Welcome to the new year! Let's look at Glimmer Train's latest, shall we? Just a quick observation or four about each work of fiction.
"Darling, Keith, the Subway Girl, and Jumping Joe Henry" by John Thornton Williams
This is one of the more striking looks at the state of modern masculinity I've read in some time. Darling is a homeless fellow. Keith is a college freshman in the city for the first time. Both have a hands-off love of the girl working at Subway. Both of their identities are wrapped up in some way with how this woman whose name they don't know could give them a sense of identity. This was stated explicitly in a book I read recently, but this and other stories in this issue revolve around the need men have to craft masculine identity around what we imagine women think of us. It's not a new notion to me, but it's troubling both because I accept it as absolutely true in my life and am uncomfortable with that certainty. This story played with my thinking on this issue and in smart ways.
"Full" by Claire Luchette
Huh. I . . . have no memory of this one.
"The Wall Between" by Tamar Jacobs
This was a dandy exploration of OCD up there with the OCD sections of Her Fearful Symmetry. I don't get what the names were supposed to symbolize (Florida? Dakota?), but something about Florida's sad, OCD-shackled life came off heroic here, and I like that.
"Chad Erupts in Strife" by Michael Varga
I could talk about masculinity in this one too, but I no longer want to.
"The Hecklers" by Aaron Guest
This one is very much about masculinity. It's also interesting in that it's the first AA story I've read that's mostly about AAers failures to stay on the wagon. Also these guys are total a******s and make me want stay away from all bars and professional sporting events. Also how do you say clean if you're too fat to reach your own genitals?
"The Bleeding Room" by Veri Kurian
We're back at college, this time with a female protagonist though the men around her are failing in remarkable ways to become men. This issue is fascinated with early adulthood. If you're looking to submit to Glimmer Train, consider writing about university students. Anyway, what is it with college students and alcohol (etc)? I had a teetotalling college experience and every one of the drinking sessions in these stories makes me glad that was so.
"Necessary Animals" by Aja Gabel
I didn't expect to read a werewolf story in Glimmer Train. And this is a pretty good one (even if the dead-girl storyline takes up too much space at the end). If I were making a collection of werewolf stories, I would include this literary gem. It's also---wait for it!---a story about masculinity! (Is this a special issue? Masculinity and drunk eighteen-year-olds?) The werewolf gene seems to be a masculine trait in Ally's family, and she feels left out. But she works out with her brother to compensate.
"How to Survive a Non-Funeral" by S.A. Rivkin
Although, sure, about masculinity, this is more a story about adulthood. Too live-in lovers who have rejected the dreamkilling scourge of marriage and family they've seen overtaking their friends, go visit her family as her grandfather is dying. While there, they have to confront---at least obliquely---that her estrangement from her past family (and from her future family) is nothing but an extended adolescence. It's a very subtle and intelligent piece.
"Affording to Lose" by Emily McKay
This is not fiction. And it's one of the best pieces on struggling with madness I've read, up there with an essay by Steve Peck and a short story by David Foster Wallace.
"A Matter of Twenty-Four Hours" by Andrew Roe
Like the Rivkin story, this is a story about someone trapped in an extended adolescence. He does come home to see his mother die, but whether any of the changes will, this time, prove lasting, is TBD.
"The Afterlife of Turtles" by Lee Conell
This story about a girl at college and her crazy (literally) uncle who calls her all the time hit me close. I have some notalltheres who call me. Would I notice if they disappeared?
"In Search of Absolutely Nothing" by Micah Nathan
Didn't really care for this one. It's rather a mess organizationally, and the story itself is a bit of a cliche, though the individual characters are well drawn and a few bits of imagery were quite intense.