The Conium Review, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Book Acquired, 8,19.2013)

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This came in the mail a few weeks ago; I read a few of the poems and flash fictions, but haven’t had made time for the stories or the novella. From the The Conium Review’s website:

This issue of The Conium Review contains seventeen poems, five pieces of flash fiction, four short stories, and one novella. The contributing poets and writers are Elena Botts, Valentina Cano, Paola Capó-García, Patrick Cole, Darren C. Demaree, Thomas Dodson, Edward A. Dougherty, Ginger Graziano, Alamgir Hashmi, Kyle Hemmings, Nicholas Kriefall, Connie A. Lopez-Hood, Carlo Matos, Gretchen McGill, Robert McGuill, Thomas Mundt, Catherine Owen, Natalie Peeterse, Richard King Perkins II, Octavio Quintanilla, Charles Rafferty, Scott Ragland, Jonathan H. Roberts, M. A. Schaffner, Jacob Schepers, Claude Clayton Smith, and Emily Strauss. The cover art is courtesy of Loren Kantor.

 

“Fear” — Thomas Bernhard

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“A Reflection” — Kate Chopin

“A Reflection” by Kate Chopin—

Some people are born with a vital and responsive energy. It not only enables them to keep abreast of the times; it qualifies them to furnish in their own personality a good bit of the motive power to the mad pace. They are fortunate beings. They do not need to apprehend the significance of things. They do not grow weary nor miss step, nor do they fall out of rank and sink by the wayside to be left contemplating the moving procession.

Ah! that moving procession that has left me by the road-side! Its fantastic colors are more brilliant and beautiful than the sun on the undulating waters. What matter if souls and bodies are failing beneath the feet of the ever-pressing multitude! It moves with the majestic rhythm of the spheres. Its discordant clashes sweep upward in one harmonious tone that blends with the music of other worlds—to complete God’s orchestra.

It is greater than the stars—that moving procession of human energy; greater than the palpitating earth and the things growing thereon. Oh! I could weep at being left by the wayside; left with the grass and the clouds and a few dumb animals. True, I feel at home in the society of these symbols of life’s immutability. In the procession I should feel the crushing feet, the clashing discords, the ruthless hands and stifling breath. I could not hear the rhythm of the march.

Salve! ye dumb hearts. Let us be still and wait by the roadside.

 

theNewerYork #2 Reviewed

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TheNewerYork is a new little magazine or journal or whatever you want to call it, featuring short fiction, poetry, art, lists, labels, fake reviews, and other stuff. Issue #2, clocking in at just over 80 pages fits neatly into a man’s jacket pocket and can be read in queues or at red lights or in between other readings or discreetly during end of semester faculty meetings. (I’m pretty sure you could read it in other occasions but I didn’t). You can see the front cover above; here’s the back cover, featuring this worrisome promise:

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Maybe the best way to summarize (what I take to be) theNewerYork’s aesthetic/literary mission is to show off the issue’s disclaimer (which is preceded by a fancy Foucault quote):

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“You won’t like some of this work” seems like a fair warning, but theNewerYork is more hit than miss, starting with its excellent opener, ‘The Thank You War” by Elliot L. Ackerman, a four-paragraph flash that tackles how would-be patriotic citizens bungle human relationships with returning soldiers. Also very good is Jamie Grefe’s list “Over Thirteen,” which is a lovely little horror story that makes meaningful use of the reader’s imagination. Another list, Bruce Harris’s “Nearly A Dozen Things Sherlock Holmes Never Said” made me laugh (sample: “Watson, you’re right.”)

One of my favorite pieces in the volume is “Not a Writer” by Joseph Rathberger (indexed as “A Put Down”). You can see it below, filling up a page; you can also see the art that precedes it and the nifty bookmark that comes with the issue:

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Most of the art in the issue is black and white and all of it is varied (in style and in quality). Here is Food Poop by Shaina Yang:

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TheNewerYork’s willingness to showcase experimentation in what goes on paper for people to look at and read is both a strength and a weakness. Most of the pieces succeed, even when they shouldn’t (why is a Google translation from “Baby Got Back” from English to Latin and then back into English so funny?). The pieces in the issue that don’t succeed fail on their own terms: half-formed or poorly executed ideas, the occasionally gimmicky experiment, and, thankfully more rarely, pieces that feel too imitative. But like I said, most of the texts in theNewerYork’s second issue succeed, which is to say they entertain or amuse or baffle or occasionally move the reader. What I like most about theNewerYork is its spirit, which is daring and experimental without the heavy robes of irony that often cloak these sorts of operations. A promising beginning.

Read “The Werewolf,” A Short Fable by Angela Carter

“The Werewolf,” a short story by Angela Carter (collected in The Bloody Chamber and Burning Your Boats):

It is a northern country; they have cold weather, they have cold hearts.Cold; tempest; wild beasts in the forest. It is a hard life. Their houses are built of logs, dark and smoky within. There will be a crude icon of the virgin behind a guttering candle, the leg of a pig hung up to cure, a string of drying mushrooms. A bed, a stool, a table. Harsh, brief, poor lives.To these upland woodsmen, the Devil is as reals as you or I. More so; they have not seen us nor even know that we exist, but the Devil they glimpse often in the graveyards, those bleak and touching townships of the dead where the graves are marked with portraits of the deceased in the naif style and there are no flowers to put in front of them, no flowers grow there, so they put out small votive offerings, little loaves, sometimes a cake that the bears come lumbering from the margins of the forests to snatch away. At midnight, especially on Walpurgisnacht, the Devil holds picnics in the graveyards and invites the witches; then they dig up fresh corpses, and eat them. Anyone will tell you that.Wreaths of garlic on the doors keep out the vampires. A blue-eyed child born feet first on the night of St. John’s Eve will have second sight. When they discover a witch – some old woman whose cheeses ripen when her neighbours’ do not, another old woman whose black cat, oh, sinister! follows her about all the time, they strip the crone, search for her marks, for the supernumerary nipple her familiar sucks. They soon find it. Then they stone her to death.

Winter and cold weather.

Go and visit grandmother, who has been sick. Take her the oatcakes I’ve baked for her on the hearthstone and a little pot of butter.

The good child does as her mother bids – five miles’ trudge through the forest; do not leave the path because of the bears, the wild boar, the starving wolves. Here, take your father’s hunting knife; you know how to use it.

The child had a scabbby coat of sheepskin to keep out the cold, she knew the forest too well to fear it but she must always be on her guard. When she heard that freezing howl of a wolf, she dropped her gifts, seized her knife, and turned on the beast.

It was a huge one, with red eyes and running, grizzled chops; any but a mountaineer’s child would have died of fright at the sight of it. It went for her throat, as wolves do, but she made a great swipe at it with her father’s knife and slashed off its right forepaw.

The wolf let out a gulp, almost a sob, when it saw what had happened to it; wolves are less brave than they seem. It went lolloping off disconsolately between the trees as well as it could on three legs, leaving a trail of blood behind it. The child wiped the blade of her knife clean on her apron, wrapped up the wolf’s paw in the cloth in which her mother had packed the oatcakes and went on towards her grandmother’s house. Soon it came on to snow so thickly that the path and any footsteps, track or spoor that might have been upon it were obscured.

She found her grandmother was so sick she had taken to her bed and fallen into a fretful sleep, moaning and shaking so that the child guessed she had a fever. She felt the forehead, it burned. She shook out the cloth from her basket, to use it to make the old woman a cold compress, and the wolf’s paw fell to the floor.

But it was no longer a wolf’s paw. It was a hand, chopped off at the wrist, a hand toughened with work and freckled with old age. There was a wedding ring on the third finger and a wart in the index finger. By the wart, she knew it for her grandmother’s hand.

She pulled back the sheet but the old woman woke up, at that, and began to struggle, squawking and shrieking like a thing possessed. But the child was strong, and armed with her father’s hunting knife; she managed to hold her grandmother down long enough to see the cause of her fever. There was a bloody stump where her right hand should have been, festering already.

The child crossed herself and cried out so loud the neighbours heard her and come rushing in. They know the wart on the hand at once for a witch’s nipple; they drove the old woman, in her shift as she was, out into the snow with sticks, beating her old carcass as far as the edge of the forest, and pelted her with stones until she fell dead.

Now the child lived in her grandmother’s house; she prospered.

“Mother Mouth” — Barry Hannah

“Examples of Remember” — Lydia Davis

Barry Hannah Fragment (From “Water Liars”)

From the Barry Hannah story “Water Liars,” collected in Airships.

“A Little Fable” — Franz Kafka

 

“Alas,” said the mouse, “the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into.”

“You only need to change your direction,” said the cat, and ate it up.

–Franz Kafka’s “A Little Fable”

 

“Stockings” — Tim O’Brien

Henry Dobbins was a good man, and a superb soldier, but sophistication was not his strong suit. The ironies went beyond him. In many ways he was like America itself, big and strong, full of good intentions, a roll of fat jiggling at his belly,slow of foot but always plodding along, always there when you needed him, a believer in the virtues of simplicity and directness and hard labor. Like his country, too, Dobbins was drawn toward sentimentality.

Even now, twenty years later, I can see him wrapping his girlfriend’s pantyhose around his neck before heading out on ambush.

It was his one eccentricity. The pantyhose, he said, had the properties of a good-luck charm. He liked putting his nose into the nylon and breathing in the scent of his girlfriend’s body, he liked the memories this inspired, he sometimes slept with the stockings up against his face, the way an infant sleeps with a magic blanket, secure and peaceful. More than anything,though, the stockings were a talisman for him. They kept him safe. They gave access to a spiritual world, where things were soft and intimate, a place where he might someday take his girlfriend to live. Like many of us in Vietnam, Dobbins felt the pull of superstition, and he believed firmly and resolutely in the protective power of the stockings. They were like body armor, he thought. Whenever we saddled up for a late-night ambush, putting on our helmets and flak jackets, Henry Dobbins would make a ritual out of arranging the nylons around his neck, carefully tying a knot, draping the two leg sections over his left shoulder. There were some jokes, of course, but we came to appreciate the mystery of it all. Dobbins was invulnerable. Never wounded, never a scratch. In August, he tripped a Bouncing Betty, which failed to detonate. And a week later he got caught in the open during a fierce little firefight, no cover at all, but he just slipped the pantyhose over his nose and breathed deep and let the magic do its work.

It turned us into a platoon of believers. You don’t dispute facts.

But then, near the end of October, his girlfriend dumped him. It was a hard blow. Dobbins went quiet for a while,staring down at her letter, then after a time he took out the stockings and tied them around his neck as a comforter.

“No sweat,” he said. “I still love her. The magic doesn’t go away.” [It was a relief for all of us.]

“Stockings,” a short short story by Tim O’Brien. From The Things They Carried.

Chapter V, In Our Time — Ernest Hemingway

They shot the six cabinet ministers at half-past six in the morning against the wall of a hospital. There were pools of water in the courtyard. There were wet dead leaves on the paving of the courtyard. It rained hard. All the shutters of the hospital were nailed shut. One of the ministers was sick with typhoid. Two soldiers carried him downstairs and out into the rain. They tried to hold him up against the wall but he sat down in a puddle of water. The other five stood very quietly against the wall. Finally the officer told the soldiers it was no good trying to make him stand up. When they fired the first volley he was sitting down in the water with his head on his knees.

—Chapter V of In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway