The Worst Team Money Could Buy is a book by Bob Klapisch and John Harper, about the Mets 1992 season from hell, that I didn’t read. But I loved the title. It seems to encompass everything social, flawed, and fatal. And baseball after all is such a famously literary subject I had even assumed when we first planned this issue that it would be full to the brim with . . . baseball. Sadly, that’s not how it played out. Instead, we kept finding stories and poems that seemed to be about dreadful teams, vexed efforts, and impossible odds. Each one of these exquisitely hapless tales drew us further into a purely metaphysical interpretation of our theme.
And so we have here a fifth-generation epistolary featuring anorexia, illiteracy, and email spam. An essay about a little girl getting fitted for a prosthesis. A cultural identity tale about Buffalo wings and Vietnam. A drunk who witnesses spontaneous combustion in a bar. An amazing cycle of debut poems about child abuse. Some aphorisms—not necessarily to live by. And more. Most of this Sturm und Drang is complimented by unaccountable resiliency. The stakes are emphatically awful and the characters, or their words, their innovations, or their voices are collectively, even fearsomely, tough. For which I would describe this issue as miserably peppy.
No. We didn’t forget the economy—the elephant in the room. Because money money money seems to be the last thing that makes literature go round, even though in real life for so many of us finances are consuming our every anxiety. We asked several eminent writers to tell us where money fits into their literary life—because it must, mustn’t it? No matter the odds, if you’re doing literature, you’ve taken a critical step away from real life. It has to be about the game. Not the box scores.
Oh dear. I feel as if I should rouse a cheer for the underdogs.
But I’d rather read.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Even More Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays from Vectors 3.0
The Vestal Virgin Cornelia on Ortho Tri-Cyclin
The Butcher’s Daughter
A Penny for a Needle
Girls Like Us
Identity and Difference
Difference and Repetition
Repetition/Fear and Trembling
Peter E. Murphy
To Kill an Albatross
Collage with Helicopter, Cottage, Drowned Man
Sweating It Out
Losing the License
Sinking the Cigarette Boat, Miami
Kelli Russell Agodon
She Says What an Amazing Lamp
Large Optimistic Bowl
The Gynecologist Imagines Another Life
The Longing for Madness
Eagle, Squirrel, Doe
12 October 1980
Translated by Michael Thomas Taren
Exposure to Various Flow
The History of Other Lives
Jason Lee Brown
Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis
Like Kissing Your Sister
Translated by Bernadette Walker
M. Eileen Cronin
The Hanger Artificial Limb Company
So It Goes
David Shields, Paul Muldoon, Kurt Andersen, Cole Swenson, Steve Almond, Aimee Bender, Tom Sleigh, Victor LaValle, Martha McPhee,
The Money Question
Ana Maria Spagna
Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus: A Daughter’s Civil Rights Journey
By Ann Beman
The Homecoming Party
By Marion Wyce
One More Theory about Happiness: A Memoir
Happy: A Memoir
By Renée Ashley
The Rose of Time: New and Selected Poems
By Andrew McKay
The Private Lives of Trees
By Ruth Curry
Filthy Talk for Troubled Times
By Jody Handerson
By Matthew Gagnon
Untitled #118, 2003
From the series Breeding Ground. Digital C-Print.© Simen Johan, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Many years ago, when my son was small, he asked me to remove all of the artwork and stuffed toys from his room that contained eyes—these things, he explained to me, were looking at him, especially in that half-grey twilight, where prowled all manner of boogiemen and under-bed monsters. It was an opportunity to see, through my child’s eyes, that perceptual reality where the once obvious and benign becomes malevolent and dangerous (apologies to Winnie-the-Pooh). The work of Norwegian photographer Simen Johan reminds me with a startle of that eyeballs-in-the-closet era.
The photograph on our cover, “Untitled #118, 2003,” from the series Breeding Ground, features an army (or is it an audience?) of snow figures, a post-apocalyptic scene of subtle, icy malevolence. Much of Johan’s work from this period is dark, lyrical and generally uncomfortably cathartic. His camera functions as the painter’s brush and author’s words, giving us a series of composed allegories using staged, natural and digitally manipulated elements. There are shadowy forest scenes, bejeweled spider webs, animals; often anthropomorphized, and interior scenes that remind one of off-beat illustrations for the Brothers Grimm. In addition to the constructed images in his photographs, Johan has added sculpture, no less evocative, to his latest exhibitions at the Yossi Milo Gallery in New York.
In a 2007 interview with Big Magazine, Johan commented, “I saw that we construct meaning by necessity, allowing fantasy to shape our experience of reality.” And indeed, experiencing Johan’s art is a glorious, if somewhat disturbing adventure into fantasy, alternate reality and the manipulation of perception, which leaves me sometimes smiling and sometimes rubbing the goose bumps on my arms.
R.A. Allen lives in Memphis. His fiction and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, JMWW, The New York Quarterly, Pear Noir!, Boston Literary Magazine, The Recusant (UK), Word Riot, Underground Voices, PANK, and others. Selected for Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Mystery Stories 2010. Nominated by LITnIMAGE for Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web 2010.
Renée Ashley is the poetry editor of The Literary Review.
Ann Beman is The Los Angeles Review’s nonfiction editor and lives with her husband and two whatchamaterriers on California’s Kern River. After taking a recent swiftwater rescue course, she knows how it must feel to sleep in a moving cement mixer.
Jason Lee Brown teaches at Eastern Illinois University and is co-series editor of New Stories from the Midwest. He is finishing a novel.
Canadian writer Jeff Bursey has written reviews and articles for journals in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. His first book, Verbatim: A Novel, will be released in the fall of 2010.
M. Eileen Cronin Her publications include Third Coast, Bellevue, G.W. and Coe reviews, the Washington Post, and one forthcoming in Slice. She won the Washington Writing Prize, was a finalist in the Faulkner-Wisdom, was nominated for a Pushcart, and is on the Narrative staff.
Ruth Curry is a writer living in Brooklyn.
Weston Cutter is from Minnesota, has poems forthcoming in the Southern Review and Ploughshares, and his first book of fiction, You’d Be a Stranger, Too, will be released this winter. He edits the blog Corduroy Books.
Jim Daniels’ new and forthcoming collections include Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry; From Milltown to Malltown, a collaborative book with photographer Charlee Brodsky and writer Jane McCafferty; and All of the Above.
Kristina Marie Darling is the author of Night Songs, a full-length collection of poems available from Gold Wake Press.
Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The New York Quarterly, AGNI Online, The Louisville Review, Fiction International, and Pedestal Magazine. He is a founding co-editor-in-chief of The Asian American Literary Review.
Matthew Gagnon. His reviews and essays have appeared in Jacket, The Poker, Word For/Word: A Journal of New Writing, and Octopus Magazine. Poems are forthcoming in The Nation, Colorado Review, and Model Homes. He lives in Amherst with his wife.
Eamon Grennan. His most recent poetry collections are Still Life with Waterfall, which won the Lenore Marshall Prize; The Quick of It; and Matter of Fact. He translated Oedipus at Colonus with Rachel Kitzinger. His new collection, Out of Sight: New and Selected Poems, is coming out this summer. He lives in Poughkeepsie, NY, and whenever he can in Renvyle, a peninsula in the west of Ireland. Each of his poems in this issue speaks of one of these places.
Jody Handerson has a widely varied background in the visual and performing arts. She currently applies her literary talent as a technical writer and editor for an environmental consulting company. She is a contributing editor to The Literary Review.
Cassie Hay is an essayist and filmmaker living in Jersey City. She is the writer/associate producer of Gotham Girls Roller Derby, produced for NYC Media.
John King, literary rock star, has just wrapped up his MFA in creative writing from NYU after earning his PhD in English literature from Purdue. His fiction has appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Turnrow, Pearl, and Gargoyle. Watch the sky for his next move.
Andrew McKay is the director of advancement communications at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and volunteers as a poetry reader for The Literary Review. He is working on his first book, titled Living Here, which chronicles his family’s triumph over poverty.
Anne McPeak is the managing editor of A Public Space. She lives in Brooklyn.
M.A. Melnick received her MFA from Brooklyn College. Her stories have appeared in Many Waters, Brooklyn Review, Contrary, Pindeldyboz, Eclipse, and Carve Magazine. She is at work on a collection.
Lina Meruane was born in Chile and has authored one collection of short stories, Las Infantas, and three novels: Postuma Cercada, and Fruta Podrida. She has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEA. She has lived in New York City since 2000.
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 and Efficient.
Benjamin Paloff is the author of The Politics, a collection of poems, and has translated several books from Polish, including the forthcoming Lodgings: Selected Poems of Andrzej Sosnowski. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fulbright Program, he teaches at the University of Michigan and is a poetry editor at Boston Review.
Doug Ramspeck. His poetry collection, Black Tupelo Country, received the 2007 John Ciardi Prize for Poetry.
J.D. Reid is co-founder of Wide Array Press. He lives in Texas.
Thomas Reiter . His most recent poetry book, Catchment, was published in 2009. He has received fellowships from the NEA and the NJ State Council on the Arts.
James Richardson His collection, Interglacial, was a finalist for the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award. These aphorisms will appear in By the Numbers.
Eli M. Rosenberg lives in Brooklyn. This is his first published work.
Tomaž Šalamun lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia and occasionally teaches in the US. His recent books translated into English are Woods and Chalices, Poker, and There’s the Hand and There’s the Arid Chair. His Blue Tower is forthcoming in Spring 2011.
Jena Salon is the books editor for The Literary Review.
Norman Simon is a retired professor of astrophysics. His stories have appeared in Center, Hawai’i Pacific Review, The Massachusetts Review, and New South. He has recently completed a novel, Thoronet.
Michael Thomas Taren. His translations of Tomaž Šalamun have appeared widely and and are forthcoming in the Chicago Review, Public Space, Circumference, and elsewhere. Taren’s own book, Puberty, is a finalist in the Fence Poetry Series.
Padma Thornlyre resides in the canyon village of Kittredge, CO. His long poem, Mavka, in 51 parts, will appear in 2011, featuring cover art by Bryan Comber.
Mariana Toscas is a poet, artist, and marketing professional. She was born and raised in Chicago but can often be seen dreaming of and traveling to faraway places. She is a recent graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program where she learned to be an alchemist of trauma by channeling Goddess energy.
Mike Valente was writer-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame, where he earned an MFA. He also has a degree from Stanford University.
Bernadette Walker is a freelance translator based in Brooklyn. Her work has been published in BOMB Magazine’s Literary Supplement, First Proof. She is currently translating Lina Meruane’s Las Infantas, which contains the short story “False Steps.”
Phyllis Wat is a poet with three books in print, most recently The Influence of Paintings Hung in Bedrooms. She is also publisher of Straw Gate Books, a poetry press.
Scott Withiam His work has recently appeared in Agni, AGNI Online, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, Ploughshares, and Tar River Poetry Review.
Marion Wyce has received an AWP Intro Journals Award in Fiction and had her work performed in the Interact Theatre Company’s stage series Writing Aloud.