Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pick of the Week - Lit Mags.

I like Canadian literary magazines, mainly because I like the short stories. Most of them anyway. Right now I am subscribing to Room, Anitgonish Review, The New Quarterly and The New Orphic Review.

One of the best: The New Quarterly
All the lit mags have pretty much the same format, I am not sure why. At the back, are the ads for very obscure novels and a few reviews of same, plus more ads for contests at other lit mags.  Each issue is usually a mix of short fiction and poetry, although sometimes a few graphics or photographs sneak in. The New Quarterly adds an interesting feature after every story, a short piece by the author talking about her contribution.

Lit mags are compact packages. They slip down the door pockets in your vehicle, they slide into the sports bag or into a compartment in your purse. If you are waiting in the airport, or in line at the bank, out they come. You are never bored; good fiction is at hand.

It takes me a long time to read a lit mag. I often read the first paragraph of a few stories before settling on one. Sometimes - I admit it - I read the last paragraphs as well. I seldom read the poetry, unless it really grabs me. A lot of times, alas,  I don't understand it.

Sometimes I read a very good story twice as I did from the recent issue of The New Quarterly. The story Across the Pacific by Peggy McCann was wonderful, full of life and interest. And yet the theme, the trials of old age, is a common one, often found in lit mags. But here, this well-worked theme comes across as fresh, delightful and poignant.  I will probably read it again before I move on to other stores in the magazine. A story as good as this lures me to read it again and again.

Lit mags have picked up their fair share of criticism about a certain  sameness of the stories. Certain themes reappear - Alzheimer's, death in the family, the slacker male on the loose, the rural settings, the errant wife or husband, the problems of old age.  I have no idea why these themes reappear. Can't even guess.
One of the Peppiest of the Lit Mags: the New Orphic Review
The New Orphic Review is known for its edgy stories. As the editor, Ernest Hekkanen states in the forward to the latest issue: "I'm the sort of person who finds it difficult to participate in the common story.  Common stories are comprised of received ideas having to do with things familial, social, religious and national."  The story, Piano Boy, in this issue, by M.A Fox, has that off beat something that inspires Hekkanen. I am honoured the recent issue contains my story, Subterranean Homesick Blues, a story about a 60's radical on the run.

Another great Canadian Literary Magazine.

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