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Katy Haas

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Fourth Genre is the cacophony of reality sifted through arcs of narrative. Each issue raises the bar of representing reality, because it gives a new slice of it to the reader. Good fiction aches for verisimilitude or its opposite, and this issue of Fourth Genre proves that the rules are applicable to both life and the “unreal” life of fiction. This issue contains the editors' prize winning essays, Nedra Rogers's first place winner “Mammalian” and Casey Fleming's runner-up piece “Take Me with You.” “Mammalian” begins with bodily concerns and ends with a flourish of quotes, including Erich Fromm's famous: “Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” A fixation on the concept of physical self pervades many of the creative nonfiction pieces in the issue. “Alone in Amsterdam” by P.M. Marxsen begins with a quaint conversation between the characters of a painting and its attendant observer, a woman “alone in Amsterdam.” Rebecca J. Butorac's “A Self-Portrait of a Woman Who Hates Cameras” has a body-oriented narrative interspersed with pictures of her feet, shoes, and the various personalities of the combinations possible therein. Susan Messer's great story, “Regrets Only,” focuses on the need for a group of people to get away from their troubled friend. The narrative shakes the reader out of lethargy and then further into shock. The reader begins to think, “Is trouble contagious?”
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At 170 pages, The Florida Review provides a little something for everyone: poetry, fiction, nonfiction, comics, and book reviews. Some stand-out pieces include poems by Denise Duhamel (“Spoon” and “A Flower of Fish”), and an interview with poet Peter Meinke, who talks about his love for Donne’s “mixture of wit, formalism, and passion.”

Divide - Fall 2006

June 30, 2007
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Effective travel writing – like good fiction – creates an experience that is shared by the reader. The fourth issue of Divide, themed “Travel and Enlightenment,” is brimming with experiences and reflection.
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Sometimes, when you've read a large number of literary magazines, you begin to feel that one seems much like another. There is no danger of that happening with Circumference. This lively journal of poetry in translation presents a variety of poetic voices, languages, and styles through the ages.

CALYX - Winter 2007

June 30, 2007
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I'm happy to report that there are some absolute gems in this issue of Calyx. I particularly enjoyed the fiction; many of the stories here feature strong, distinct voices and new approaches to common themes. Raima Evan's "Gittel and the Golden Carp" is a fish-out-of-water tale which presents us with a Polish-American immigrant who feels uneasy in her new country, but whose strange encounter with a talking carp from the butcher's helps her come to terms with it. Another sharp tale is Annie Weatherwax's “Eating Cake,” which features Missy, a young adult whose homosexual brother has been killed in a hate crime; in Missy's small town full of people intolerant of boys who meet other boys in the woods, sympathy is often laced with judgment. Missy is wry, she's smartmouthed, and she's almost moved to violent retaliation against a closed-minded church lady who insults her brother's memory. This is a perceptive look at lives left behind by murder, as well as an acknowledgment of the potential for rage and violence in all of us.
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For those who enjoyed the first two issues of A Public Space, get ready for more of the same. The journal has settled into a steady routine: its “If You See Something, Say Something” department contains a mélange of cultural criticism and ruminations on environmental changes; its comics confront the potential disunity of strict cultural roles; its poetry is experimental and edgy. It’s the poetry which is most improved, particularly Eugene Ostashevsky’s “DJ Spinoza” and Anne Carson’s “Zeus Bits” (the latter a series of lighthearted fragments worthy of Fence). In fiction, Martha Cooley’s “Month Girls” features three word processors (April, May and June) telling the stories of their names to an orphaned coworker; the arbitrariness of a name provides a smooth segue into emotional indifference.

Wigleaf - December 2009

January 17, 2010
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This lit mag specializes in flash fiction and publishes stories on a regular basis nine months of the year. Then they publish their Top 50 selections: fifty short fictions that come from other journals. Several editors from Wigleaf routinely monitor what is being published throughout the country, select the two hundred they like best, and send these stories to another editor who chooses the fifty he judges to be the best of the best. A wearying process to be sure, but it makes for some great reading.

Vallum - 2009

January 17, 2010
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A special theme issue on play and the absurd, which includes the Children’s Poetry Contest Winners, an interview with composer Ruth Fazal, who sets excerpts (some of which appear here) of the widely acclaimed and popular book of children’s writings, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, from the Terezin concentration camp, to music; Ariela Freedman’s essay, “Letter from Jerusalem”; reviews; and more than two dozen playful poems. Contributors include the prolific and well known writer Lorna Crozier and a contributor too young to have made much of a name for himself yet, four-year old Mikhael Dylan Auerbach, who – absurdly or at least incredibly – “is currently interested in Spiderman, trains, soccer, and copying Old Masters like Braque, Matisse, and Da Vinci.” His drawings are exceptional, and if he really is only four, this is not so much absurd as frightening!

Tin House - Fall 2009

January 17, 2010
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“If you’re not seized by dread you’re not paying attention.” “We are now recognizing each other’s humanity, are connected and transformed by each other’s experiences. Or so we hope.” Do these statements contradict each other? Yes! Do they represent the realistic dichotomy of American life in the current moment? Yes! Do they summarize the dual themes of “dread” and “hope” that organize the work in this issue of Tin House? Yes!

The Round - Fall 2009

January 17, 2010
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The title page of this inaugural issue lists Mary Gordon, Paul Muldoon, and Michael Burke as the “featured contributors” – pretty impressive for the debut of any magazine. All the more impressive when we realize, though one has to read the contributor’s notes to figure this out, that The Round is essentially an undergraduate student publication. Nowhere does the journal announce affiliations, but several writers, all undergrads at Brown University, are credited with being co-founders of the magazine in their contributor’s note. The issue opens with a foreword by Gordon who compares the writing in this issue – at least in its aim to “invoke large terms” to Donne, Herbert, Dickinson, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Flaubert, Proust, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, both Eliots, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Auden, James, Cather, Faulkner, Welty, Porter, Trever, Coetze, and Morrison. This magazine’s work will remind us, she says, that “literature is beautiful and joyous and the place where we [are] reminded what it is to be most fully and richly alive.”
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