So the new Irreantum arrived this week and, as I did last time, I'm going to review the fiction. This time I'm also going to review the nonfiction (as fiction) because, as William pointed out, it's not always easy to tell the difference.
Long in the Tooth by Joshua Foster
- I felt this story a great deal. I felt the creation of the characters was topnotch and the society described was tactile and real and the dogs too breathed. But then . . . I don't think Foster knew what his point was. Or if he did, he decided not to include it in his final draft. Which was upsetting. It's hard to read a great piece and then arrive at the end in a lurch asking myself was the purpose of it all was.
Faithful by Angela Hallstrom
- This is just one part of Bound on Earth that I've already reviewed. What I found curious this time was how, when part of a novel, I overlooked its sins of overexplanation (which, when part of a novel, they should have bothered me even more), but I could not this time. But it is still an excellent story. The crescent rolls, so perfect. A lovely tale.
I'll Be a Stranger to You by Cara Diaconoff
- This needed a rewrite. It's loaded with unclear antecedents and ambiguous tags and inconsistent time structurings. Its depiction of Moscow is vivid at times, but the human characters are not at all and some elements are hard to accept as nearing truth (depictions of missionaries, notably). It's nice to see a story that attempts to deal with homosexuality in a Mormon setting, but I've read much better. I've told Ugly Swan to enter the Irreantum fiction contests. Why won't he listen to me?
The Memo Box by Heidi Tighe
- Everything that's good about this story and everything that's not are summarized perfectly in its first line: "On the day that Sister Jenkins killed her husband, my mother got another package in the mail." It's a perfectly structured, textbook-clever opening line melding the literary everyday with the literarily violent. Then it gets into domestic dissatisfaction etcetcetrc with a child narrator way too wise for his age etcetcetc. In other words, it's a fantastic story --- that we've heard about a zillion times before. Which is a shame. Because there's nothing actually wrong with it. Yet I can't sing its praises.
The Mesa by Oliver Welch
- Although another typical piece of literary [non]fiction without any surprises, by really nailing the ending, "The Mesa" becomes something more than the previous tale. And I think it might be the first bit of good rez [non]fiction I've read from an outsider's point of view (meaning the character, not the writer although, as it ended up, these were the same).
Two Things by Russ Beck
- I loved this story. It was fresh and clever and fun and in another setting I could have loved it without reservation. But its last line emphasized the reason I can't give myself over to it completely, viz. it's one more story in this issue that's about people on their way out. And frankly, this heavy a percentage of such tales in one issue of Irreantum disengages me and makes a story as good as "Two Things" feel tired when it isn't.
Outside by Shawn P. Bailey
- This one's good too. Doesn't quite stick the ending, but the up-to is pretty good. It makes an interesting counterpoint to the previous story and ends the mag nicely. Narrated by a falling(fallen?)-away about this relationship with a dying. But all the same it manages to be interesting and fun and new (overall).
So, speaking of Overall, overall, the last issue was better. But this issue by no means dashed my hope and faith. I still feel Irreantum is a promising and marvelous source for Mormon literature. And I encourage y'all to submit.
Especially you poets. Four of the nine poems in this issue were reprints. If that means they're not getting enough good poems, then SHAME ON YOU POETS. Yeah. You heard me. Submit.
And subscribe. (That goes for all of you.)
(see also my comments on the essay by bwjorgensen in this same issue)
Thanks for the reviews.ReplyDelete
Excellent reviews. The problem with The Memo Box wasn't just that we've seen it before -- it's also that the father is clumsily written. He's never given anything to realize him as a character.ReplyDelete
I agree with your diagnosis of Diaconoff's story. I like the set up, but it just doesn't deliver.
You're right about the father. My diagnosis is that the author didn't know what was really going on between the parents and decided not to find out. That may not be the case, but that's what it feels like.
"SHAME ON YOU POETS." Fine. Be that way. Just because you said so, I'll submit something. But I won't like it...ReplyDelete
The problem isn't just that four of the poems were reprints, either: it's that most of the poems didn't really pull me in or convince me that I needed to read them again because there was something maturing beneath the surface. Then again, I may just feel that way in part because I read the poetry after I read Jorgensen and I was a bit disappointed in general.
I think I may have enjoyed this issue more if I hadn't felt so much pressure to read it quickly.
Feel like you're playing catch up?ReplyDelete
(BTW: did you get your Dialogue yet or is it lost in transit?)
It's still not here. It was only mailed last week, but still.....
I like where things were going with "Two Things" -- Audrey (is that right?) is a very interesting character and the main character has his charms. I just think we needed a bit more with them.
I also was confused by the scene in the cafe. I get that he didn't want to tip the fact of their relationship but his reaction was much more dramatic than the story had set up. I also felt like the Two Things concept petered out a bit -- the best uses of it should have been toward the end, but that's not what happened. This is the story thought that I thought could really do something cool with the right editor.
I read Shawn's story before he submitted to the contest so I'm sure that blinded me a bit to its weaknesses, but after re-reading it I was struck by how well the characters act and interact -- on the one hand, not making a big deal of things, on the other, really trying to figure out how to feel. Also: I didn't read falling away -- I read fallen trying to fall back towards (although maybe not all the way). I love that it shows the banality of sin, but it also doesn't make a big deal about saying so.
That said, Shawn's entry in this year's Irreantum contest is an even stronger more haunting story. I hope it gets published.
Nice short reviews. And thanks for the kind words. Thanks to Wm. too.ReplyDelete
I do like the "stick the ending" metaphor even when I'm on the wrong end of it. Just anything that makes me feel like Mary Lou Retton finishing a routine on the uneven bars.
What can I say? I have puzzled over that ending. And it is better than it used to be ...
Endings are the hardest thing in the world.
And Wm: I agree with all your complaints about Two Things. It was just so marvelous that I was willing to overlook more than I would have had I been its editor.