Katrina Denza’s Lit Mag Roundup 1.1

Three weeks ago, we presented Part 1 of The Lit Mag Roundup, a new, quarterly feature at Moorishgirl.com, in which North Carolina-based fiction writer Katrina Denza shares her literary discoveries of the season. Below is Part II of her fall 2005 review.

For every commercial movie I go to see, I watch about ten independents. I want to be moved; I want an experience unencumbered by packaging for the masses; I want to learn something: about another culture, another time, about humanity. Literary journals offer all of these things as well.

In the Fall/Winter 2005 issue of The Paris Review, readers can expect to be taken to faraway places. The issue begins with Karl Taro Greenfeld’s dispatch, “Wild Flavor,” a riveting account of how one young man, hoping for a better life, moves to Shenzhen and contracts SARS. Andy Friedman and Nicholas Dawidoff take us to the hidden world of Brooklyn’s fish market, soon to be forever changed, in “At the Fish Market.” There are two insightful interviews: one with poet Jack Gilbert and one with novelist Orhan Pamuk. Both offer wisdom on the writing process. There are poems by Jack Gilbert, John Burnside, and Mary Jo Bang. My favorites of each (“Ode to History,” “Winter in the Night Fields,” “Nothing”) all have a reverence and a visceral magic to them. Suyeon Yun’s “Two Koreas, Ten Portraits,” shows us hidden North Korean escapees in Seoul. Dmitri Nabokov has translated one of his father’s poems, “Revolution.” In Ma Jian’s essay, “Tibetan Excursion,” he writes of his disappointment in the reality of Tibet and of his persecution by the Chinese government for his collection, “Stick Out Your Tongue.” His story, “Woman and the Blue Sky,” offered in this issue, is part of that collection. And in Benjamin Percy’s “Refresh, Refresh,” a young man’s life is greatly affected when the men of his Oregon town, including his father, are deployed to Iraq.

Alaska Quarterly Review’s Fall/Winter 2005 issue is neatly divided into six sections: special feature, nonfiction, novella, stories, drama, and poetry. The special feature is Heidi Bradner’s moving “Chechnya: A Decade of War.” I can’t imagine anyone would be left with dry eyes after experiencing Bradner’s photos and text. Deborah Lott’s “Fifteen,” is a stunning memoir piece about her grandmother’s death and the subsequent nervous breakdown of her father, who had to be committed. In John Fulton’s novella, “The Animal Girl,” an angry, anguished teen becomes stuck in a pattern of acting out and punishing herself. Even her job as an assistant in a biomedical lab becomes another way for her to test how much pain she can endure. With strong, unique imagery, Robert Vivian tells the story of a man’s grief over the death of his mother in “Errands of the Broken-hearted.” Here’s an excerpt:

No son ever loved his mother more, though Ma Boy was seven feet tall and weighed over three hundred pounds, with tattoos of naked, writhing women all across his back that sashayed like serpents doing their moon dance that almost slithered off his shoulders to come and jump your bones.

In Linda McCullough Moore’s “A Night to Remember,” a woman longs to push through the boundaries of her stagnant marriage. A father and son try to swim across a lake in Howard Luxenberg’s “Lake Moriah,” but halfway over the son becomes fatigued. In Carol Ghiglieri’s “Stella by Starlight,” a young alcoholic woman mourns the breakup of a six-year relationship while hanging out with a palm reader in a bar. “Where Things Are,” a one-act play by Steven Schutzman features a wacky, antagonistic mother-and-son relationship. The poetry is all varied and skilled. My favorite, “Wanderer,” by Liz Rosenberg, speaks of a girl’s despair after she’s left to fend for herself.

And Virginia Quarterly Review’s Fall 2005 issue has much to offer. In Tony Kushner’s humorous one-act play, “A Prayer for New York,” a son and his mother find a way to pray together. There’s a passage from Art Spiegelman’s moving graphic novel with an introduction by VQR editor Ted Genoways. “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the World Sixty Years Later,” an essay by Lindsley Cameron with Masao Miyoshi, offers a brief history of Hiroshima, interviews survivors of both bombs, and sheds light on the growing nationalist movement in Japan. Tom Bissell and Morgan Meis write of their adventures and misadventures in Vietnam. Their dispatch “After the Fall” also features photos of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, taken by Joe Pacheco. Erik Campbell describes his feeling of “otherness” in his piece, “Shirtless Days, On Living and Writing in the Jungles of Papua.” VQR‘s art consultant, Lawrence Weschler, shares his impressions of Vincent Desiderio’s work-in-progress and his discussions with the artist. Weschler also highlights the provocative work of Oscar Munoz, an artist who pays tribute to the Disappeared of Latin America by painting their faces on concrete with water and filming their evaporation. Transplant surgeon, Pauline W. Chen, considers the definition of brain death in her illuminating essay, “Dead Enough, the Paradox of Brain Death.” Stanley Plumy writes of John Keats’ last days and the artist who took care of Keats during that time, Joseph Severn. The fiction in this issue, grouped together under the heading “Three Tales of Suspense,” deliver what they promise. Alan Heathcock’s “Peacekeeper,” is a tension-filled story of a sheriff’s love for her town and the lengths to which she’ll go to avenge the death of a child. In Joyce Carol Oates’ amazing “Smother,” a woman is visited by two detectives after her estranged daughter has accused her of taking part in a heinous crime. And R. T. Smith writes of the path a sheriff takes to capture a turn-of-the-century rapist and murderer in the exquisitely written “Ina Grove.” The poetry is strong and vibrant; some pieces pay tribute to Keats, Goya, Michelangelo, others have a more private reference. Aaron Baker’s “Commission,” is an evocative glimpse into a boy’s experience as he enters another culture with his missionary family, and Karin Gottshall’s “The Exile’s Tale,” is stunning in its rendering of a “land so far to the north/ that our radios pick up nothing but strange, ancient operas/ broadcast from the Pleiades, and our language/ has no term for cold.” There’s a section at the back full of book reviews, a humorous essay on the music of Howard Tate by Steve Almond, and finally, Ross MacDonald’s comic, “The Eternal War on Terror.”

This batch was enlightening as well as entertaining–both things I appreciate in equal measure. Spring issues are beginning to arrive and I’m excited to find out what’s inside. Happy reading!

Originally from Vermont, Katrina Denza now lives in North Carolina with her husband and two sons. Her stories have been published or are forthcoming in Lynx Eye; New Delta Review; SmokeLong Quarterly; Emrys Journal; RE:AL; Cranky; The Jabberwock Review; and The MacGuffin among others.


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