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Harpur Palate - 2006

Harpur Palate is a sharp little journal featuring a center section of striking and surprisingly well reproduced visual art: otherworldly photography by Robert Kaussner, architecturally inspired drawings by David Hamill, gloriously colorful mixed media images by Michael Sullivan Hart, and an intriguing, surreal ink and paper study by Joseph Hart. The fiction found here embraces a range of styles, from Jacob Appel’s traditionally structured “The Other Sister,” about a woman who makes up stories about her dead sister because she’s so dissatisfied with the living one, to Donald Francis’s sly, sidewinding tale of obsession, “The Roof Line,” built from snippets that slowly build in coherence. The winner of the John Gardner Memorial Prize for Fiction also appears here along with two other finalists. All three are solid, though I was most impressed by one of the runners-up, Tara Mantel’s “These Woods,” a tale of children gained and lost told in fearlessly rich language: “she discovered that the baby’s heart, like that of her husband, was a pulsing flesh grenade quickly counting down to zero. In time, both failed.” Aside from one playful sonnet by Martin Bidney that retains traditional meter and rhyme while using tercets rather than quatrains, the poetry here is free verse. Many of the poems are unassuming at first glance—I’m thinking of “The Piano Downstairs,” by James Pate, which begins, “There’s a piano downstairs / not a small one either”—but nearly all of them lead somewhere unexpected, and there wasn’t a single one in this volume that I wasn’t pleased to have read.

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Review Posted on December 31, 2006

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