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Arkansas Review - December 2006

  • Issue Number: Volume 37 Number 3
  • Published Date: December 2006
  • Publication Cycle: Triannual

Peter McGehee’s “The Ballad of Hank McCaul” is a story whose setting begins in a hotel room, moves out to a pool hall, onto Claredon, a town an hour’s drive away from Little Rock, and then ends back in the hotel room. It begins with a problem that, by the end of the story, the narrator solves. Although it’s not as simple as all that, really, because the underlying conflict is deep and rooted and thick. The narrator, Sammy, having just visited the newly dug grave site of his lover, Hank, sums it up when he glimpses, as he is drinking beer, a sideways view of the Seventh Wheel’s clientele. “The whole world may change,” the story goes, “but the town you come from never will.” I am thankful for the essay “Nobody Smart Stays” by Raymond-Jean Frontain, which helped me to understand more than the story; it helped me understand the life of the author. The subject of Frontain’s essay is more than the subject of one author’s life and writings, though. It is also the subject of stereotypes and love and hate and the push and pull of one’s native land. There are over 200 pages here of stories, poetry, essays, and reviews, although the paper journal’s slim magazine-style design could easily fit into the inside the pocket of a notebook. The writing in Arkansas Review is limited geographically to the seven-state Delta region, but beyond geography, its scope is universal.


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Review Posted on June 07, 2016

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