Saturday, January 14, 2012

Year of the LitMag: One Story #156

[Note: this is the 4th installment in my Year of the LitMag series. If you would like to contribute to the series, leave a comment below or shoot me an email.]

One Story #156 “The Quiet” by C. Joseph Jordan

By now, everyone knows about One Story, right? It’s a little magazine that comes out every few weeks and contains just one story. It’s a cool concept and it’s also available on Kindle. (As soon as my print subscription expires, I’ll switch to the Kindle version, I think.) Lunch Hour Stories tried the same thing a few years ago, but it didn’t last as long, and is now gone.

This story by C. Joseph Jordan is a nice read about a Vietnam vet who comes home to Oregon after two tours. It’s been a tumultuous few years for him—his father died while he was in Vietnam; he fell in love while on R&R in Sydney, Australia; he killed a Vietnamese kid with a knife. And now he’s finally home. But as we know from every war story we’ve ever heard or read, it’s not that easy, and Sergeant Adlai Malick has some demons and secrets he has to deal with. So, upon arrival at his mother’s house, where there is a big, noisy welcome home party waiting for him, he goes into the basement in search of quiet. (Be sure to check out the editor’s interview with the author.)

Although the story is thoroughly readable, and my sympathies are with Sergeant Malick throughout, even when I fear he’s going to explode, even when he behaves badly, it had a feeling of familiarity to it. Because haven’t we read this story before? Beginning with “A Soldier’s Home” by Ernest Hemingway and followed by countless others, we’ve seen the difficulty a soldier has in coming home from war. Malick is damaged by the war and he is going to have to find a way to cope, or not, but I don’t feel that the story takes us anywhere new. Am I asking too much? Isn’t it enough that I haven’t seen this particular veteran and his particular circumstances before? Maybe. Maybe we’re ready for a new take on this subject. I just wish it had been a little more surprising.


Anonymous said...

Hi Cliff,

Thanks so much for your lit mag month. Not being in the States, it's hard (not to mention expensive) to get my hands on copies of all the many different publications.

How do you find the quality of One Story's choices? It's quite brave selling only one story in physical format - you'd like to think selling only one story would guarantee a higher than average quality...

Also, I'd love to read your different experiences of being edited, seeing as you've been widely published. The different approaches of editors, be they light or heavy handed or involved etc.

Thanks, Paul

Cliff Garstang said...

One Story is very good in general. They rank #8 in my Pushcart Prize ranking of literary magazine, so they're among the best. Although they only publish one story at a time, they publish every 3 weeks or so, which gives them about 5 stories a quarter, give or take. They're available on Kindle, by the way, one of the few litmags.

I like your idea of commenting about the editing process. I'll make a separate blog post about that.