The Georgia Review is a champion of verbosity, and this installment does not disappoint. The fiction is dense and energetic—particularly Julia Elloitt’s “The Whipping”—but entirely believable. The reviews, though brief, are given the room to expand. They don’t pull punches; Camille Paglia’s Break, Blow, Burn is dismissed as “showy,” for example. True, Paglia is a barnyard-sized target for a publication slinging MLA phrases like “postpartum existential quandary.” Nonetheless, any publication whose foray into “criticism” isn’t an opaque attempt to make friends is one to be admired.
David Wagoner’s one-act play depicting the personality of Theodore Roethke is the journal’s finest moment by far, not merely for its accuracy and flair, but because it also suggests that the impetus of The Georgia Review’s own verbosity can be found in the madness of isolation—or, if not, that it should. As he faces an ever-silent class of poetry workshop students, Roethke reaches further and further into the ether, throwing fragments of knowledge behind him as he goes. Even as Roethke cautions against empty extremes and pomposity, he grows more and more into an embodiment of his own imaginative principles—culminating in an image of himself in an ankle-length raccoon coat, dancing a two-step to a phonograph record, singing lyrics while his audience shuffles out of the class. It’s a strangely primeval, deeply unsettling image.
Though not a journal for the linguistically faint of heart, The Georgia Review rarely makes the mistake of sounding merely clever.