If pop culture irritates and disgusts you, then this magazine is for you. If you’re a pop culture junkie and your admiration for Patrick Swayze and Mr. T is rivaled only by admiration for your father, then this magazine is for you. Equipped to satisfy the panoply of individual tastes, Barrelhouse brilliantly succeeds at “bridging the gap between serious art and pop culture.” With a wide range of fare – essays, interviews, poetry, fiction, art – Barrelhouse has it all. I mean, come on, who else is publishing poetry about Ed Asner? Exactly. Fiction in this issue is strong across the board, and to be fair, each piece deserves its own review. Melissa Yancey’s “Recommended if You Dig” is a perfect example of the Barrelhouse blend, where the young indie protagonist may finally have fallen in love but becomes obsessed with the fact that the woman he’s seeing does not share his love for Neutral Milk Hotel, and this seemingly irreconcilable difference threatens to be the deal-breaker. Another excellent piece is Wendy Wimmer’s “Billets Doux,” an art/fiction piece (Barrelhouse art director Kylos Brannon does a top-notch job laying this piece out) comprised of emails tapped on a Blackberry, offering verbal snapshots cumulating in a portrait of loneliness and desire.
Essays include the winner of the Pop Culture Essay Contest, “This Essay Doesn’t Rock,” where Joseph Oestreich handles the slippery definition of what does and does not “rock,” as well as Dale Bridge’s meditation on the evil that is American Idol. David Barringer conducts an insightful interview with George Saunders, and Barrelhouse talks with Chuck Klosterman, effectively delivering two of the most distinct and relevant voices writing today about popular American culture and real people attempting to live in it without being consumed by it. In three issues, Barrelhouse has established itself as a magazine with a clear vision and a strong voice. Definitely keep an eye on this magazine. I recommend subscribing to Barrelhouse immediately; I’ve done the same based on the strength of this issue alone. [www.barrelhousemag.com/joomla/]