Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Way of the Blue-Winged Wangdoodle

A short story by David Huddle
Reviewed by Lawrence Reeve

Evey is a twelve-year-old grappling with a fundamental, and disturbing truth; the people we look up to, because we look up to them, closet their character flaws. The flaw always seems to be a precise counter-point to a carefully projected image, making it all the more shocking. Her grandfather's flaw is a minor one to be sure, this is the South, after all, but it rattles the family enough that she takes it upon herself to push herself toward adulthood and confront him.

She discovers in a moment of hesitation that she not only doesn't want to acknowledge his flaw, she doesn't want him to know she knows, as if any flaw will destroy the relationship. It reminds us, to paraphrase Pythagoras, to write the flaws of our friends in sand.

There is a natural tension here that draws the reader in, and enough of her father's 'fresh phases' to keep you grinning. At 6700 words it is a nice visit to the South.

ePublisher: Blackbird - Fall 2008, Vol 7, No 2. Blackbird is an online journal of literature and the arts published as a joint venture of the Department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University and New Virginia Review, Inc.
Format: This eZine is visually pleasing, and laid out well for online (browser) reading. There are no advertisements.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


A Story by Josh Weil
Reviewed by Max A. Gordon

Setting: Eads County environs (a rural, agricultural area), perhaps in Virginia?

Protagonist: Osby Caudill, a rancher

Narrator: 3rd person omniscient

Tense: past

Nearing middle age, and alone, Osby cuts a figure of almost Chaplin-esque stature. His attempts to stay in touch with his long-time best friend, are complicated by the fact of his unmarried, non-parental status. His devotion to his now deceased parents (his father a recent suicide) and to his ranch has left him reclusive and unprepared to interact with the world at large. The few others in touch with him see the need for his exposure to, and interaction with, humanity, and he does allow himself to be talked into advertising for and accepting a boarder to help fill up the large, empty house he lives in. But even as he is agreeing to accept the very first applicant, there is no real engagement on Osby’s part. He stands apart from the interaction, almost a neutral observer, fascinated by the young man’s enthusiasm for life, but unable to share it on anything other than a superficial level.

Likewise, when he receives a clumsy offer of a sexual relationship, which might ultimately lead to a parallel emotional bond, Osby doesn’t just walk away – he runs flat out. Ultimately, Osby is his father’s son, a man for whom the world must center on those already dependent upon him – his cows and the ranch they inhabit. His future doesn’t look particularly bright. Nevertheless, Osby is an almost iconic American character… the man, alone, independent, self sufficient, and self-fulfilled.

At ~6800 words, this story has several flaws that, while not totally destructive, do somewhat damage the story, and should have been caught by a careful editor. The story begins by exploring the relationship between Osby and his long-time best friend, Carl Ventre. Unfortunately, later in the story, Carl Ventre becomes Clendal Ventre. Similarly, the Quickmart later becomes the C&O. Lastly, kenaf, while actually slightly resembling the cannabis plant, has very little resemblance to the sugarcane plant. This might be attributable to the character’s lack of familiarity with sugarcane, but might also be authorial error. Nevertheless, this story is well worth reading.

The inkwell is four fifths full!

ePublisher: (free login required) Narrative has one of the most professionally designed websites I’ve yet seen in the epublishing world.

Narrative Magazine’s Mission Statement reads: NARRATIVE IS THE LEADING ONLINE PUBLISHER of first-rank fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. A nonprofit organization, Narrative is dedicated to advancing the literary arts in the digital age by supporting the finest writing talent and encouraging readership around the world and across generations. Our online library of new literature by celebrated authors and by the best new and emerging writers is available for free.

Format: I read this story online, using the .pdf file

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Kingdom of Norway

A short story by Bryan Hurt
Reviewed by Max A. Gordon
Setting: Interior of a VW Rabbit, nighttime
Protagonist: An unemployed college graduate, recently fired for marijuana use
Narrator: 1st person - Nathan
Tense: Present
Coming of age can be a difficult transition. The three characters in this story are plumb in the midst of that transition, but at different stages on the journey. Matty, the most advanced, has nearly made it to adulthood (he actually has a steady job), but is reluctant to leave his adolescence behind completely. Nathan, his roommate, and our narrator, still hasn’t honestly engaged the struggle to transform himself, despite the consequences he faces for his refusal. Helen, their mutual love interest, has rejected the role of adult - despite having graduated from college - and is ‘touring’ the American continents, with no concrete plans for the future.
Like their mythical destination, a bar named “The Kingdom of Norway,” the comfort of permanent adolescence can never be attained. Helen knows of the bar’s existence from the ‘friend of a friend,’ and off they go in pursuit of it. It is the Never Land of Peter Pan, the place that can only be imagined and sought after in daydreams, the place where only the ‘in crowd’ has been (an adolescent desire, if ever there was one), the place that conveys the status of with-it-ness.
The growing intimacy between Matty and Helen leaves Nathan vulnerable and alone, and recalls to him the frustrations he faced in childhood. But it is these memories that must be recalled, mourned, and accepted, in order for him to move toward a future that recognizes and endorses the non-existence of such places as “The Kingdom of Norway,” even if regretfully.
At ~3300 words, this story is carefully written (with only one small copy-editing oversight [see if you can spot it… near the 20th paragraph]). It focuses on the conflict between adulthood and adolescence, and uses any number of issues to address that conflict. A short read, worth repeating several times, the inkwell is full.

ePublisher: 42opus  2 May, 2009  Vol. 9, No. 1
Their website states: 42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts. Although archived in quarterly issues, new writing is posted online every few days. The newest material is listed below. If this is your first visit to 42opus, you may wish to learn more about us.

Format: I read this story online, using html format.