Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New Issue Review: Post Road no. 14

Based in two literary hot spots, Cambridge and New York, started in 2000 by Jamie Clarke and David Ryan, and now captained confidently by Mary Cotton, Post Road is one of the hippest young literary magazine around. Not that it's fluff. It is very much art. It is, more exactly, a little magazine put together by people who are very excited by literary magazines and what goes into making them, something certainly not always the case. Post Road is a good example of the results of passionate editing and staff work and a seemingly constant effort to make their issues, well: good looking and new. And their newest issue, Post Road 14, continues to express the keen talent of the people at Post Road for publishing art and literature that wakes you up from your usual reading experience.

A perusal through the issue is like reading The New Yorker dipped in a Delillo novel and served with sides of Rain Taxi and VF Proust Questionnaires. Read a list of electric blurbs by literary recluse (and genius) Thomas Pynchon: "Mind-warping in its vision, absolute in its integrity, Arc d'X is classic Erikson--as daring, crazy, and passionate as any American writing since the Declaration of Independence." Read a new twist on J.M. Barrie's original Peter Pan in a brief review by Mary Gaitskill: "I recommend it somewhat incidentally as a book that doesn't condescend to young children, who (being human themselves) know in their hearts every horrible thing that human beings are capable of and every sadness that human life entails." Read a candid and self-conscious interview of Amy Hempel by Adam Braver: "I feel uncomfortable with everything about writing. Really, I resent the fact that I've published X number of stories now for more than twenty-five years and I still feel stupid when I sit down to start something. And I think I would--but at the same time I think I wouldn't--trust the feeling that I knew what I was doing, that I knew my way around, because that would suggest to me just what you're saying; well, if it's obvious, I must not be thinking." Check out poetry by Elliot Liu ("as paragraphs collapse/from the margins in, the rebels/are proving too literate"), a discussion of food and literature by Irina Ryan ("Soviet poetry, too, tried to convince the general public that their stomachs were more filled than they actually were"), an arrestingly blunt new story called "Marge" by Michael Lowenthal ("He tippytoed nearer, his mouth up in my face. I saw a smear of Hershey's on his teeth. His breath was like the Y locker room at closing time: bleach trying to hide a human stink. I made a guess about what he had swallowed") and color images of captivating installations and paintings by a talented array of artists. The issue is packed with poetry, fiction, reviews, and essays, most of which prove to be more than well worth the read. The end Questionnaire in this issue is with satirist and short story writer George Saunders. On being asked what reception of his own work has surprised him, Saunders replies, "I'm always surprised that 'Hamlet' is so widely believed to have been written by Shakespeare. I worked really hard on that one, for like a straight month. And this was before computers, so I had to write it with a quill pen. And I don't even know French, so had to write the whole thing using a French-English dictionary."

At a $10.99 cover price--dollars less than a Murakami paperback or tickets to the movie--Post Road 14 is a good investment, if only to be reminded of the eclectic space where writing lives.

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