No doubt about it, The Gettysburg Review is a good magazine. The featured artwork is consistently attractive (this month it’s from Michael Allen), the fiction is usually excellent, the essays readable and I even enjoy the poetry–sometimes. The Spring 2007 issue is no exception.
It starts with the Editor’s Note, celebrating the magazine’s twenty years (this issue is the first of the twentieth year). Among other tidbits in this introduction to the issue, Peter Stitt notes that submitted manuscripts have gone from about 400 in 1987 to nearly 6,000 in 2006.
“With only two primary readers—one of whom also teaches and supervises this entire operation—and one or two part-timers, we find it difficult indeed to process this material within the industry standard of three months. Another change has added to that problem, the now near-universal practice among authors of submitting their work simultaneously to more than one journal—a reasonable thing for them to do, but one that drives us to distraction.”
(Indeed, GR has had my latest submission since mid-September, going on five months now; if they accept it, however, all will be forgiven.)
The magazine includes an excerpt from Scott Blackwood’s novel We Agreed to Meet Just Here, a book that I’d definitely read, based on this sample. Of course we can’t tell how the whole novel will work, but here we have, told mostly from what seems to be a tribal omniscient point of view (unidentified third person plural) several lives intersecting. Beyond the compelling story that’s being told, closely observed, the language is lyrical and fluid:
“There was a dusting of sand under Natalie’s chin. What was he thinking when he lifted his hand to brush it away? Of the dent in Natalie’s forehead made by the corner of Dodd’s picnic table when she was four and the way the skin reddened there when she was angry. Of her father, who lost her in a child custody case when she was seven. Of the summer-roughened bottoms of her feet headed up the pool steps.”
My Queens University of Charlotte MFA compadre Carol Fant has two poems in this issue. To quote just a bit from the second, “Painted World”—
I’m inside my poem, trying to talk
My way out of yellow and red mesas,
Rio Grande mud, high desert grass.
Gail Henningsen’s “Strokes” is about a divorced couple who meet again at their daughter’s wedding and their lasting affection for each other is evident. “Some Bloom in Darkness” by Simon Van Booy is about Saboné who witnesses a violent incident that changes his life.
And then there is “Belle Haven” by Leslie Pietrzyk, about Brenda, who is coping with the suicide of her sister Christy.
“It wasn’t Christy’s fault that she felt spiders crawling up her arms and legs when they were sitting in the booth at Pizza Hut; and it wasn’t Christy’s fault that sometimes she wouldn’t go to school and instead flopped in the big armchair all day, doing nothing; and it wasn’t Christy’s fault that in a movie theater she might suddenly start shouting and not stop, not even after they hurried up the dark aisle; and it wasn’t Christy’s fault that everyone at school told Brenda that her sister smelled; and it wasn’t Christy’s fault that she filled spiral notebooks with stories no one could understand: ‘raingull-west-digjar-skronsh-hignodad-plight-yorkkid-the-end’.”
Christy has always been a burden and Brenda is not unhappy about finally leaving her behind. It’s a tough conclusion for her to get to.
And there are more essays and poems here; another fine issue.
Next up: A Public Space