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Fall 2022 | Volume 5, Issue 1

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

My debut novel came out about five years ago. Not that many people bought it, and fewer people than that seemed genuinely moved by it, but it always felt like something to me; something more atmospheric than the run of the mill delusions about who I had become, and something less obnoxious than the always disingenuous self-deprecating remarks about my accomplishment. 

 

This spring, as May ambled into June, and I walked down Suffolk Street in Dublin through a globular rain that never became cliché, alongside some of the best writers I know, I realized exactly what that something was. We shuffled under the awning at O’Donoghue’s and listened to a genius play cover songs and kept each other’s company without pity or envy or anxiety or want. Without sentimentality or ambition or hurry or deceit. This moment was the something that my book had created; I was not an imposter in my own life. I could maintain The Sancho Panza Literary Society that I had founded and return to Trinity College after almost three years of being exiled by a pathogenic thug, recruit a cohort of actual brooding geniuses to study with me, and not worry that they were looking over my shoulder to see when the Real Slim Shady was coming to step in. 

 

That feeling lasted about a hundred hours (the being qualified part; the irrational arrogance part is perpetual and soothing), because while insidious, it’s something that you have to earn again and again. Maybe it’s a little bit wicked to imply that you have to “qualify” to enjoy the moments of your life, but yeah, sometimes you have to qualify to enjoy the moments of your life. We become so greedy to imbibe a certain kind of air; it’s incumbent upon us to try and create some of it. I don’t know exactly how often you have to do it, or if maybe there’s a threshold of greatness that permanently excuses one from having to contribute again (God knows I forgive Rod Stewart all the garbage because he wrote “Maggie May,” but I don’t quite forgive Heller for Closing Time after Catch 22), but I know I’m not there yet, and I never knew that before this past May became this past June, and I’ve never cared more about finding my way back there. There is a guilt that accompanies unearned contentment, and it’s time for me to pay my dues.

 

I love writing, but I’ve never liked it very much. There’s no joy in the doing of it. There’s joy in the resulting insight and impact of it all. There’s joy in walking down Suffolk Street in between globular, never cliché raindrops with some of the best writers you know without thinking about what comes next, or how exactly you came to be there. And there’s an absurd kind of joy in wanting to do it again when you could so easily lie to yourself about being done instead.  Thank you, for that.

 

--JR

STAFF PICKS

Joseph M. Reynolds

This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

 

As we take the staff pick section into its new “defend yourself” format, I return to the beginning. I hear all the groaning—save your breath. I’m aware of all of the too easy criticisms about this book (indulgent, insular, obnoxious); I even agree with most of them. But you see here’s the thing—the parts of this book that are great are so great that they grant an absolving kind of reconciliation to the parts that aren’t, and that’s sort of the best we got. Always. Perfection is boring. Redemption is better. And for those of you still annoyed by this pick, remember that I could’ve picked my own book and written the same caption (you know, maybe).

 

Payal Nagpal

Dickinson (2019):

 

A horny Emily Dickinson rants to death, as personified by Wiz Khalifa, about the various sources of her teenage angst in a carriage drawn by ghost-horses. 19th-century characters use internet slang, a reluctant poet turns invisible when her first poem is published, and at one point, dances with a hallucination of a gigantic bee. It's what The New Yorker calls a "Bronte fever dream", but there's something delicious about Alena Smith's absurdist portrayal Dickinson's youth—something deliciously unhinged. If you're a purist, this is not the show for you. But if you're looking for an audacious exploration of feminism, romance, queerness, authorship, and censorship, all presented in almost punk-esque bricolage of aesthetics, you might want to check out Hailee Steinfeld as teenage Emily Dickinson in this unexpectedly literary, yet simultaneously campy, Apple TV feature.

 

Will Carpenter

The Art of Loading Brush, Wendell Berry

My friends, family, and students are likely exhausted by now of hearing about Wendell Berry’s The Art of Loading Brush (2017, Counterpoint Press), so I figure it’s high time I inflict my enthusiasm on a broader audience. While teaching the book in September, I remarked offhandedly that the pinnacle of human efficiency, should it ever come to pass, would without doubt be nuclear holocaust. This would also be a fitting, natural culmination to our legacy and ambition of human progress. I said that in a funnier way, I think, and we all had a chuckle. Some of my students shifted restlessly in their seats. Such conclusions, though neither new nor by any means original, seem woefully underappreciated in daily life, available as they are mostly to aging professors and overzealous grad students (like myself) cloistered in rooms full of underread books (though I don’t read nearly enough), and to the occasional undergrad who tunes in during lecture because their phone, disastrously, has died (my undergrads, of course, are wonderful, and they shout over me). 

 

Berry, the academic-turned-farmer, has for over half a century uttered such cautions plainly for all to hear, his unraised voice carrying well beyond his hometown of Port Royal, Kentucky. Revivifying, indeed, the very notion of the home, he reminds us that even in our digital age, there can be no placeless interactions. I’m quite taken with his agrarian rurality, in which good work is beautiful in itself, value and values have renewed their vows to one another, and communities exist as systems of ecological and economic care. Berry’s bewitching syntax and self-assured network of abstractions are as comforting as the rich timbre of the Kentuckian’s voice (perhaps I ought to be embarrassed by this, but I hear it in my head as I read) and will furnish to you deep wellsprings of good sense. He writes as a true craftsman, and is a charming wit, to boot.

 

Whether or not you intend to quit the suburbs and start a subsistence farm, Berry deserves to make your reading list. The kind, curmudgeonly pacifist strikes down enemies of us all—including ones you won’t have known you had, and ones who, inevitably, you are and have been—all while tending patiently to the still-glowing embers of a hope for our future. But even, and especially, if you think our world is too far gone, read The Art of Loading Brush; if nothing else, it’s a delightful “I told you so,” and one—unlike the majority of that genre—born not of spite, but of immense, careful, humane respect. This latest of Berry’s books features an improbable mix of sternness and generosity: it is at once the alarm bells and the violins of our foundering ship. Maybe that’s exactly what we need.

 

Eri Lauer

Nevermore, The Imaginary Life & Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe

 

A dark and phantasmagorical mix of fact and fiction, Nevermore is a musical that crafts a tale of what Edgar Allan Poe's life may have looked like, through a moody and moving score and lyrics. It concludes with an inspired but twisted explanation for this famous author's peculiar death, which I dare say the real Poe would be proud of. (From a writing standpoint at least.) There are two versions of this album; Nevermore, Simply Music which has the majority of the musical numbers and the instrumental.  But if you want the whole story, and I mean the whole, unabridged story, listen to Nevermore, The Imaginary Life & Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, and the long title is fitting because the run time extends over two hours. While this behemoth of an album is worth a listen and many revisits, view it more as an audio book rather than something to put on for easy listening. Both albums are beautiful and haunting, and filled with references to Poe works, including Metzengerstein, A Dream and even The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall  (for those who are familiar with some of Poe's less macabre work). For the last two weeks, I haven't been able to stop listening to Nevermore. Perhaps it become a bit of a hyperfixation for me, but as Poe himself said, "I was never insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched." And Nevermore has certainly found a welcome place in my own hideous heart. 

 

Harry Lowther

Let the Festival Begin!

 

Los Bitchos have brought la fiesta to 2022 with Let the Festivities Begin!, an album of primarily instrumental tracks overflowing with a unique and vibrant personality. The party atmosphere is best experienced live, where the creative yet tight instrumentation seems to grow organically from the stage to the dancefloor, channeled through exuberant performance. Influences from across time and space converge in this year's coolest new band.

 

Christopher Flakus

Arrebato

Arrebato, is a cult Spanish film, part of “The Madrid Movement,” a colorful and explosive period of creativity that followed the death of dictator Francisco Franco. The movement includes the many early famous films of Pedro Almodovar, who cites Arrebato as one of his favorite films. This lysergic masterpiece from director Ivan Zuleta explores the very act of creativity and the dangers, madness, and distortion that obsession over creation can begin to conjure. Some may refer to it as a horror film, and be right, while others would simply call it Art-House Cinema. Zuleta’s film is a perfect balance of excess and eeriness. The main character, a bored, heroin-using mainstream cinema director in search of something different, named Jose, meets a strange young man named Pedro in the country (where Jose is scouting for his new film). Pedro is eternally cold, despite the summer heat. He wears a heavy jacket and his hair a crow’s nest of black, untidy plumes. He hardly eats, sleeps, or engages in contact with others. However, Pedro sees something in Jose, who both abhors the cinema and understands it, a “magnetic attraction” as Pedro calls it, which makes him the only person capable of understanding what eventually happens to Pedro. What I can say with some certainty is that this film has something to do with the rapture of cinema, the interconnectivity of technology and humanity and art. This strange film asks far more questions than it answers and the only other film I can compare it to, in a way, is Videodrome by David Cronenberg. Both films explore the crossroads of pleasure and celluloid in a strange and hallucinatory ride that while we might not fully understand, unnerves us and leaves us pondering forever after viewing.  

 

Thomas Keith

Don’t Worry Darling (2022) Dir: Olivia Wilde

If you’ve ever wanted to see an actor treat their screen partner the way Michael Jordan treated anyone else who received praise in the NBA then this is the movie for you. If you have ever wondered whether it were possible for Nick Kroll to be the third best actor in a high quality drama, boy does this film answer that question.  If you could ever believe the most insidious incels to ever walk the earth would spend their (seemingly unlimited) free time designing mid-century modern living room aesthetics and performing virtual cunnilingus out of the virtual goodness of their hearts...well then this may just be your Citizen Kane. (0/5 stars)

EDITORIAL STAFF

Editor in Chief/Fiction Editor | Joseph M. Reynolds
Managing Editor | Samuel Marx
Poetry Editor | Sean Frederick Forbes

Nonfiction Editor | Stephanie Pushaw
Book Review Editor | Amber Smith
Music Review Editor | Kevin Carr
Layout/Design | Eri Lauer
Copy Editor | Bianca J. Robinson

Contributing Editors

Thomas Keith
Payal Nagpal

Stephanie Pushaw

 

Staff Contributors
Caitlin Andrews
Elizabeth Boudreau
Will Carpenter
Chris Flakus

Sandee Gertz

Vix Gutierrez

Ara Hagopian

Harry Lowther

Rose Malone

Jojo Rich

James Schepker

Sam Thuesen

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