In her Editor’s Note, Shanna Miller McNair states that the formation of The New Guard was based upon the need to create “something bold and unusual,” using a strategy of “juxtaposing the narrative with the experimental.” As you pour over the pages of The New Guard, it is quite easy to visualize and pin-point McNair’s original ambition. The New Guard presents a curious mixture of the traditional narrative with the experimental, whether it is intimate fan letters to long-deceased authors, short stories showcasing mythical transformations, or free-verse poems.
John Goldbach’s letter to the literary master, Proust, is both interesting and completely modern, brimming with online lexicon and text-message style abbreviations. While Proust loved elongated language and a mellifluous sense of vocabulary, Goldbach’s letter reads much like a speed-demon texting-fiend with a genuine affection for the classics. On the other hand, Tom Grimes’s letter to Frank Conroy, one of the faces of the memoir genre, is a testament to the power of literature and its ability to deeply resonate with an individual.
Harry Newman’s “China” speaks of wisdom and the quest for inner peace. He writes: “seek wisdom the Sufi saying goes even as far as China / and I think of that because you’re on your way again / though they meant a China of the mind the farthest reaches.” Despite the poem’s desire for a source of inner sanctum, Newman seems to have already found this missing piece.
On the contrary, Michael Pearce’s “Tattoo” is a moving and image-filled snapshot of youth in revolt, a carefree time when the uncertainty of the future seemed much more promising than the rigidity of sterile domesticity. He writes:
So who were you? A smart girl who’d quit school
and hung with Kuff and Wren and Bobby and Bobby’s yappy pup Roo
and read more than they did and liked the music they played
and got high almost every day and tried to believe them
when they said today is today and tomorrow isn’t anything
until it’s today, and you were the same girl who’d go find a payphone
that worked and call up your dad and argue with him for an hour
until you both gave up one more time.
Yet The New Guard isn’t all about melancholy odes to long-lost youth and vitality. Similar to the iconic pulp fiction writer Jim Thompson, J. Preston Witt’s “ColdBrook” is an extremely chilling portrait of the perversity and the darkness of the human soul. An old man is ravaged and beaten and then sewn into the decomposing flesh of a black bear carcass. When he finally wanders back to his home, his nephew, terrified and yet feeling the urge to prove his masculinity, shoots his uncle, believing he’s just killed an angry predator.
Certainly, one of the highlights of this issue is Jefferson Navicky’s “The Air Around Her Objects,” an obvious ode to Proust’s The Guermantes Way. Packed with beautiful prose and insightful observations, Navicky’s work is crafted with the best of Proust in mind without serving as a carbon copy. The narrator’s burning lust for his best friend’s lover, Justine, transforms into literary art through his usage of simile, metaphor, and imagery. “The Air Around Her Objects” molds descriptions into elegant poetry, elaborating on the maze-like possibilities of emotions and feelings.
Other notable works include: Erica Plouffe Lazure’s “The Cold Front,” Thoreau Raymond’s “Cancer,” and Matt Miller’s “Asante.” All in all, The New Guard is a unique mixture of literary works which showcase a range of talents and skills.