The Gettysburg Review, Autumn 2010
I’ve been a subscriber to TGR for a long time, so when I grabbed a copy to read this week it turned out to be an older one, from 2010. It’s a terrific publication, but obviously I haven’t done a good job of keeping up! Shame on me.
I didn’t love everything in this issue, but there were some terrific stories, essays, and poems.
I was surprised to see a poem by Billy Collins, and I liked “Gold” very much, which opens “I don’t want to make too much of this,” and repeats that idea in various ways. A nice, humble poem.
The essay that follows it, “Final Concert” by Eve Becker, I also enjoyed. Although it’s sad—her father was a concert violist and the essay ends with his death—it’s also hopeful.
“Brief Lives,” a short story by Paul Zimmer, is a somewhat humorous take on old age. The main character, Cyril, lives in a nursing home and likes to sneak out to visit the nearby tavern where he drinks beer and spews what he has remembered (or made up) about the lives of others. Because of the course the story takes it reminds me a bit of Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” That’s a compliment.
At first I didn’t care for “The Box” by Maryanne Wilimek, which begins at quite a distance from its subject (it appears to be telling the author’s husband’s story). But when the author recounts her research into the contents of a box of photo albums, it gets interesting. She spends a couple of days trying to track down on the Internet the clues she finds—names on the back of a picture, a letter, etc. Interesting stuff.
There’s a full color insert of paintings by Barbara Kassel. Fantastic. Be sure to click on her name to visit her website to see more of her work.
I’m also going to mention the essay “A Little Short of Perfect” by Lee Haas Norris mostly because of a coincidence. I was in a coffee shop reading this piece about Norris and her husband who, having finished their Peace Corps service in Moldova, are working as volunteers on an archeological dig in neighboring Romania. Any mention of the Peace Corps intrigues me, as I served as volunteer myself (South Korea, 1976-77). After reading the essay, which deals with a medical problem suffered by the author’s husband, I finished reading the journal and moved on to a book I’d brought with me. But then I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation a young woman was having with someone at the table next to mine. It seems that she had been accepted to the Peace Corps and would be heading to Moldova in June! I interrupted the conversation and showed the Moldova-bound volunteer the essay.