Today at lunch my friend Libby told me about her plans to teach a course in dangerous writing. “You write about the thing that scares you the most,” she explained, “and turn it in to art.” In this issue of Clackamas Literary Review, my favorite pieces were ones that might be categorized as “dangerous.” For example, in Paul Yoon’s story “Lys,” the narrator skids through the precipitous terrain of subtle, taboo desire with his recently deceased father’s French mistress. Jose Skinner’s astonishing fiction, “Counting Coup,” the most provocative piece in this issue and definitely dangerous, cuts as close to the bone as any story can, laying bare an Apache boy’s sexual coming-of-age and subsequent betrayal. And Nancy Mayer’s essay, “Becoming Her Daughter,” honestly and unflinchingly explores the author’s relationship, past and present, with her ailing mother, and her complicated feelings upon her death.
“Original Sin” by Virgil Suarez, the 2005 Willamette Award Winner in Poetry, also explores the dangerous space of “Americanas, blond gringas, / ricas & delicious, but oh so forbidden,” ending with a bite of the “juicy plump fruit of the damned.” Beyond dangerous writing in this issue, there is also innovative and beautiful writing, for example, Matthew Roberson’s Willamette Award-winning story “Possible Side Effects” with its pharmaceutical section headings, and Bruce Holland Rogers and Robert Hill Long’s prose poem “Flood,” with my favorite line of the issue: “[The river] spread across the gravelly flood plain like a silver-backed herd, and fed in the low meadows.” Kudos too to Twila Jo Nesky’s story “Silly Putty,” well-written, entertaining, vivid, and “dangerous” in that it thwarts genre; it reads like an essay but is listed in the table of contents under fiction.
Here’s to all the dangerous writers in this CLR issue: Thanks for walking the tightrope and human-canon-balling out of the canon. Thanks for flinging open the dark closet doors, and for showing us the contorted, fanged things under the bed.