front of the mirror, the hyena was admiring herself in Mary’s face. She had eaten carefully all around the face so that just what she needed was left . . . Tired out by the emotions of the day, I took out a book and, near the open window, I gave myself over to rest.
A fantasy of leaving the body, of transcending with the help of another, is eloquently re-explored in Jennifer Hollie Bowles’s “Alloponappally,” a short fiction piece in which the narrator creates a new reality with her lover Danny.
This main essay by Marta Ferrer Gómez with Anne James (Zymbol editor) is an interesting synthesis of the big surrealist contributors from Freud to de Beauvoir to Breton, as they look at gender relations in the changing Surrealist alchemical imagery. Though full of allusion, steeped in history, and highly specialized, the essay is approachable to anyone with a passing interest in the Surrealist movement.
Like one of Zymbol’s characters, drowning consciousness in drink, fighting to break free of painful memories and unrequited love, in this issue of Zymbol, experience reigns supreme.