Lit Mag Reading Club discussion
Excited to meet with everyone today!
I found Rabbit disturbing and strange. To me there was almost an echo of Jackson's The Lottery, but inside out -- the community saving each other by sacrificing these awful dolls. The killing of the rabbits and the father's relationship to Willie and to her rabbit hunting offer an unsettling parallel to the serial killings in the story. And Willie is a grim killer herself, wandering into empty fields and underpasses as if she wants to become a victim.
I started reading the journal from the back -- reading the Letters of Donald Justice to John Berryman and Mark Strand. I enjoyed seeing these poets as young men trying to figure out what they were doing with their poetry. They, too, were emerging voices at one point. Now the journal hopes to feature "voices that have not always been given center stage," according to Nugent, and I believe the editors do that in this issue. Acquaye's Saturn Returning to Mami Wata is a good example -- new voice and a really interesting format.
Jonathan Wei's Why I Lie was the most revelatory piece for me. He takes us inside his experience of racism in an almost brutal way.
Thanks for reminding me that there was humor. I felt collectively the weight of each piece piled up.
A trend I noticed, starting with Simple Animal, is pieces centered on romantic relationships. Simple Animal follows the basic girl meets boy, girl moves in, girl moves out structure. Runway complicates that by turning the girl into a male sex worker. Animal Shelter adds more backstory and maybe there’s no exit, Rewards is about getting her back (I also found it difficult at first to get into but was glad I did). Everyday I write a letter mixes courting a fantasy girl with a real one. Mrs. Daylily narrates the girl story from the adult child perspective. The Men in Chicago takes place between Simple Animal narratives (I’m amazed at how deeply Rollins explored the bear metaphor).
Last month’s Cincinnati Review pieces - Flown, Bottom Feeders, and the IKEA story were more ambitious scope wise and Yacare Caiman fully embraced the surreal where Rabbits and Everyday just put one foot in.
I thought they were all vivid. For example:
I’ve been to Izmir / Ephesus and had similar thoughts at the leather factory runway show.
I was so engaged that I was looking up the Indian references in Simple Animal. Its humor around the diaspora reminded me of Gary Schteygart.
I want to go back to Barbieri as you suggest.
I found Rabbits helpful when writing for myself in the way it has two separate stories. When I was in high school a serial killer was arrested in my town. He worked at the middle school and volunteered with the wrestling team. This story sparked those memories, which are not as bad as the story. I’m reading Claudia Rowe’s The Spider and The Fly which is about that and giving me more ideas.
Back to trends, I found Diablos Per Semper paired nicely with So Many Saturday’s. Maybe it was a different culture or absence of Urban Meyer, but I found Walsh’s piece more poignant. Bringing in national narrative elements with Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel, and Urban took away from the personal, the parts about the boys were excellent.
I’m looking forward to the interview!!
These topics have been among the most common in the big lit mags for at least the past few years.