Come and take a gander at three new pieces from Allen Forrest and Brian Michael Barbeito: The Gallery
And for more art from our past contributors, please visit our archives: The Museum
The cephalopod, specifically the octopus, is our mascot for this autumnal lament/salute to impermanence. (Thank Sy Montgomery’s marvelous The Soul of an Octopus for our current obsession.) I’m thinking not only of its amorphous shape and feats of disguise—It can escape from its tank and squeeze into cracks in the wall! It can camouflage itself to look like a cloud passing over sand!—but also of its vulnerability. It’s a nautilus without a shell, “a big packet of unprotected protein,” who received with the gift of shapeshifting the curse of perpetual defensiveness—and of hunting down the calories to maintain its constant flight and invention (Montgomery, 82).
Since it wouldn’t be Gloom Cupboard if we didn’t find some metaphor for human mortality and general fallibility, I would suggest that we’re in similar straits. We need just enough intelligence to communicate, and ingratiate ourselves, with one another; too much, and we’re melancholic, antisocial, and misanthropic (and read online literary journals with names like Gloom Cupboard). Too much, and we store our collective memory and cultural markers on external servers (like GloomCupboard.com) and keep little inside. Worst of all, it makes life too hard to give up. All of the shapeshifting and makeovers and striving and dragging our packets of protein through school or work or traffic or behind a lawn mower. We know how it will end, but we need to see the shadow pass over us. We need to escape our tanks.
~T.M. De Vos, Editor
Before Donald Trump began his march to the White House, before he had his own line of clothing, and before he had his own television show, he was simply a real- estate mogul, setting up casino after casino in Atlantic City. Before Trump dug his grubby paws into the sand, though, Atlantic City was a place of fortune tellers and food stands, a place where families could go for a day or a week to get away from their lives in the New Jersey and Philadelphia suburbs. Louis Greenstein’s debut novel, Mr. Boardwalk (New Door Books, 2014) chronicles that time, when things at least seemed simpler—not counting the racial politics that are glossed over by the suburbanites, narrator of the novel included.
The first thing you need to know is that I’m not Chinese.
My name is Raymond Wong and I stopped being Chinese
at the age of five.
And so begins Raymond Wong’s touching account of his own coming of age as a Chinese American. I’m Not Chinese is part memoir, part travelogue, part lyric essay, and it is entirely warm and moving. Wong takes us with him on his journey from resentment to openness and insight, and his is a book that, while appearing at first unassuming, is, we come to realize, thick with humor and understanding.
Vanessa Blakeslee’s short story collection, Train Shots (Burrow Press, 2014), gives you a little pause. True to the title, the breaths between stories are like the pauses in between downing shots.
Blakeslee is not afraid to end things on a suspenseful note, and I still find myself wondering about the fates of some of the characters. For example, Layla in “Barbecue Rabbit” kept me up at night, wondering about her and her unhappy, psychopathic son, Ethan. The ending gives such a rush. Without spoilers, let’s just say I wonder how many people wind up getting listed in the police report. It is rare to find an author who creates characters that stay with you so vividly once the book is closed.
In her collection of poems, Reports (New Rivers Press, 2013), Kathryn Levy presents a distillation of hurt, regret, and wonder. This is verse that eschews sentiment. These poems toss aside pat notions of speaker and story, offering up instead imperative, Delphic pronouncements in clipped, syncopated lines that exhibit a charged urgency. Reports reads like telegraphic shorthand:
I have to get back—she can’t
—unless I return
and embrace her
(from “Got to Get Back”)
In her debut novel Mosh It Up, Mindela Ruby proves that she’s done her time in mosh pits. She knows what it means to be loud, fast, and punk and Ruby’s characters are alive with this same energy.
Mosh It Up is about Boop, a San Francisco punk of the punk-revival 1990s, when “real” punks acted curmudgeonly because bands like Green Day were rocketing to success while the real punks continued to play dingy basements and do drugs in dirty bathrooms.
For the first few months of a job—maybe a year—you feel you have a great thing, until the boredom, the stagnation, the frustration, the repetitiveness sets in. You want out, but it is also your livelihood. You feel hinged between two places, and the powerlessness of it all, until you make that big decision to let it go.
Gary Beck’s collection, Songs of a Clerk (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014), hearkens back to those moments of job dissatisfaction I have experienced, yet in reading this collection, I travel back vicariously, enjoying the journey with Beck.
You can’t even be somewhere without spending money anymore: to earn the right to perform your cellular respirations in any given square foot, you’d better have a receipt or be standing in line to get one. A cup of coffee buys you an unharassed half hour on a high stool; a jaunty shopping bag shields you from suspicion while you linger for a moment on a bench. I once spent time in a city where the mall for the affluent was protected by security guards with machine guns. The people they let in were taller, robust, pressed. The ones whose path they stepped into were slighter, hungrier, looser in their clothes. In another city a hemisphere away, sidewalk guards stepped in front of men from the provinces and told them that the parks and stores were closed.
To be treated humanely, you must seem to be doing well.
We’re still more interested in the friendless, the bereft, the people who are left out of the sanitized exchange of the marketplace, the bleaching streetlamps of public life, the invisible fences around gated communities. There are those who are completely outside, and those on the edges, who eke out their positions every day. The story of the have-not is the only interesting narrative; stories of success are all alike: find your market, trade up.
~T.M. De Vos, Editor
Cathedral by Samir Atassi
Like Brothers and People Who Have Nothing by Roy Bentley
Friendless by Colin Dodds
Two Poems by Simon Perchik
Potato Chips by Jessica Wiseman Lawrence
Art Untied by Katy Masuga
Cassandra by Lindsay Merbaum
The Greyhound by Wendy Vaizey