Since 1948, The Hudson Review has served as a platform for emerging authors and poets in a wide variety of genres, appealing to many aspects of American literature and culture. The Autumn 2016 issue shares poetry, fiction, essays, review, chronicles, and comments, each one truly unique and showcasing a wide variety of talents.
My favorite story in this issue, and a story that left a lingering impact on me, came from Lara Prescott in “Those Who Burn.” This is a story about the devastation that befalls a city afflicted with war and famine. Yarah tries to stay in the apartment where her father lived until his death, clinging to his memory and to the memory of the city she grew up in. Throughout her struggle, she cares for the many abandoned cats of the city, wishing she could do more for all of them. The hard decisions that Yarah makes when she is told, “It’s the right thing to do,” struck me as all too realistic and deeply upsetting.
Throughout the story, Prescott provides glimpses of other characters’ futures, reminding us that even though this world is so dark and so hard, these people will continue to live on, carrying the memories of their former struggles with them. However, the author wants us to remember the innocent creatures as well, the ones who cannot take care of themselves, like the cats that Yarah tried to care for. “Yarah could tell which had been strays from the start and which had been pets—the former housecats cried louder. They knew what it felt like to be loved, to be full, and they howled at the memory.” This line sent me to go hug my own cat, praying he will never have to experience such a hardship in his life, and I am grateful every day that I can feed my family, both human and furry.
To alleviate some of the weight of this story, I found many interesting collections of poems in this issue. Michael Spence shares a whimsical poem titled “The Fountain Fishers: Victoria British Columbia” where the poet paints the picture of a fisherman, only to show that his “hook—a chunk of magnet— / is encrusted with loonies like barnacles. He’s stealing / Coins tossed into the fountain by tourists.” As the “fisherman” notices that the poet is writing down notes, the two of them realize that they are both thieves—stealing the stories and dreams and wishes of tourists. Writers can likely see that trait in themselves, how they may steal bits and pieces of other people’s lives to integrate into stories they share.
This issue also contains a poetry sequence from Wendell Berry titled “Interruptions.” One of the poems reminded me both of Prescott’s story, and Spence’s poem:
We go backwards
into time, seeing only
the little we remember
of the way we have come.
In any recounting or retelling of our stories or the stories of others, we are likely to remember only some of what actually happened, and change or adjust other parts of the stories to better suit our current needs. The true rawness, the true reality of what we experience is part of the story, but is not often shared with others.
Aside from short stories and poems, this issue also contains essays and chronicles of cultural icons. For instance, Erick Neher provides a chronicle of Meryl Streep in “Our Greatest Actress.” Neher shares that “No one can possibly dispute Streep’s tremendous gifts, her enormous range, her vocal and physical craft, her peerless skills at conveying complexity, intensity, humanity.” However, as he analyzes the different works and activities of Meryl Streep, both on and off the screen, he points out that Streep has not challenged the common perceptions that come with middle and late career artists. I found it particularly interesting how Neher wants to see Streep challenge herself and “explore the complexities of the aging female body [ . . . ] to see an actress with Streep’s massive, unequalled skill set pushed out of her comfort zone.” What an interesting challenge! I would love to see this too.
Overall, I found that this issue of The Hudson Review contained a little bit for every reader. While I was instantly drawn to the poems and the short stories, the chronicles and essays appealed to the literary scholar in me as well. I plan to revisit them regularly for a long time to come, digesting each and every new perspective so I can then share them with my students and loved ones.