I wish I would have discovered Cream City Review twenty years ago. This issue on memoir, which celebrates the journal’s thirtieth anniversary, was the high point of my holiday reading because every piece offers something of interest. In his excellent introduction, an excerpt from his forthcoming book Then, Again: Aspects of Contemporary Memoir, Sven Birkerts draws distinctions between autobiography, memoir, and traumatic memoir. Wisely, the editors of Cream City Review also distinguish between “fictional memoir” and “nonfiction memoir.” Of these, I particularly enjoyed the fictional “The Fall of Iran” by Ed Meek—an adventure—and the nonfiction “Seven Dwarf Essays” by Michael Martone—an exploration of son Sam’s interest in dwarfs and the wider implications of dwarfism.
In his preface, the editor indicates that the poem selection “was guided more than usual by the test of how much of itself . . . a poem [is] giving us? How naked is it?” Thus I should not have been surprised by the frank language, explicit subject matter, and stunning imagery of Donald Platt’s “Les Papillons de Nuit.” Less explicit but very enticing is Thylias Moss’ “The Culture of Snowmen,” a meditation on particulate matter, frozen or otherwise, and Joseph Enzweiler’s succinct “The Burning” rests in the memory like a glowing coal. Also fascinating is “This Ain’t Precious,” a thought-provoking interview with graphic artist Art Spiegelman (Maus), who says that the simulation of reality that we experience in a mediated society “sucks the meaning out of everything.” Slowing down our consumption of media allows the art (written or visual) “to having meaning again, whereas for the most part I feel like I’m living in a bigger and bigger blur,” he said. Spiegelman is not alone. In the December 25 issue of Time, NBC Nightly News editor Brian Williams wrote about online national conversations, wondering “What if `talking’ means typing on a laptop, but the audience is too distracted to pay attention?” Blur, yes. Distracted, yes. Sigh.