After nearly five years of being solely an online quarterly, Prick of the Spindle has finally released its first print issue. The goal of the journal is to “both recognize new talent and to include those who have a foot planted in the writing community.” It was satisfying to see this journal continue its goal by taking its first step into the print world with a display of impressive literary work.
Bonnie ZoBell’s short story, “Lucinda’s Song,” features an elderly woman having an affair with a married man while fending off her overly protective son and the homeowner’s association. ZoBell’s piece has one of the funniest introductions I’ve read in a long time, and it had me thinking that the protagonist would get along well with Betty White:
The night Ramon Fernandez first turned up at Sunday bingo hosted by the Sisters of the Precious Blood, Lucinda Sanchez couldn’t have care less. He and all those old hussies in attendance could kiss her 80-year-old ass. And, frankly, it wasn’t such a bad ass. They might be surprised.
I appreciate ZoBell’s portrayal of sex between a man and a woman who, to put it mildly, have some mileage on their years. Her style is warm and honest; she tells the reader, who is more than likely much younger than Lucinda, “hey, kiddo, these folks are old, not dead!”
Not all the fiction in this journal is cheery, though, as Adèle Cook drags the reader into a dystopian future where England is controlled by a fascist government in “Glorious.” What is unique about this piece is that it is comprised of six smaller pieces of flash fiction that switch characters and points of view. Each section is separated by “Freedom Press” headlines that carry ominous titles such as: “OUR GLORIOUS PM KEEPS HIS PROMISE; THE OLD MUST MAKE WAY FOR THE YOUNG.” The most haunting part of this piece occurs when the narrative switches to the second person where “you” are the executioner of two “fertility dodgers”:
Sipping hot coffee, you make your way to the detention room. They stand in neighbouring cells, able to talk but not see each other. “So, the next time you two love birds see each other, you’ll be standing on the scaffold. Your faces will be blazed across every building so you’ll be able to watch each other go.”
A grin twists your features as the woman sinks to the ground in a fit of grief and her husband calls: “Don’t cry. Don’t let them see they’ve won.”
Cook’s switch to the second person shows how fascism doesn’t just rise out of nowhere. It can come from ordinary people like you or me, and that is more terrifying than any iron-fisted dictator.
Cynthia Reeser’s interview with Sandy Longhorn tackles a fascinating subject: Are fairy tales still culturally significant? Longhorn writes poetry that is “grounded in the landscape and the people of the rural Midwest,” but she also instills a heavy dose of “non-Disneyfied” fairy tales into her poetry. She believes that new fairy tales are being made every day (she cites Pixar films Wall-E, Up, and Finding Nemo), and says that these tales have always been the backbone of human civilization:
At the root, a fairy tale goes beyond entertainment. There is cautionary purpose there, a moral lesson meant to build a stronger community. Even though we no longer gather around the hearth, we still have folk tales, just in a variety of media.
This interview reminds me of a storytelling festival I attended two years ago while writing for a community college newspaper. I remember how entrancing it was to hear these stories from ancient China, Europe, and Central America in this age of Twitter, Google, and Facebook. Fairy tales are certainly not disappearing any time soon.
My favorite poem in this issue is Jessica Cuello’s “Fed him, Loved him.” The poem is written in a series of couplets that depicts Book V of Homer’s Odyssey where Kalypso holds Odysseus hostage on the isle of Ogygia for seven years. Cuello skillfully packs in Kalypso’s obsession and the cleverness of Odysseus in as few lines as possible, leading up to a bittersweet ending for Kalypso:
She wants to seize his arms, force his eyes
on her. Bed is the last place
she holds him, and even here
he drifts, designs
his raft in his head.
Though she tastes bitterness
on her tongue, she cuts
the fabric for the mast.
Another well-written poem in this issue is Claire Stephens’s “What I Haven’t Told You.” The speaker confesses to an unknown reader about all the things she never told him or her. It starts off innocently as the speaker admits to seemingly insignificant things, but quickly spirals down into the darker depths of her subconscious:
You don’t know that Milo died, that
I wasn’t with her in the bathroom
that when I got back from school,
she was stiff and not cold but not warm,
and that I am ashamed to tell you Milo was a cat, and I loved her more.
That—and wait, this one’s funny—
that I thought if I was good enough I’d carry God’s second son?
That I would mostly rather be alone,
and that I’m not a sex fiend,
this is not a romance novel.
A literary journal can still function perfectly fine if it publishes online, but printing their material gives their readers a special kind of pleasure that the digital media can’t duplicate (we can’t blame them for trying, though). Longtime readers of Prick of the Spindle will be satisfied with this journal’s first step into the print world.