>Volume 32 Number 2 of Black Warrior Review isn’t the most recent issue, but it’s the one I pulled off the shelf to read today. The fiction here is mostly excellent. I confess that when I’m reading a literary journal if a story doesn’t grab me I can’t stay with it; I’ll either skim, looking for something to renew my interest, or I’ll skip to the next story. But everything here kept me reading, so that must be a good sign.
The first story is “A Step Ahead” by Miriam Gershow, which is wonderfully constructed so that the ending, which might seem coincidental, isn’t at all. That’s what we’ve been building to all along. Hogan is a relay call operator (part of the charm of this story is the uniqueness of this job—I’ve sure never read anything about someone who does this) who assists the hearing impaired use telephones. He is the middleman on several calls made by Lily to various men and because of the sexy tenor of these calls, Hogan is attracted to her. But of course their meeting is out of the question. Until . . .
Then there is “Between States” by Greg Downs, which is part of his recently released collection Spit Baths. (I’ve mentioned Greg here before—he was one of my suitemates at Sewanee in 2006.) The story is about Peg, an older woman who returns to Columbus, Kentucky, a town that was divided in 1959 when the boundary between Kentucky and Tennessee was changed. But that’s not all that has changed in the town and Peg can never quite cope with the fact that people have moved, names and street numbers have changed.
“Where are the Mitchells? Among the well-trod paths in our mind, there is no sign of them, but they are there, underground, in the warren of things we pass over but do not often remember.”
I also liked very much Lilian Crutchfield’s “The Depth of All Things,” about a family coping with the suicide of the younger of two sons. The parents grieve in their way but can’t really reach the older boy or understand how he is grieving. Complicating this tragedy is the boy’s inquiry into the divinity of Christ, and his need to find something that will help him cope. The story is told in the second person (with the “you” being Fennel, the older boy), present tense, a point of view that I do not favor. One question it necessarily raises is who the speaker might be, and one is tempted to conclude that it is Jesus himself as he guides the boy on his journey, but I’m not sure the story supports that conclusion and I can’t help but wonder if the story wouldn’t be even stronger if told in third person.
The last pieces in this issue that I’ll mention are two stories by Paul Maliszewski: “Prayer for the Baby, Still Expected” and “Prayer Against the Force of Habit.” Both very short stories are terrific and are part of a prayer series that includes a story in One Story that I discussed here a few weeks ago.
Next up: The New Dominion