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Machismo: A Field Guide

Vol.53 Issue 02
Cover of TLR's "Machismo" issue

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Minna Proctor

I had few if any moments of hesitation while selecting work for the Machismo issue—all of the stories and poems included here virtually cried out MAN! to me. And yet, I find myself beset with trepidation at the moment in which I’m called upon to explain what I mean by machismo; it’s not all booze, girls, cars, guns and hard science (though we do have that stuff in here). I am at once in a perfect position to define and appreciate matters of maleness and, of course, completely the wrong person, the wrong gender, the wrong intrinsic sensibility. I am, in this case, the other, that dreadful outpost of the critical perspective that so paralyzed us all in literature classes in the late eighties. From the outside, I can exploit in so many subtle ways aspects of brutality, force, hunger, brazen intelligence, and complicated sensitivity. In less subtle ways I can tick off the caricatures of testosterone. But what do I really know? As a number of intimates have repeatedly informed me in recent years, I know nothing at all about the male ego. True. The male ego is a mystery to me on par with the Resurrection.

While musing on this admittedly neurotic dilemma of editorial legitimacy, I was struck by a passage in The Ask, Sam Lipsyte’s bitterly alluring new novel (see Zachary Lazar’s brilliant essay in these pages). From a conversation between the hero, Milo, and his father—who is convinced his son is gay:

 “There’s no shame in men loving men,” he said. “There’s only shame if there’s shame. You get me?”

“Sure, Dad.”

“I don’t go in for all that macho crap,” he said. “In fact, even though your mother goes to all those meetings, I’m a better feminist than she is. You want to know why?”


“Because I’m objective. I’m not a woman, so I can see it all very clearly. And they are absolutely right. We are pieces of shit.”

Milo’s dad puts his fingers on the attitude I needed to adopt in order to editorialize on manliness—“I can see it all very clearly.” More to the point, Lipsyte’s angry, funny, heretical book perhaps best epitomizes what I mean by machismo. It just takes care of its business and never looks over its shoulder.

Which brings me back to this theme. We’re not looking over our shoulders, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re essentially coming at the subject from left field.

And so, if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphor, we give you Machismo: A Field Guide.

Happy reading!



Kathryn Nuernberger
The Doubloon in the Cornfield
Prima Donna in Her Heaven
The Visible Spectrum

Steve Davenport
Diminishing Innuendo of Hog Sonnet
National Geographic
The Sestina Has Been Drinking
Travel and Leisure

John Estes
The Male Gaze (Ending with a Sentence by Frank Bidart)
Ora Pro Nobis

R. A. Villanueva
Blessing the Animals
Drifting towards the Bottom, Jacques Piccard recalls the sky

Jay Baron Nicorvo
Deadbeat, Ruthless and Brutal, Wants the World; Description
Love Poem

Peter E. Murphy
Material Witness
The Pits
Garry Falling

George David Clark
Thinking about Houdini the Week before Easter
The Fireman’s Son

Deena Linett
The Man with the Sword

Michael Bazzett
The Operation
The Problem of Measurement

Martin Jude Farawell
The Classics
Beloved Son

Ricardo Pau-Llosa


Duff Brenna
Annette’s Work in Progress

James Tadd Adcox
The Judgment
Home Intruders

Svetlana Lavochkina
Like a Real Man

Eric Maroney
Avram’s Vineyard

Lance Olsen
Just These Minutes

Margaux Fragoso

Karen Regen-Tuero

Glenn Deutsch
The Monkey Version of My Father

B. S. V. Prasad
The Morris Minor

Porter Fox

David Licata
There Is Joy before the Angels of God

Becca Klaver
Thank You, Come Again

T. J. Forrester
Quid Pro Quo


Amity Gaige
Interview with Adam Haslett


Sam Lipsyte
The Ask
By Zachary Lazar

Laurie Lamon
Without Wings
By Renée Ashley

Jack Ridl
Losing Season
By Mark Hillringhouse

Mieko Kanai
The Word Book
By Anne McPeak

Janet Frame
Prizes: The Selected Stories of Janet Frame
By Ruth Curry

Binnie Kirschenbaum
The Scenic Route
By John King

Pamela Spiro Wagner
We Mad Climg Shaky Ladders
Renée Ashley


Richard Koffler
Pavese in America



Stephen Ferry
“Marisol Khali Takes Her Lumps”

I first saw photojournalist Stephen Ferry’s photographs in 1999, at the publication of his extraordinary book I Am Rich Potosí: The Mountain That Eats Men, about the modern legacy of a notorious labor camp and silver mine in the Andean mountains. The pictures were dramatic—both in terms of the enduring human devastation portrayed and in the artist’s fierce, dark, somehow bloody composition. He brings that muscular sensibility into all of his work, to most remarkable effect in the recent series Macondo: In the Land of Gabriel García Márquez, in which he captures the real world of magical realism and reveals in his pictures the exquisite mystery of the everyday on the lush and cluttered landscape of Colombia’s northern coast.

Ferry has photographed all over the world, but is now based in Bogotá and has dedicated himself to an extended coverage of the civil war in Colombia. The kind of conflict-driven subjects that attract Ferry, his fearlessness and sensitivity in the face of difficult and remote stories, and his fascination with Latin America make him a natural fit for our machismo issue.

We think we shifted the game a little by selecting women wrestlers from Ferry’s portfolio. But it seems that if there’s any cultural group best situated to transpose the evolving definition of machismo, it’s Bolivian women, as the photographer illuminates.

— Minna Proctor

In the indigenous city of El Alto, Bolivia, more than 13,000 feet above sea level, a new sport has sprung up: Cholita wrestling. Modeled after Mexican Lucha Libre, Cholita wrestling features Aymara women, popularly called Cholitas, who are known for wearing multiple layers of lace petticoats under their pleated skirts, and for their normally modest and reserved bearing.

Marisol Khali, a seventeen-year-old newcomer to the sport, is seen here losing consciousness after “Jennifer” applies a wickedly painful ju-jitsu lock to her leg. Once she regained her senses in the locker room, I asked Marisol if she felt like returning to the ring after this ordeal. She scoffed at the thought of quitting. Ever since she was eight she had dreamed of being a professional freestyle wrestler, even though at that time only men entered the ring.

— Stephen Ferry



James Tadd Adcox lives in Chicago. He is originally from North Carolina, and has lived in Spain, Germany and Indiana. He is the editor of Artifice Magazine.

Renée Ashley is Editor-at-Large of The Literary Review.

Michael Bazzett has published widely in the small press. His work was recently chosen for inclusion in Best New Poets 2008, and he was the winner of the 2008 Bechtel Prize, from Teachers & Writers Collaborative. New poems are forthcoming from Free Verse, 32 Poems, Diagram, and The National Poetry Review.

Duff Brenna is a former AWP Best Novel winner, and the recipient of an NEA Fellowship. His novel, Too Cool, was a 1999 New York Times Noteworthy Book. His most recent novel, The Law of Falling Bodies, was published September 2007. His stories, poems, and essays have appeared in Agni, The Nebraska Review, The Madison Review, New Letters, and numerous other venues.

George David Clark. Recent work appears in Cimarron Review, Hayden’s Ferry, New Ohio Review, Quarterly West, and online at Verse Daily and Linebreak.

Ruth Curry is a writer living in Brooklyn. She still occasionally watches rugby.

Steve Davenport is the author of two books: Uncontainable Noise, winner of the Transcontinental Poetry Award; and Murder on Gasoline Lake, winner of the New American Press Spring 2007 Chapbook Contest.

Glenn Deutsch is finishing his first novel. He has been published in Notre Dame Review, New Delta Review, River City, Controlled Burn, Iodine Poetry Journal, Memoir (and) and elsewhere. He lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with his wife and son.

John Estes teaches at the University of Missouri and lives with his family in Columbia. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, West Branch, Southern Review, New Orleans Review, and Tin House. He is author of Kingdom Come and two chapbooks: Breakfast with Blake at the Laocoön and Swerve, which won a National Chapbook Fellowship.

Martin Jude Farawell is author of the chapbook Genesis: a Sequence of Poems. His work has appeared in Paterson Literary Review, Paintbrush, Poetry East, The Southern Review, Tiferet Journal, and others, as well as a number of anthologies. He directs the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Program.

T. J. Forrester has a collection and a novel forthcoming with Simon & Schuster. His stories have appeared in Harpur Palate, The MacGuffin, The Mississippi Review, and Potomac Review, among others. He edits Five Star Literary Stories, an online site that celebrates story.

Porter Fox writes and teaches in Brooklyn, New York. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Believer, Narrative, Northwest Review, and Third Coast, among others. This story is from his recently completed collection, Kingdom.

Margaux Fragoso’s work appears in Margie, Barrow Street, Paddlefish, Other Voices, Karamu, and Pennsylvania English, among other literary journals. She has completed a Ph.D. in English and her memoir, Tiger, Tiger, came out in winter 2011.

Amity Gaige is the author of two novels, O My Darling and The Folded World.  She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Mark Hillringhouse has an MFA in creative writing from FDU; his new book of poetry and photography titled Between Frames is being published by Serving House Books.

John King, literary rock star, has just wrapped up his MFA in Creative Writing from NYU, and earned his PhD in English literature from Purdue in 2003. His fiction has appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Turnrow, Pearl, and Gargoyle. Watch the sky for his next move.

Becca Klaver is a founding editor of Switchback Books, author of the poetry collection LA Liminal, and a Ph.D. candidate in English at Rutgers University.

Richard Koffler, who teaches at Fairleigh Dickinson University, was editorial director at Aldine de Gruyter. His essays and reviews have appeared in The Nation, Novel, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, and The Spectator, among others.

Svetlana Lavochkina was born and educated in Ukraine. She currently resides in Leipzig and teaches English at a Waldorf School. Her fiction has appeared in Eclectica, Textualities.com and Chapman.

Zachary Lazar is the author of the novel Sway and the non-fiction novel Evening’s Empire: The Story of My Father’s Murder. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and is currently a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.

David Licata is currently working on a collection of interconnected stories—including the one that appears here. He lives in New York City.

Deena Linett’s second poetry collection, Woman Crossing a Field, came out in 2006. Recent poems have appeared in The Same, Shofar and Barrow Street. She is at work on a novel.

Anne McPeak is the managing editor of A Public Space. She lives in Brooklyn.

Eric Maroney is the author of Religious Syncretism and The Other Zions: The Lost Histories of Jewish Nations. His fiction has appeared in Our Stories, The MacGuffin, Arch and Segue.

Peter E. Murphy received a 2009 Poetry Fellowship from the NJ State Council on the Arts. He is the author of two books of poems, Stubborn Child and Thorough & Efficient.

Jay Baron Nicorvo His poetry, fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Subtropics, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Believer and elsewhere. He divides his time between Manhattan and Saugerties, where he and his wife, Thisbe Nissen, have a dozen chickens, among them a Jersey Giant named Monsanto.

Kathryn Nuernberger teaches writing and literature at Ohio University, where she also serves as the assistant editor for New Ohio Review. Her poems have appeared previously in Mid-American Review, RHINO, Smartish Pace, Cream City Review, Versedaily.com and other literary journals.

Lance Olsen is author of nineteen books of and about innovative fiction, including, most recently, the novel Head in Flames. He teaches experimental narrative theory and practice at the University of Utah and serves as chair of the Board of Directors at Fiction Collective Two.

Ricardo Pau-Llosa His sixth collection of poems, Parable Hunter, was published in 2008.  He was featured last February in The Writer’s Chronicle and has new work appearing in Ambit, TriQuarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, among other magazines.

B. S. V. Prasad is an engineer working in the software industry in Hyderabad, India.

Karen Regen-Tuero’s work has appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, the North American Review, and elsewhere. She teaches at Queens College/CUNY and has just completed a novel.

R. A. Villanueva’s poetry has appeared in AGNI, Virginia Quarterly Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and DIAGRAM, among other journals. A Kundiman fellow, he is presently a Language Lecturer at New York University.