The first was a short story, “The View from Outside,” by Jennifer S. Davis (who, I noticed in an advertisement at the back of the issue, will be teaching at the Rope Walk Writers’ Retreat this summer along with the wonderful Kevin McIlvoy). Oddly, this is the second story I’ve read in a week that mixes the themes of cancer (if that’s what the narrator’s husband has, his illness isn’t specified that I noticed, other than the fact of an old heart problem, so old that it seems not to be a concern now) and adultery. There’s an added twist here in who the man is the narrator is seeing (I don't want to spoil it for you), and maybe that’s what helps take the story to another level, and it also helps that the narrator is considerably younger than her dying husband and has secrets. It’s a good story and I’ll be sure to look for Davis’s other work (including her first collection of stories, which won the Iowa Short Fiction Award).
The second highlight for me was the interview with Speer Morgan, editor of The Missouri Review (although I wish the interview had been longer). Here’s a tidbit, Morgan’s response to the question,
“So, then you don’t think the web and new technologies are changing the form of the story?” “My general feeling is that while there is massive ongoing change in publishing vehicles, they can’t be casually identified with changes in art forms. Music survives its different media, as do the other arts including storytelling. Furthermore, the demise or rise of new media (whether webzines or some other medium) doesn’t by itself transform an artistic form for the better or worse. The idea of the influence of media has been overdone for the last thirty or forty years. I believe that there are a great many things besides the dominance of media in changes of art forms. I also believe that basic forms are profoundly resilient.”The issue also includes the three top entries in the Mary C. Mohr Short Fiction Contest and I don’t think it’s just because I entered and did not win this contest that I didn’t completely love these stories. (My entry actually won a different contest, so I’ve got no complaints.) First prize was “Decadence” by Dana Kinstler, which had intriguing characters but felt disjointed to me and was a bit hard to follow. The second place story is “Forms of Life – Kansas, 1957” by Mark Lindensmith, about a young couple and their toddler who try to leave Kansas in search of a new start but get caught in a storm that beats them back. (I liked most of this story, especially the sense of time and place and the tension between husband and wife, but the ending wasn’t entirely satisfying for me. I should also say that Lindensmith, I learned from reading the interview on the SIR Blog, lives not far from me, although I don’t believe we’ve met.) The third place story is “Fall Seven Times, Stand up Eight,” by Marika Lindholm. Here the point of view character, Toshio, is engaging – he’s a disappointing son of a Japanese-American family and he loses his father’s sushi knives, then gets involved, briefly, with a woman whose odd behavior would have scared off any sensible man, which is the point, or course. This one also seemed disjointed, as if the printed story was missing space breaks that the author might have intended, because there were some problematic jumps in several places, but overall it was a good piece.