Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Indiana Review 31.1

One of the unfortunate side effects of teaching this past year was that although I was teaching literature, I hardly got a chance to read literature (let alone write literature, but that's another story.)

Where the magic happens

That was a big change for me, coming from being editor at Indiana Review where I was constantly reading good (and not so good) fiction and poetry. We published two issues a year, but read constantly to find the best material. There was a lot of reading, a lot of meeting, and a lot editing, but the product was always so rewarding.

The Last (Fiction Meeting) Supper, 2007

Anyway, I recently got some time to sit down and read through the latest issue of IR, and although it made me a little misty-eyed to see my name not featured in the masthead, the material inside reminded me how excellent an institution IR remains.

Shelly Oria's story, "New York 1, Tel Aviv 0" is a gut punch of love story about a unrequited love in a three-way romance. It evokes the landscapes of both New York and Tel Aviv, while giving us a narrator whose voice is surprising and consistently engaging.
"When you smell another man on one of the women you love, you suggest we all hop in the shower; you say you feel sticky. When the same woman says, But I don't feel sticky, you say, Do it for me then, in a way that tells her a shower is easier than a conversation."
It's enough to make me miss the 1st reader box.

Melanie Rae Thon's story, "Seven Times Seven" is another piece that kept me turning pages. A fractured narrative about an uncle returning from war, still struggling with the voices of ghosts and monkeys and birds. Written in second person, Thon does an amazing job of juggling both her poetic and narrative instincts that allows us to both enjoy her language play and the story she's telling. Beautiful piece.

On the poetry side, Traci Brimhall's "Aubade in Which the Bats Tried to Warn Me," stands out. What a strange subject: a lover who beats bats with rackets for fun. But the piece has such a sense of lyricism and danger that you can't look away, even if you wanted to.
"How your father paid you to kill bats, a dollar a body/Last summer you let me watch./As you waited with a racket, timber wolves announced/ the moon, bats crept out of the attic. /The soft pulp of their bodies struck the house."
My thought: Dannnnnnnnnnng!

The non-fiction in the issue also nicely pushes the "typical" aesthetic for the genre, two of three pieces (Daniel Nester's "Cousin Mike: A Memoir" and Ander Monson's "The Essay Vanishes") offer engaging experiments with both structure and the interplay of the visual and literary.

I haven't finished with the issue, but I wanted to write something before I didn't get a chance (school starts soon. Ahhhhh!). If you're looking for some awesome late summer reading, go to the IR website and cop the new issue.

***Actually, it looks like you can score a free copy of the issue if you can answer a little Richard Pryor-related trivia.


Tayari Jones said...

I'm glad you liked the prize-winning story. It sort of knocked me upside my head, too.

Vanessa said...

You all made such a great team.

hannah faith said...

This post made me nostalgic, too. And that Traci Brimhall poem was killer - I predict she'll go far.

Abdel Shakur said...


Excellent judge = Excellent story. Doesn't always work out that way, but we got lucky.

@ Vanessa

And not to mention sexy!

@ Hannah

I know, right? I'm going to do an IR nostalgia post where everybody contributes their best IR-ish story.

Story #1: Louise & the comment box.