The winter issue of The Gettysburg Review features the captivating and bizarre artwork of Mark Greenwold. In her insightful essay on his work, Shannon Egan writes, “The paintings consider the societal boundaries and concerns of sexuality and physical decorum and, as such, pictorially catalog certain Freudian anxieties, corporeal urges, and dreamlike situations.” So, too, do the essays, short stories and poems in this issue. From Aaron Gwyn’s “Drive,” a short story depicting a couple’s highly sexual flirtations with death, to Kim Adrian’s “Questionnaire for My grandfather,” an essay in the form of questions through which the narrator explores the physiological motivations for her dead grandfather’s molestation of her mother, and how this abuse continues to shape her, this issue is all about the fascinatingly twisted psyche.
A standout essay is John Wenke’s “Tribal Bloods,” in which he theorizes that loyalty to sports teams has replaced our primitive loyalty to tribes. The urgency of Wenke’s prose elevates the subject and convinces the reader that American’s love of sports runs far deeper than mere entertainment value but is core to understanding the human condition. Tribes, sports teams, are key since, after all, “The modernist myth of the autonomous self has lasted for little more than a microsecond of evolutionary time.” This essay is a must read.
Bruce Bond’s “The News,” is yet another gem. Like all of the poems this issue has to offer, it’s somewhat narrative and relatively accessible, yet contains compelling images and rich sonic textures as in this excerpt:
Which is the greater mercy, she asks,
to know your husband has a month,
maybe two, or to go on gliding
over nightfall as a last bird,
a hope on a string, bobbing
in the wind that bears you up?
The issue also contains several works of new formalism, such as the whimsical poems by Hailey Leithauser. Also worth checking out is an intriguing poem, “Testimony,” by Sherman Alexie, which interweaves disembodied questions like “Who is crueler: the wolf that kills the chicken or the coyote that steals the eggs?” with a casual first person narrative of a sister performing the Heimlich on her friend.
This issue of The Gettysburg Review has many other equally interesting offerings and is certainly worth picking up.