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Seasons of Purgatory

Fiction by Shahriar Mandanipour
Bellevue Literary Press, January 2022
ISBN: 978-1-942658955
Paperback: 208pp; $16.99

In Seasons of Purgatory, the fantastical and the visceral merge in tales of tender desire and collective violence, the boredom and brutality of war, and the clash of modern urban life and rural traditions. Mandanipour, banned from publication in his native Iran, vividly renders the individual consciousness in extremis from a variety of perspectives: young and old, man and woman, conscript and prisoner. While delivering a ferocious social critique, these stories are steeped in the poetry and stark beauty of an ancient land and culture.

Baltimore Review – Winter 2022

The Winter 2022 issue of Baltimore Review features creative nonfiction by Lucinda Cummings, Patricia Dwyer, Dan Hodgson, and contest winner Daniel Rousseau; fiction by Ross McCleary, Evan Brooke, Nicholas Otte, Mariah Rigg, and contest winner Robin Tung; and poetry by Francine Witte, Sara Henning, Rose Auslander, Stephanie McCarley Dugger, Lisa Suhair Majaj, and contest winner Aekta Khubchandani.

Head on over to Baltimore Review‘s website to read the Winter 2022 issue.

The Adroit Journal – No. 40

In this issue of The Adroit Journal, find poetry by Chen Chen, Eugenia Leigh, David Ehmcke, Sarah Fatimah Mohammed, Melissa Cundieff, Rose Alcalá, Monica Gomery, Gustav Parker Hibbett, Arielle Kaplan, Patrick Donnelly, Mark Kyungsoo Bias, Rick Barot, and more; prose by Kim Fu, Erin Sherry, Alyssa Asquith, Marcus Ong Kah Ho, Daniel Riddle Rodriguez, and Ann-Marie Blanchard; and art by Kathy Morris, Jack Jacques, Claire Hahn, Scarlett Cai, and others.

Plus five interviews that you can learn more about at The Adroit Journal website.

Take a Journey with The Birdseed

Guest Post by Emma Foster.

Literary journal The Birdseed knows where the best of flash comes from: the sky and sea, the beginning and end of things. In its third issue of volume one, The Birdseed’s flash pieces appear from those mysterious depths in succinct one hundred and fifty words or less each time.

The issue’s five themes, Space, Sea, Myth, Magic, and Death, all examine the unknown, the enigmatic corners of ourselves. Whether ominous with dark exploration like Katie Holloway’s “Reaching for Nana,” or composed of poignant emotion like Lou Faber’s “On the Shelf,” each flash piece leaves the reader with a little something afterwards. The emotional resonance of each either packs a punch or leaves reader’s hearts full, creating beauty and calm among the issue’s heavy, potentially heartbreaking themes.

As someone who loves and writes flash and microfiction, being dropped into a descriptive setting or a complex mind for a few moments never fails to surprise and challenge. The Birdseed’s journey into the places we dare to tread turns up satisfying results.

The Birdseed, December 2021.

Emma Foster’s fiction and poetry has appeared in The Aurora Journal, The Drabble, Sledgehammer Lit, and others. Links: https://fosteryourwriting.com/

The MacGuffin – Fall/Winter 2021

Nancy Buffum’s “Girl at Piano” on the cover of vol. 37.3 is a prelude to the trio of musical poetry in the exposition to this issue, composed by poets Frank Jamison, Tobey Hiller, and Vince Gotera. As with any other sonata, the recapitulation comes later—András Schiff through Murray Silverstein’s eyes; guitarists, off-stage (Berlioz anyone?) in Gabriella Graceffo’s “Relics”; extended vocal technique in Eric Rasmussen’s “The Irresistible Gobble”—but not before Lucy Zhang’s multi-part “Trigger” and Lynn Domina’s multi-peninsula “Yooper Love” develop the form a bit. Finally, we reach the coda, this time a scherzo: “The Slapathon,” from J.A. Bernstein.

Read more at The MacGuffin website.

A Tender New Year’s Resolution

Guest Post by Annie Eacy.

It’s New Year’s Eve as I write this, and I’m isolating in my childhood bedroom after testing positive for Covid-19 after nearly two years of masking, vaccinating, boosting, testing, and more. My whole body aches and all I would like to do is spiral in self pity. Instead, I pick up a green book on my bedside table: Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan.

Small town Ireland in the 1980s. A blue-collar man, reserved and hardworking, is married with five young daughters. He lives a measured and somewhat mundane life, not prone to much contemplation or self-reflection. That is, until one day not long before Christmas, he makes a discovery requiring an act of heroism that has the potential to change many lives and not all for the better.

This is a marvelous, unassuming novel filled with small, tender moments: helping his girls with the spelling in their Santa letters, filling hot water bottles for their beds, watching them sing in their church choir. “Aren’t we the lucky ones?” he says to his wife one night, and she agrees. However, his gratefulness is warped by the misfortune of others. How should they have so much and not share it? Keegan’s novel begs many questions about heroism and altruism, but the most compelling might be that while there can certainly be tenderness in heroism, can there also be heroism in tenderness?

I close the book, no longer wallowing in my self-pity. My mother knocks to offer me tea—her voice soothes, like honey for my sore throat. I hear her soft slippers on the stairs, the tapping of dog paws following, the click of the gas stove. Small, tender things. How much there is to be grateful for when you look or listen for it, and after reading Keegan’s novel, that’s what I’ll do.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan. Grove Atlantic, November 2021.

Reviewer bio: Annie Eacy is a writer living in the Finger Lakes. She writes poetry, fiction, and essays, and is currently working on a novel.

The Massachusetts Review – Winter 2021

This special issue is dedicated to the climate crisis and those being destroyed and changed by it. Work by Shailja Patel, Vanessa Place, Omar El Akkad, Rick Bass, Alex Kuo, CAConrad, Barry Lopez, Laura Dassow Walls, Craig Santos Perez, Salar Abdoh, Brian Turner, Lisa Olstein, Joseph Earl Thomas, Khairani Barokka, Amitav Ghosh, Marta Buchaca, Mercedes Dorame, Rob Nixon, Gina Apostol, and more. See a full list of contributors at The Massachusetts Review website.

Kenyon Review – Jan/Feb 2022

The Jan/Feb 2022 issue of the Kenyon Review features the winners of our 2021 Short Fiction Contest: Ted Mathys, Sam Zafris, Rachel L. Robbins, and Malavika Shetty; stories by Vanessa Chan, Lan Samantha Chang, Drew Johnson, and Joanna Pearson; essays by Melissa Chadburn, Beth Ann Fennelly, and Alice Jones; and poems by Ruth Awad, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Traci Brimhall, Katie Hartsock, Cate Marvin, Maggie Millner, Michael Prior, Natasha Sajé, and Joan Wickersham. Now at the Kenyon Review website.

Kaleidoscope – No. 84

In this issue, we see a common thread of resilience. Humor and an appreciation for the little things are along for the ride. Featured essay by Kavitha Yaga Buggana. Featured art by Sandy Palmer. Fiction by Kelly A. Harmon, Lind McMullen, and Courtney B. Cook; a personal essay by Jackie D. Rust; creative nonfiction by Judy Kronenfeld, Laura Kiesel, Kristin LaFollette, and Tereza Crvenkovic; and a book review by Nanaz Khosrowshahi. Poetry by Alan Balter, Lucia Haase, John Dycus, Linda Fuchs, Diane S. Morelli, Alana Visser, Wren Tuatha, and T.L. Murphy.

Download the new issue PDF at the Kaleidoscope website.

The Georgia Review – Winter 2021

The Georgia Review’s Winter 2021 issue with new writing from Morgan Talty, Victoria Chang, Cheryl Clarke, Ira Sukrungruang, Garrett Hongo, Edward Hirsch, and many more, as well a story by Maya Alexandrovna Kucherskaya translated from the Russian, two iconic speeches from the early years of the OutWrite literary conference, and the winner of this year’s Loraine Williams Poetry Prize.

More info at The Georgia Review website.

Buckle Your Seatbelts, You’re in for Quite a Ride!

Guest Post by Cindy Dale.

Air France 006, Paris to New York. The seatbelt sign comes on. The captain calmly announces, prepare for a little turbulence.  More than a little it turns out. If you’ve ever been on a flight where you questioned if the plane would successfully land, you know the feeling. I don’t profess to have completely unraveled (or made sense of) all the threads of this book, but I enjoyed the ride.  Part sci-fi, part political thriller, part philosophical treatise, The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier was a huge bestseller in France and won the Prix Goncourt.

It took a bit for the puzzle pieces to fall in place for me, but once the catalyst for these disparate stories was revealed the novel picked up speed. Apparently, the same flight with the same crew and the same passengers landed twice—four months apart.  Ultimately, we follow the fates of eleven passengers (and their clones)—from a contract killer to a film editor to the author of a novel called, you guessed it, The Anomaly. There are references to everything from Martin Guerre to Elton John to Nietzsche. Quotes from War and Peace, Romeo and Juliet, and Ecclesiastes. Sandwiched in there is the American government’s ham-fisted response to the mysterious second landing.

I confess to getting a little lost in some of the mathematical and astrophysics tangents, but the reader is drawn into the personal stories of the passengers (and their clones).  What would you say if confronted with an exact doppelgänger of you, right down to the same memories, the same secrets, the same neurosis? Definitely existential, but also humorous and with quite a few quotable lines. You may not be able to board a flight and go on an exotic adventure these days because of Covid, but you can take off on a wild ride from the comfort of home with The Anomaly.

The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier. Other Press, November 2021.

Reviewer bio: Cindy Dale has published over twenty short stories in literary journals and anthologies. She lives on a barrier beach off the coast of Long Island.

Expect the Unexpected

Guest Post by Julia Wilson.

Elizabeth McCracken is one of my favorite authors, primarily for her graceful blending of mundane realities with imaginative and unusual details, thus painting seemingly humdrum lives sparkling with the unexpected.

Bowlaway is no exception. Ostensibly a story about generations of an extended family living in a small town, McCracken’s odd characters are mixes of humorous, pathetic, lonely, yearning, creative, frail, damaged, liberated, secretive, selfish, and loving. They are mysterious and perplexing, not necessarily likeable but compelling. The book starts with a woman, Bertha Truitt, being found unconscious in a cemetery, without explanation. Thus begins the family saga of the Truitts, who own a bowling alley in the northeastern town of Salford.

But the real story in Bowlaway is the complexities of relationships, primarily marriages. In McCracken’s smooth sentences and use of an omniscient narrator, the reader is witness to weaknesses, loyalty, secrets, misunderstandings, and resignation. The partners in these relationships don’t have much eagerness in looking forward to the future yet have found a reality they can tolerate, containing both joy and heartache. There is tenderness between a woman and her mother-in-law, compassion of a wife in the face of her husband’s alcoholism, a recluse’s love for a mourning mother, and the relief of the few who escape the dreary life in Salford.

McCracken is at her best painting the facets of her characters so they come alive to the reader. They are flawed, self-interested, confused, and searching—as are we all.

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken. Ecco, November 2019.

Reviewer bio: Julia Wilson is an MA in Writing student at Johns Hopkins University

Ruminate – Issue 60

The writers and artists whose work makes up Ruminate Issue 60 probe the imagery and metaphor of being at sea. Included are Devon Miller-Duggan’s poem, “Perhaps a Prayer for Surviving the Night” and Peggy Shumaker’s “Gifts We Cannot Keep.” George Choundas’s engrossing story, “Katingo Carried 15,980 Tons and Gentleman,” transports us to the world of those who live and work on cargo ships. And O-Jeremiah Agbaakin’s poem, “landscape with broken ekphrasis,” muses on the image of the last ship that brought enslaved people to the United States. This issue features the winning story from our 2021 William Van Dyke Short Story Prize.

More info at the Ruminate website.

The Writing Disorder – Winter 2021/22

Winter is upon us and so is the new issue of The Writing Disorder. Find “Aesthetic Transmissions,” an interview with Robert Hass by George Guida; fiction by Robert Boucheron, Inez Hollander, Justin Reamer, Jeff Underwood, and more; poetry by Holly Day, Ash Ellison, Jonah Meyer, Bruce Parker, Frederick Pollack, and Kate Porter; nonfiction by Joan Frank, Donna Talarico, and Emilio Williams; and art by Nick Bryant.

Driftwood Press – Issue 9.1

Driftwood Press‘s latest short stories “Wing Breaker” by Rachel Phillippo and “Spanish Soap Operas Killed My Mother” by Dailihana Alfonseca take you from brutal arctic traditions to the cultural traumas of migrants in America. This issue also collects some of the most insightful and harrowing poetry being written today; these poems delve into illness, motherhood, religious pressure, and much more. Wrapping up the issue are visual arts and comics by Io Weurich, Kelsey M. Evans, SAMO Collective, Jim Still-Pepper, Andrew White, Kimball Anderson, & Casey Jo Stohrer. Now at the Driftwood Press website.

Cleaver Magazine – No. 36

Our Wintry Mix. Creative nonfiction by Bree Smith, Dhaea Kang, Christine Muller, Benedicte Grima, and Virginia Petrucci; flash by Eliot Li, Gabriella Souza, Cassie Burkhardt, and others; fiction by Amy Savage, Kim Magowan, and Maggie Hill; and poetry by Peter Grandbois, Kelley White, Brenda Taulbee, and more. Learn about this issue’s visual work at the Cleaver Magazine website.

Big Muddy – No. 21

This issue of Big Muddy includes work by Brian Baumgart, August B. Clark, Charlotte Covey, Mark Fabiano, Doris Ferleger, Spencer Fleury, Jennifer Gravely, Ian T. Hall, D.E. Kern, Bronson Lemer, Paul Luikart, Leah Mccormack, Matt Mcgowan, Luke Rolfes, Rosalia Scalia, Christine Stewart-Nuñez, Katie Strine, Rachel Tramonte, Carol Tyx, Christian Vazquez, Daniel Webre, Adam D. Weeks, Holden Tyler Wright, and Kirby Michael Wright.

Find more info at the Big Muddy website.

Shadow & Light in Samuel Martin’s Newest Novel

Guest Post by Elizabeth Genovise.

Samuel Thomas Martin, author of This Ramshackle Tabernacle and A Blessed Snarl, has produced a third work of high-caliber fiction: When the Dead are Razed, published by Slant Books. With the mesmerizing setting of urban Newfoundland as its backdrop, the novel follows the perilous adventures of Teffy Byrne, a woman determined not to raze the dead, but rather to seek justice on their behalf.

Long-interred mendacities, deeply troubled faith, and the constant threat of catastrophe keep the strings tight and ringing throughout the entire narrative as Teffy strives to solve the mystery of a young woman’s murder. There is both shadow and light in these characters and in the novel itself, with moments like these speaking to us from someplace raw and real and painfully recognizable:  “She hears a creak and spins, searches the tear-smudged room, but there’s no one there. Not a soul. Only her. Her and the goddamn wind. ‘And you!’ she turns on Christ. ‘Why is it that we ask and ask and ask and you do nothing? You do nothing! Not for me or Fin or Ger. Not for any of us! Who are you!?’ she screams. ‘Who are you to shuck off being God!'”

Martin’s novel is a wild ride, but its sensational plot does not undercut its exploration of critical ideas, specifically the necessity of memory, truth, and justice.

When the Dead are Razed by Samuel Thomas Martin. Slant Books, September 2021.

Reviewer bio: Elizabeth Genovise is an MFA graduate from McNeese State University and the author of three short story collections, the most recent being Posing Nude for the Saints from the Texas Review Press. https://www.elizabethgenovisefiction.org/

Valley Voices – 21.2

This issue’s Special Feature is “Beyond Illusory Space” by Albert Wong, who is also interviewed by John Zheng. Lauri Scheyer interviews Lenard D. Moore. In Haibun & Tanka Prose: Rich Youmans, Keith Polette, Ce Rosenow, and Terri L. French. Poetry by Elizabeth Burk, Ambrielle Butler, Andrea DEeken, Theodore Haddin, Charlene Langfur, Ann Lauinger, George Looney, Ted McCormack, Adam Moore, Steve Myers, Dan Pettee, Margo Taft Stever, and Jason Visconti. Find prose contributors at the Valley Voices website.

New England Review – 42.4

Last year at this time we released our first issue dedicated to emerging writers, and now with 42.4 we’ve done it again. While this issue offers up the range of voices, genres, and styles New England Review promises every quarter, this time that mission is accomplished by writers who won’t be recognizable to most readers, that is, they’ve not yet published a book or full-length collection. Find a selection of this year’s contributors at the New England Review website.

Glass Mountain – Fall 2021

Volume 27 is out with art by Isabella Celentano, David Dodd Lee, Weining Wang, Emily Fannin, Nicole Choi, and more; poetry by Jose Wilson, Tom War, Tobias Tegrotenhuis, David Romanda, Riley Morrison, Annie Martin, Delaney Kelly, Ambrose Day, and Lorelei Bacht; and prose by Amber Barney, Nicole Collingwood, Devan Hawkins, Haley Herzberg, Hannah Lindsay, Khalid McCalla, Adia Muhammad, Elena Negrón, and Beatrix Zwolfer. Plus the winners of the Robertson Prize. More info at the Glass Mountain website.

A Totally Fine Flash Collection

Book Review by Katy Haas.

Zac Smith wants you to know that everything is totally fine. Or maybe it’s totally fucked. Or maybe it’s totally normal. Or maybe it’s somehow all three at once. Forthcoming Everything Is Totally Fine is a collection of flash fiction presented in three sections: “Everything is Totally Fucked, “Everything is Totally Fine,” and “Everything is Normal Life.” The stories are a little zany, a little bit off-kilter, which makes every page fun and unexpected. But there is one thing a reader can come to expect after reading a few of these little stories: things are maybe not okay, despite the narrators’ wishes to repeat how totally fine it all is.

The narrator of “Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts Frosted S’mores Pastries 2ct” wants to “explore new ways of feeling like shit” and ends up “feeling like shit in the wrong way, or feeling like the wrong kind of shit.” The man in “Giving Up Requires Agency in a Way that Feels Like It Shouldn’t by Virtue of Being the Act of Giving Up,” leaves the piece feeling “miserable in a deep, ominous way.” Even the titular octopus of “The Octopus” “felt unhappy and didn’t know what would make it happy. It reasoned possibly nothing could.”

Maybe it’s the shorter, colder days, or the approach of year three of a global pandemic, or reflections on society and climate change and politics and on and on and on that makes these hopeless stories so enjoyable and relatable despite the pitiful and off-the-wall circumstances. Maybe it’s the mix of seriousness and silliness that is everyday, normal life, or the vague notion that none of it matters, not really. Whatever it is, Zac Smith’s figured it out in this fun, fucked, fine collection.

Everything is Totally Fine by Zac Smith. Muumuu House, January 2022.

The Malahat Review – Autumn 2021

The Autumn 2021 issue is here featuring the winner of our 2021 Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction. Poetry by Y. S. Lee, Laurie D. Graham, Yuan Changming, Sebastien Wen, Allison LaSorda, Danielle Hubbard, Elisabeth Gill, Rozina Jessa, Sue J. Levon, and morej, as well as fiction by Jenny Ferguson, Sara Mang, and Cassidy McFadzean. Find more contributors at The Malahat Review website.

Crazyhorse – Fall 2021

Featuring the 2021 Crazyhorse prize winners in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, Mary Clark, Jung Hae Chae, and Mark Wagenaar; a debut story from Nancy Nguyen; fiction from Nicole VanderLinden, Weston Cutter, and Timothy Mullaney; an essay from A.C. Zhang; and poems from Lisa Low, Michael Prior, Mary Kaiser, Jose Hernandez Diaz, and Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad, among others. Now on Crazyhorse website.

A Homey Little Book

Guest Post by Petra Mucnjak.

This novel begins with a young girl named Emily Benedict returning to the small town of Mullaby, where her mother had grown up and her grandfather still resides. Although her grandfather’s demeanor appears to be somewhat aloof, her grandfather welcomes Emily home, generously offering her the choice of picking one of his many empty spare rooms as her bedroom. Naturally, the girl chooses her mother’s former room and soon realizes that it possesses an extraordinary air to it. Then there is the issue of the mysterious lights which have the habit of appearing over the lake at night . . .

The Girl Who Chased The Moon is the first book I have read by Sarah Addison Allen and, expecting a syrupy family-reconciliation-romance novel, I was delightfully surprised upon encountering a humorous, warm, humane tale about family, friends, and how being haunted by the ghosts of the past doesn’t necessarily have to mean havoc. Miss Allen’s writing is very poetic, her words luring the reader into her small American town with no more or less than the charm of a siren. Sentences like “The air outside was tomato-sweet and hickory-smokey, all at once delicious and strange,” brought me into the center of this wonderful atmosphere, making my senses hum.

Continue reading “A Homey Little Book”

Baltimore Review – Fall 2021

New issue of Baltimore Review with new poetry by Iqra Khan, Gerry LaFemina, Caroline Pittman, Dannye Romine Powell, Emily Franklin, Merna Dyer Skinner, John Glowney, and Janet Jennings; fiction by J.T. Robertson, Madison Jozefiak, Nicholas Maistros, and Justine Chan; and creative nonfiction by Brandon Hansen, Morgan Florsheim, and Kerry Folan.

More info at the Baltimore Review website.

Alaska Quarterly Review – Summer & Fall 2021

In this issue, find the novella “Like a Bomb Went Off” by Kristopher Jansma. Stories by Mackenzie McGee, Nathan Curtis Roberts, Jonathan Starke, Ada Zhang, Matt Greene, Heather Monley, and Laurie Baker. Essays by Jehanne Dubrow, Dawn Davies, Jane McCafferty, Alex Chertok, Kirsten Reneau, Jai Dulani, and Sara Eliza Johnson. One long poem by Bruce Bond, and other poems by Felicia Zamora, Lara Egger, and more. Find more poetry contributors at the Alaska Quarterly Review website.

Nimrod International Journal’s 2021 Prize Winners

Issue 43 of Nimrod International Journal is all about award winners! Check out the winners and finalists of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction and the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry.

The Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction

First Prize
“White Black People” by Celine Aenlle-Rocha

Second Prize
“The Inventories” by Paula Closson Buck

Honorable Mentions
“A Dolphin in Pain” by Rachel Furey
“God Is In Your Body” by Rachel Reeher

“Wife Of; or, What Does It Mean to Be Haunted?” by Jennifer Blackman
“The Southern Part of the State” by Teresa Milbrodt
“Thug” by Edvin Subašić

The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry

First Prize
“Spell for Patience” and other poems by Emily Rose Cole

Second Prize
“Now” by Julie Marie Wade

Honorable Mentions
“Vanishing Point” and other poems by Laura Apol
“Like a Friend” and other poems by Francesca Bell
“Everything I Love I Want to Consume” and other poems by Angela Sucich

‘The Midnight Lie’

Guest Post by Shaelynn Long.

Marie Rutkoski’s The Midnight Lie is a riveting combination of a society rooted in socioeconomic and hierarchical issues and a young woman who believes the life of crime she has chosen was, in fact, her choice. When the main character, Nirrim, discovers that the rules that were seemingly in place to keep her safe are doing more than that, she partners up with a gorgeous traveler, Sid, to find out more about the magic within the places she’s been kept from.

The story has it all: excitement, a love interest, magic, and mystery. It would also be remiss not to mention the LGBTQ nature of the romantic plotline, which is told beautifully. Overall, the story is worth the read, especially if you’re seeking something rooted in the fantastical that still discusses the problematic nature of the relationships between those who have and those who do not.

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 2020.

Reviewer bio: Shaelynn Long is a Michigan-based author who spends the majority of her free time consuming all the books she can, often while surrounded by her three dogs. She is the author of Blur, Work In Progress, and Dirt Road Kid. You can find more about Shaelynn at her website.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Weber – Fall 2021

The Fall 2021 issue of Weber features a Bernard DeVoto Subfocus which includes an interview with Mark DeVoto, as well as work by Mark Harvey, Nate Schweber, David Rich Lewis, Russell Burrows, and Val Holley. Also in this issue: poetry by Christian Woodard, Eric Paul Shaffer, Stephen Lefebure, Taylor Graham, Joseph Powell, Angelica Alain, and more; and essays by Adam M. Sowards and Ralph Hardy. Find fiction contributors at the Weber website.

Discovering Not New Fiction

Guest Post by Raymond Abbott.

This book is not new, so what you get is not new fiction as the title suggests. New Fiction from New England was published in 1986 by Yankee Books in Dublin, New Hampshire. Twenty-nine stories and not a clunker in the bunch. All were originally published in Yankee Magazine back when Yankee published stories (fiction). It no longer does, and it is lesser in my opinion as a magazine for no longer doing so. The editor then was Deborah Navas, a skillful writer in her own right.

If you’re looking for variety, and solid storytelling, you will get it here, in abundance, that is if you can find a copy. But do try!

New Fiction From New England edited by Deborah Navas. Yankee Books, 1986.

Reviewer bio: Raymond Abbott lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Finding the Childlike Magic Within

Guest Post by Haydyn Wallender.

For as long as she can remember, Scarlett Dragna has dreamed of Caraval: a magical show where fantasy and reality collide. Legend, the mastermind behind the show, has declined to return any of Scarlett’s letters of urgency to see his magic—until now.

Swept off of her island by a mysterious sailor, Scarlett and her sister Tella aren’t just players of the show—they are the main attractions. Whisked into a world where nothing is as it seems, and with countless warnings to not believe what her eyes tell her, Scarlett learns that following her heart is the only way to find the truth—and her sister—before it’s too late.

Garber’s language and characters make the magic of her story come to life. Creating a strong bond between her readers and her characters using childlike wonder, hope infuses the pages with every turn, despite all the tension, confusion, and panic that is a common theme throughout this novel.

This book marvelously captures what it’s like to be caught in between a child and a young adult, where themes of love, sisterhood, and courage fill the pages. Garber’s ease of writing a story so full of twists using these themes is evident in her style and the composition of her work; each chapter seems to build up to something larger, as if Legend himself is creating the storyline. It is a wonderful novel for all who are grasping for that little bit of child—and magic—still left in oneself.

“Magic will find those with pure hearts, even when all seems lost.” ―Morgan Rhodes

Caraval by Stephanie Garber. Flatiron Books, May 2018.

Reviewer bio: Haydyn Wallender is an insatiable reader, writer and reviewer. Her experience with written work(s) extends back through her undergraduate, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English at Washington State University. Her writing style and English-based experiences can be found at her website: (haydynwallendershowcase.com).

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

wildness – November 2021

Featuring some wonderful poetry, fiction, and narrative nonfiction from: Geoff Anderson, Shuang Ang, Claudia Delfina Cardona, Aaron Caycedo-Kimura, Stephanie Chang, Bryce Emley, Miguel Barretto García, Janalyn Guo, Bill Hollands, Ricardo Frasso Jaramillo, Karishma Jobanputra, Ravi Mangla, Shannan Mann, Sham-e-Ali Nayeem, Robert Okaji, D. A. Powell, Monica Prince, and AM Ringwalt. Find this issue at the wildness website.

One Fierce Follow-up

Guest Post by Carla Sarett.

A long weekend, and no page-turner in sight. Luckily, Carry The Dog by Stephanie Gangi arrived in my mailbox. Gangi’s debut novel, The Next, was fiercely funny; while this one’s not a comedy, it is every bit as fierce.

At almost 60, Manhattanite Bea Marx lives with an icy legacy: her mother, Miriam, took erotic pictures of her kids (the “Marx Nudes) and then killed herself after the death of Bea’s teenaged brother. Now, Bea’s life seems on hold: she’s even married the same philandering man twice. She’s obsessed with how things look (like wrinkles and Balenciaga bags) but she fails to see people realistically; she’s locked herself out. When Hollywood and MOMA come knocking for Miriam’s story, Bea starts to confront childhood truths. She finds layers and layers to unwrap, each progressively darker. But Gangi’s not after the darkness: this is a story of possibilities.

I disagreed, on many levels, with Bea’s final decision. But I am still thinking about it. That is a lot for one book to accomplish.

Carry the Dog by Stephanie Gangi. Algonquin Books, November 2021.

Reviewer bio: Carla Sarett’s novella about maverick female artists, The Looking Glass, was published by Propertius Press in October, 2021.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

A Magnetic Read

Guest Post by Julia Wilson.

There is something magnetic about a story that centers on feral children, unfettered by adults, who live by their own rules and justice. A Luminous Republic does just that, evoking memories of the Salem witch trials and Lord of the Flies.

The hordes of unchaperoned children in this novel arrive to the city mysteriously, and it’s uncertain whether their purpose is to wreak havoc or they only seem that way because the society they’ve set up runs contrary to rules most adults abide by. The narrator, who himself is guilty of transgressions and lack of empathy, struggles with his feelings about this mob of mysterious children who disappear every night into a secret civilization.

“They’re just children . . . children we’ve treated like criminals.” But what if their own children are inspired by these untamed children? Then how do the adults feel about the innocence of this ragged group?

Barba uses foreshadowing to allow the reader glimpses of grim events to come, keeping tension and foreboding strong. The reader knows from the outset that the situation deteriorates tragically for many involved, but not how, when, or why. Through this narrative technique, Barba also allows the narrator time to lay blame and normalize behaviors which cross into forbidden territory.

This is a gripping and beautifully written book which questions the ease in which members of a ruling society can excuse behaviors that cast out those who differ, believing that incorporating these nonconformists will weaken the bonds of their carefully molded world.

A Luminous Republic by Andrés Barba. Mariner Books, April 2020.

Reviewer bio: Julia Wilson is pursuing a Masters in Writing at Johns Hopkins University.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Bennington Review – Issue 9

“The Health of the Sick.” Many of the pieces in this issue of Bennington Review display a keen awareness of the vulnerability of the human body, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Poetry by Michael Bazzett, Kelly Moore, John Sibley Williams, Eryn Green, Rebecca Zweig, Chris Dahl, Elisa Gabbert, Sandra Simonds, Holly Amos, Sarah Barber, Benjamin Landry, Tom Paine, Suphil Lee Park, K.A. Hays, John Blair, Anna Leahy, Stella Wong, Toby Altman, Cynthia Cruz, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Angela Ball, Mary Biddinger, Leah Umansky, and more. See what you’ll find in prose at the Bennington Review website.

Chloe Yelena Miller Interviews Lindsay Merbaum

Guest Post by Chloe Yelena Miller.

Chloe Yelena Miller, author of Viable (Lily Poetry Review Books, 2021) interviews Lindsay Merbaum, author of The Gold Persimmon (Creature Publishing, 2021).

I so enjoyed reading your book, Lindsay. I was curious to understand what “feminist horror” meant, and these two, interwoven, gender-focused storylines offer a clear definition. The psychological horror of loneliness and loss and the distance between self and the mother figure felt tangible throughout the book. The characters were seeking physical and emotional comfort, despite or because of what’s happening around them. I admire how easily the characters’ mothers’ voices interject in scenes where the mothers would not otherwise be present. Continue reading “Chloe Yelena Miller Interviews Lindsay Merbaum”

Southern Humanities Review

In the current issue: nonfiction by Barbara Liles and JJ Peña; fiction by Barbara Barrow, Erin Comerford, Judith Dancoff, Erica Jasmin Dixon, and Lee Rozelle; and poetry by Elizabeth Aoki, Mary Leauna Christensen, Noah Davis, Armen Davoudian, Marlanda Dekine, Andrew Hemmert, Maurya Kerr, Cate Lycurgus, Athena Nassar, Khalisa Rae, Darius Simpson, and Ariana Francesca Thomas.

More info at the Southern Humanities Review website.

“Blowback” by Mimi Drop

Guest Post by Bonnie Meekums.

As a flash fiction writer myself, I love to read other writers’ work, usually while making myself a cup of tea or waiting for an appointment to start. That’s one of the beauties of flash. You can devour a complete word-cake, and feel ready for more.

Mimi Drop’s offering “Blowback,” at 755 words, isn’t as short as some of the micros I read (and write), but even the title pulls its weight. It was only after reading the story a couple of times that I understood the significance. Dealing as it does with the difficult topic of PTSD, it has resonances with the word ‘flashback,’ examples of which are given in the story as the protagonist struggles to disassociate normal, everyday actions from his traumatic memory. But there is another, more sinister meaning to this word, which has to do with the precise nature of that traumatic memory.

I’m not in the business of giving spoilers, so you will just have to read it to discover that other meaning. Suffice it to say there is a juicy twist towards the end of the story.

Blowback” by Mimi Drop. Flash FIction Magazine, September 2021.

Reviewer bio: Bonnie writes novels (A Kind of Family, Between the Lines), flash fiction/memoir (Dear Damsels, Reflex, Open Page, Moss Puppy, Dribble Drabble), and the odd poem. www.bonniemeekums.weebly.com

Extremes of Pleasure and Passion

Guest Post by Vikash Goyal.

George Milles is the mind of the 21st century teen. He is beautiful. He is a boy with no ambitions—unless you count wanting to live in Disneyland as one. He doesn’t know the pathways of his life and is consequently lost midway. He is passive and has a dormant attitude. His beauty is unparalleled and draws boys to him like flies to turds. But with so much attention in his life, it is still lifeless.

Cooper’s semi-autobiographical five book series is inspired by the writings of de Sade, which is quite evident while reading. Closer is the first in the series, perfectly introducing the protagonist George. The book, at times, reads like a pirated version of de Sade’s The 120 Days Of Sodom although nowhere near the majesty of it.

The teens who form the center of the book are disturbed, confused, and fake. They move around like a body without a belly button. Their only solace is in drugs and sex. They know no human bonds and let their death bound lives pass them by embroiled in perpetual flimsy relationships.

The writing is in teen lingo, but reads well enough. The book doesn’t hold on to a proper plot and is written in more of a documentary style. There is a dissection of the mind of the coming-of-age youth, spelling out the conditioning of priority-devoid teens. The book is refreshing in its matter of fact portrayal of homosexuality without the unnecessary drawing of the microscope over their sexuality or struggle.

George, the protagonist, is the thread in the book that binds the different unique characters, who at some point, share a liaison with him. Not one character in the book is sure and positive about his life, including a couple of characters in their forties. The book tries to encapsulate the extremes of pleasure and passion through episodes of gross torture and sexual acts, and, in a couple of cases, even death.

The book can seem to move in circles now and then, ending up becoming a few pages too many. For those that like to experiment.

Closer by Dennis Cooper. Grove, 1990.

Reviewer bio: Vikash Goyal is a writer of prose and poetry, best known for his blog “Kashivology” on WordPress, that chronicles the defining moments in the life of its protagonist, Kashiv, through a series of surrealistic, existential and philosophical prosaic poetry. He also reviews books on Instagram @Kashivology.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Experiencing One’s Self

Guest Post by Diana De Jesus.

Nietzsche once remarked, “In the end, one experiences only one’s self.”

The novel Hating Olivia: A Love Story by Mark SaFranko truly emphasizes this notion through the eyes of our main protagonist Max Zajack, a struggling artist and wannabe writer who lives in a rundown apartment in New Jersey. To support himself, Zajack takes on a low-paying job loading trucks for a living and playing gigs in nightclubs and bars. During one of his gigs, he meets Olivia Aphrodite, a literature student who changes his life in more ways than one. Continue reading “Experiencing One’s Self”

Stories of Endurance

Guest Post by Ann Graham.

Eleven short stories mostly first published in well-known literary journals delve into the sinewy reality of our being human animals. The first story explores the emotionally precarious time for female teens. In the second story, “Feast,” Rayna’s miscarriage causes her to experience hallucinations. “I saw the first baby part in a bouquet of marigolds. . . .”

In “Tongues” Zeyah thinks for herself and endures the anger of their pastor and her parents. Gloria is dying of cancer in” The Loss of Heaven,” and Fred doesn’t understand her refusal of more treatments: “He wanted to shake her, grip hard into those bird-boned shoulders until [ . . . ] only a monster would treat a dying person like that.”

In “The Hearts of Enemies” complex mother daughter relationships are derailed with each one’s own private emotions.  In “Outside the Raft” the guilt after a near drowning, “I didn’t know how to apologize for wanting to save my own life.” “Exotics” is the shortest story and, for me, absolutely accusatory of our animalistic capacity for cruelty.

Despite some of the subject matter, the stories are uplifting in that we learn about endurance. Moniz exposes truths about our animal-ness that nobody wants to admit or accept as reality and shows us how we might survive anyway. Dantiel W. Moniz is an author unafraid to poke our corporality and the way it blends with our psyches.

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz. Grove, February 2021.

Reviewer bio: While trying to remain hopeful that democracy will survive, Ann Graham reads and writes in Texas. Once in a while, she comments about a short story on her blog: www.ann-graham.com.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

A Lifetime in a Minute

Guest Post by Mimi Drop.

“I hurled paper and paste into space, as a tortured howl climbed from occult depths. I knew what I must do.”

Flash fiction has a way of getting under my skin, like poetry. I read it once, twice, looking for meaning. Just as I reach understanding, it elevates. Oh, there’s another level. I found it. And above? Another.

“After I Do” by Bonnie Meekums appears to sum up a marriage in trouble. Or is it? Marriages are long, complicated tomes punctuated by passages of reflection and climax. We remember how we began. We begin again. The writing, lovely in both conception and execution, gives a lifetime in a minute, which is about how long it takes to read it. Enjoy.

After I Do” by Bonnie Meekums. Reflex Press, May 2020.

Mimi Drop’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, Bright Flash Literary Review, and THAT Literary Review, to name a few. Links at http://mimidrop.com/.

Cutleaf – Issue 1 Volume 17

Issue 17 of Cutleaf is live. In this issue, Melissa Helton shares two poems beginning with “The Teenager Has Gone Witchy.” Hanna Ferguson uses food to recount important moments in her life in “An In-Progress Cookbook of Recipes That Stick to My Ribs.” And Joan Wickersham prepares for Halloween with the best of intentions in the short story “The Subterranean Calendar.” Learn about this issue’s images at the Cutleaf website.

‘Horodno Burning’

Guest Post by Julie Christine Johnson.

Jews were attacked in a series of pogroms and subjected to systematic oppression during the late nineteenth and early 20th century, scapegoated as the cause of political and economic upheaval. These pogroms and the long history of limiting Jewish movement in Eastern Europe foreshadowed the Holocaust. These awful conditions intensified as nationalist movements and state-sanctioned violence grew.

Textbooks can present us with facts, but literature allows us to feel the stories history hopes we will hear. In his absorbing and graceful debut novel, Horodno Burning, author Michael Freed-Thall brings us into the heart of a family forever transformed by persecution. Continue reading “‘Horodno Burning’”

Consequence – Vol 13

Volume 13 of Consequence journal is now available! We’ve undergone a number of major changes since our founder, George Kovach, passed away last year, but what hasn’t changed in the least is our commitment to bringing you astounding prose, poetry, visual art, and translations that address the human consequences and realities of war and geopolitical violence. See what you can find in this issue at the Consequence website.