Year of the Lit Mag: A Public Space, Issue 14
Reviewed by Christy Strick
Before I talk about APS, I’d like to commend Cliff for this project of his, this year of reviewing literary magazines. Too often, writers submit to these magazines without ever supporting them or even reading them. Personally, I think this needs to change. And Cliff is doing something to change that. So thanks, Cliff.
Issue 14 is not the latest issue – issue 15 has come out in the past month – but I haven’t received 15 yet, so this is the one I’ll review.
A Public Space describes itself as “an independent magazine of art and argument, fact and fiction.” Founded in 2006, it’s a relatively new print journal, and always packed with content. Issue 14 is a fat 164 pages of stuff: an 8 page color photo essay in addition to 10 poems, a 50 page memoir in the center of the magazine, an essay, and 5 short stories.
Since I’m a fiction writer, I’ll talk primarily about the short fiction. The journal opens with the story “Is That You, Walt Whitman?” by Therese Stanton. It’s a great story to open with. Set in Brooklyn in 1855, it’s a fanciful tale with Walt Whitman and his muses and explores the creative process and an artist’s self-doubt.
I also really liked “The Runner,” by Justin Tussing, the sad but beautifully told story of a couple and how their life together changes after baby. “You Can’t Say Dallas Doesn’t Love You,” by Peter Orner, is the story of a family who is just a bit too perfect, and how a normal family compares itself to them, and is totally engrossing. Jesmyn Ward’s “Barefoot” depends on the strong voice of the 1st person narrator, and completely draws you in. It’s a great story, and my favorite of all.
Probably the only one I didn’t love was Dorthe Nors’ “Karate Chop,” translated from the original Danish by Martin Aitken. It’s about an abused woman, and is mostly an interior piece. It’s nice to break up the journal with shorter stories (“Karate Chop” is only 5 pages) but this one just didn’t have the impact it could have.
The memoir in the magazine is the centerpiece of this issue, really. It’s a powerful firsthand account of prison camp interment by Eva Zeisel, considered one of the most important designers of the twentieth century. It’s an excerpt from Eva Zeisel: a Prison Memoir, an e-book for iPad.
I’m not qualified to speak to the poetry, but I will mention that former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins has a poem in this issue, and he is always a joy to read, even for someone like me who doesn’t always understand poetry.
APS ranks 14th on Cliff’s 2012 Pushcart Prize Rankings for Fiction, up from 20th last year. It tied for 76th in non-fiction in 2012, about where it was in 2011 at 77. It didn’t rank in poetry in 2012.
Of the five fiction authors, only one has not published a book, and she was a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award recipient. While I don’t think that means they aren’t interested in new work, I do think the tough competition is something to be aware of when submitting.
APS is a strong literary magazine, one I would be proud to have my work in.
Christy Strick is a fiction writer whose stories have appeared in New South, Pearl 38 and Pearl 40, Prime Number Magazine, the Delmarva Review, Fast Forward: A Collection of Flash Fiction, Volume 3, lifewithobjects, and onepagestories. She was the recipient of the 2012 Marianne Russo Award from the Key West Literary Seminar, and has been awarded residencies at The Studios of Key West, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Hambidge Center. Ms. Strick is a founding member and past president of WriterHouse, a nonprofit writing center in Charlottesville, Virginia. She can be found online at www.christystrick.com.