A very special Swayze section, where contributors praise the mulleted icon from Dirty Dancing all the way to Donnie Darko. An action figure portrait gallery featuring Spiderman in repose, the Lone Ranger and Silver facing down the camera. A punk rock interview with iconoclast Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and five-dollar Fugazi. “We have a thing for pop culture.” Issue Two of Barrelhouse is fun. Though it tends to the silly side of kitsch, the comic eccentricities of some of the prose belies the quality and craft of the storytelling. With nearly all of the prose coming from male contributors, you can expect some father-son stories. In “Hey Now, All You Sinners” by Brian Ames, a father searching for his bipolar son drifts further back in time to the love of his life before he had a family. Putting his wife in a non-coma pales to the confession he must make about his past. Another son suffers his football coach father by shuffling his dead mother’s belongings from one corner of the basement to another in “Rivals and Hyenas Alike” by Sean Beaudoin. “Luck is for losers,” he reminds a girl, in a laconic, sparse style apt for the despondent narrator.
There is a postmodern story about a struggling writer finding inspiration in a southern franchise chicken joint’s “Three-Piece Combo with Drink” by Tom Williams, where you have to read on to see how far the writer, of both the story and the novel chronicled in the story, can take his adulation of fried chicken. Lee Klien argues amusingly, if not convincingly, that Barry Bonds shouldn’t even be an issue in an “overinflated” culture with a monstrous military and tomatoes the size of pumpkins. “Sex and Pills,” is a story adapted from the website into photographs and text images of the sex-addicted main character. Even Godzilla gets his due by Ellen Morris Prewitt: “He doesn’t follow the Code of the Samurais, the Code trumpeted by Ernest Hemingway and other testosterone-saturated writers. The Code does nothing for me.” Humor, kitsch, quirk and so much more under the surface. [Barrelhouse, New York, NY. Single issue $9. www.barrelhousemag.com]