The Fifth Wednesday journal explores “the idea that contemporary literary and photographic arts are essential components of a vibrant and enduring culture.” This commitment to a “vibrant, enduring culture” is, in other words, a contemporary milieu of writing that allows the reader to explore fiction, nonfiction, poetry, photography, interview, and book reviews bound together under the auspices of Fifth Wednesday’s commitment to contemporary writing. This issue is like an abstract tapestry collage of stories and poems that—at first glance—seem to have very little that weaves the pieces together. On second glance, you realize it comes together simply by being interesting and vibrant.
Perhaps the short stories are the most compelling aspect of this issue of Fifth Wednesday—indeed, pieces like Raima Evan’s “The Magician’s Assistant” and Rachel Furey’s “Stealing Scalpels” are where Fifth Wednesday really hits its stride. These strong, character-motivated narratives, with interesting themes and ironic twists, draw the reader immediately into the stories. Both pieces paint a picture of the desperate, awkward social pathos of a child trying to make sense of right and wrong in their world and world-view. It’s as if both authors show readers what it’s like for a character to be introduced to the idea that the world is relative and then show how the character copes with this realization.
Morty, in “The Magician’s Assistant,” must come to terms with lying to his parents about taking a job as a magician’s assistant—finding in the process that he excels in drawing. Meanwhile, Riley, in “Stealing Scalpels,” tries to reconcile stealing for what she sees as the high cause of saving frogs from being dissected. Both of these short stories brilliantly juxtapose simple characters with complex themes and unanswerable questions with underscored dialogue, and they leave the reader unsure of how the short story will end—comically, poetically, tragically, or some mosaic of all three.
This issue of Fifth Wednesday contains two fantastic interviews with authors Ed Roberson and Elizabeth Strout. Both interviews peel back the onion-like layers of each writer and give readers insight into what makes the authors tick creatively. The interviews not only ask how Roberson and Strout “got to where they are” as writers, but, perhaps more importantly, also emphasize that the path to creative, interesting writing is varied and fundamentally driven by the internal forces of the author.
Poet Ed Roberson’s background and training in the sciences create a certain credibility for his writing—a membership, if you will, into scientific circles. More interestingly, however, is that his background, his training, and his experience work to create empathy toward the natural world and the complexities of natural processes that allow him to speak to audiences “in a unique way.” (As a side note, not all of Roberson’s poems focus strictly on the natural world—one of the most interesting pieces published in this issue of Fifth Wednesday is “Who You Callin’” in which a helicopter is described as the “ladle of rescue.”)
Author Elizabeth Strout’s background and writerly ambitions, however, are quite different. Her interview leaves the reader with a picture of a quiet Pulitzer prize-winning author, surrounded by notebooks and the strata of drafts and ideas. Strout’s interview illustrates not only her creative process as a writer but her reactions to her work after it’s been published. Both interviews are solid reminders that good writers can write good things in many different ways.
The poems, nonfiction essays, fictional short stories, book reviews, author interviews, and photography (a special nod of appreciation for Petra Ford’s “Left-Handed Encounters”) come together in this seemingly un-themed journal. Its contents and its authors all display fantastically modern contexts and work to continue to define Fifth Wednesday’s literature as complex and vibrant.