Sunday, April 26, 2009


A short story by Toby Barlow
Reviewed by Lawrence Reeve

When I was playing competitive chess I soaked in many aspects of the game, including the history and literature. I stumbled upon a piece by Woody Allen (The Gossage—Vardebedian Papers) about a chess-by-mail game that had gone horribly, and hilariously, wrong. It reminded me that relationships, in spite of Dr. Phil's reminders to listen to your partner, are really one-sided affairs in which you interact with your perception of your partner, rather than their actual self.

To my delight, Toby Barlow's story of a one-sided relationship with the Department of Motor Vehicles, strikes a similar, and equally humorous, chord. If you have ever wondered why the time spent in line at the DMV is measured using the same scale used for measuring glacial recession, Toby's answer will prove enlightening and funny.

It reminds us all that our government departments are more than just the sum of their many people. Indeed, they are the sum of their people's neuroses, dreams, fantasies and fetishes.

At 4500 words, you can read it in line the next time you renew your license.

ePublisher: n + 1, July 7th, 2005 issue. n +1 is an eZine and print publication of politics, literature, and culture published twice-yearly. Issue Seven is now available in bookstores everywhere and by subscription. The website is updated with new content at least once weekly, usually on Monday.

Format: Read in my browser and advertising free.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Last Hours of Pompeii

A short story by Marc Nieson
Reviewed by Max A. Gordon

Setting: an apartment living room complete with TV/VCR
Protagonist: a father/ex-husband
Narrator: first person – “Dad”
Tense: present

Imagine being trapped and isolated, unable even to reach out and touch those most important to you. Imagine the impotence forced on you by having to watch as disaster devours your loved ones. Imagine, now, that you, yourself, have had a hand in creating the disaster.

These are themes touched upon in this short story. The narrator participates in and facilitates his young daughter’s obsession with watching disaster videos, specifically (as the title suggests) those involving volcanic catastrophe. He realizes that her obsession is distancing her from him on an emotional level, closing her off from their relationship rather than reinforcing it, as he intended. The more obsessed she becomes with the images, the more distant she becomes, and the more the images become a prophecy of the future of their relationship.

Reading this story is watching a slow-motion train wreck, both fascinating and horrifying, as the reader begins to realize the dangers that surround all of us with regard to the ones we love, posed by our inability to change the progress of our isolation. The cautionary warning offered here is to turn off the television, the internet, or whatever else we may be allowing to separate us from our loved ones, and to talk with them or play with them, or even to argue with them, but to somehow engage with them and, thereby, avoid the heartbreak of finding ourselves encased in ash, preserved forever in the unfulfilled act of touching one another’s lives.

At ~4000 words, this is a great read with very little to criticize. The inkwell is full!

ePublisher: Carve Magazine, Fall 2008 / Volume IX, Issue III
Carve describes itself: “Carve Magazine (or Carvezine) is an online literary magazine that publishes literary short fiction on a quarterly basis.”

Format: I read online, using a browser.

ePublisher: Carve Magazine, Fall 2008 / Volume IX, Issue III
Carve describes itself: “Carve Magazine (or Carvezine) is an online literary magazine that publishes literary short fiction on a quarterly basis.”

Format: I read online, using a browser.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sexy, Hot, Sad, Tragic, Accident

A short story by Krishan Coupland
Reviewed by Lawrence Reeve
Digital cameras make a shutter sound when the button is pressed, but they don't need to. The tinny recorded sound (they all seem to use the same one) is a nod to the days of bulky Nikons with heavy shutter mechanisms that wound film and chunked metal, and each one made you feel you had captured something important.

Like a digital photo shoot SHSTA transitions through several offline and online perspectives of a young woman's death, and each transition makes a false noise hollowing out the meaning of her death a little more each time. The accident is re-configured into an online event, a brief spasm of YouTube hits, a bid for Twitter-fast popularity, me-too souvenirs, and a stadium memorial full of grief-stricken faces on the big-screen designed to feed the nightly trash news.

People feel connected to her because she is online, only because she is online, a Little-Girl-In-The-Well story that touches but does not penetrate. One is left with the impression that nothing important was captured here, that her tragic death was observed but not felt, tagged but not understood, and recorded without context.

At 2500 words it is a splendid, fast read. Enjoy.

ePublisher:  Eclectica Magazine Vol. 13, No. 1 - January/February, 2009. Eclectica describes itself as one of the longest-running literary ezines on the web. Their global perspective adds flavor to the ten pieces of short fiction, and includes other magazine content, such as travel, reviews, etc.

Format: I read online using a browser, without being annoyed by advertising, and it prints nicely, too.