From Tom Dooley, Fiction and Managing Editor
I'm proud to present our 54th issue. It's as varied, jam-packed, and refined an issue as ever, a fitting way to close out our eleventh year online. Current Spotlight Author, poet Grzegorz Wroblewski, is joined by a remarkable cast of contributors, including six former Spotlight Authors and a host of new and familiar personalities.
Grzegorz recently sent us a copy of his latest collection of poems, Our Flying Objects (Cartalia, 2007), and it's a beautiful volume. The book is full of crisp imagery and unexpected observations, much like the seven poems in this issue. I think I speak for our Poetry Editor, Jennifer Finstrom, when I say that we're happy for Grzegorz, and happy that he continues to be a part of the Eclectica "family."
Jennifer, meanwhile, is doing a great job as the Poetry Editor. It's nice to see so many "regular" contributors again along with folks totally new to the magazine. Among the former, Theresa White, back for her fifth appearance after a four-year hiatus, and in the latter camp, Paul Hostovsky, who leads off the section with two strong pieces, one of which manages to be a "9/11" poem without being a "9/11" poem.
Incidentally, Jennifer made her editing debut back in October of 2005, so this is an anniversary issue of sorts for her. She and all the current and past editors deserve a huge thanks for all the time and effort they put into keeping the ship afloat. I mean, sure, they all have corner offices, company cars, and stock options, but all the compensation in the world...
Speaking of editors, I've been filling in as the Travel and Nonfiction Editor, temporarily I hope. Our best wishes continue to go out to our regular Nonfiction editor, Paul Sampson. Paul has been overcoming tremendous obstacles for a number of years, and I'm hopeful he'll be able to overcome them again and rejoin the staff at some later date.
I did have some behind-the-scenes help in the Travel section, as William Reese Hamilton not only contributed a piece of his own but also did a little "recruiting," helping to spread the word about Eclectica throughout the mysterious world of travel writers. Thanks, Bill. Your efforts have shaken out one of the strongest issues we've ever had. In fact, the travel entries for this issue stretch the boundaries of what one might consider "travel" writing. Each is strong as creative nonfiction, and each has qualities of a finely crafted essay, but each has been included in this section because of its overwhelming sense of "place."
I couldn't help but notice a mortality motif threading through the Travel section. Lyn Fox's "Dying with Dignity, Mexican Style" is the most extreme example, and it takes the motif to the breaking point. My mother, when I asked her to read "Dying," admitted skipping some paragraphs due to their graphic and macabre content. However, for those who are willing to endure some trying, perhaps even over-the-top passages (or, perhaps, for those who enjoy them), the ending amounts to much more than just a gross-out South of the border.
Meanwhile, the first two pieces in the Nonfiction section could easily have been placed in the Travel section based upon their geographic emphasis. Olga Grun and Tolu Ogunlesi, respectively, build on the themes of life and death by taking us step by step through a Belarussian marriage and a Nigerian funeral. Not so place-oriented or thematically serious, but nonetheless about marriage, Lorri McDole's "Bride of Christ" rounds out the Nonfiction section.
Life, death, and love are always heavy hitters in the Fiction section, and this issue is no exception. This time, however, along with the big three stand-by's, children also figure prominently. "Coyotes" by Suzanne Rindell looks in on a suburban couple struggling to conceive a child, and the protagonist of Gary Moshimer's "Babies" encounters all kinds of procreative issues. Stephen Healey's shockingly risque Reverend Jeremiah Posh is back for another adventure, and this time, as the title "Children as numerous as stars in the sky" suggests, Posh and his followers are sowing the seeds of tomorrow's congregation. I'm a big fan of the TV show The Office, and while this might be the only connection between that show and Stephen's series of stories about the irreverent reverend, it strikes me that Posh is a little bit of a Michael Scott. Admittedly, the comparison would be easier if Michael Scott were a devout, over-sexed leader of an African-American tabernacle, but I still say the two characters have a lot in common. I'd be curious to know if anyone agrees or disagrees with me on this.
Also in Fiction, former Spotlight Authors John Palcewski and David Massengill are back, as are Rumjhum Biswas, Bojan Pavlovic, and Paul Silverman, while Steven Schutzman has graced us with another one-act play. In this section we also have two authors new to Eclectica, Alana Noel Voth and Anne Leigh Parrish. Alana's piece, "If I'd Loved the Grizzly Man," is as contradictory, tragic, and whimsical as was its titular subject matter, Timothy Treadwell, before the objects of his obsession literally consumed him. Meanwhile Anne's story, "Loss of Balance," has a heft to it that I find moving in ways both obvious and subtle.
As always, there's more to the issue than poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and travel. Thomas Hubschman is back with another Salon essay that I must warn the reader had my head spinning before I was halfway through it. The Review and Interview section is a publication unto itself, in terms of both breadth and sheer volume. I enjoyed reading all the pieces in this section, but Dolores D'Annolfo's interview with Steve Augarde was particularly interesting, if for no other reason than that I found Augarde's childhood fascinating. I'll stop short of discussing every piece, but Elizabeth Glixman's interview with Karen Tei Yamashita made me want to read Yamashita's Tropic of Orange, which I hadn't heard of before, and it was a nice twist to have Corey Mitchell and Sam Adams take turns interviewing each other. I wonder if we'll see more of these exchanges between other authors in the future. It seems like a cool idea to me.
Before I sign off, I'd like to highlight some of the accomplishments that former contributors have let me know about. They include Sam Byfield, whose first book, From the Middle Kingdom, which contains "Street Scene" from our April/May 2006 issue, has just been published by Pudding House Press. Igoni Barrett, meanwhile, just had an excerpt from his novel-in-progress published in The Cynic Online Magazine. I already mentioned Grzegorz Wroblewski's Our Flying Objects. Jared Carter's Cross this Bridge at a Walk was the winner in the poetry category for "Best Books of Indiana 2007," a competition sponsored by the Indiana Center for the Book. The short story "Publisher" by Corey Mesler, which appeared in Eclectica back in 2004, was just published as a chapbook from Blue Cubicle Press. Sylvia Petter's Back Burning, a collection of short stories containing "The Boy from Bul" (Jul/Aug 2004), was published by Interactive Publications (Australia, 2007). Finally, Charles Yu's novel Third Class Superhero (Harcourt, 2006) is doing very well, and Charles was just named one of the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35."
And two final housekeeping items. First, our hardworking copy editor, Pamela Mackey, has asked me to put the word out that we're adopting Strunk & White as our official style manual. As she says, "It's short, sweet, and based on the assumption that its readers can already write. It's also available online, free."
Second, we'd like our contributors, past and present, to beware of what amounts to a scam by the so-called Taj Mahal Review. They are trawling our back issues for email addresses and then approaching authors with the following message:
Read your bio at (insert URL for contributor note here). Very good indeed. We are currently reviewing poems/short stories for publication in Dec. 2007, 12th Issue of Taj Mahal Review, International Literary Journal (Print Journal). I invite you to contribute your poems/short stories so that it may be published. For submitting please log on to: http://cyberwit.net/taj.htm or send by email. Thanks.
Dy. Managing Editor (TMR)
Unless someone can argue otherwise, my assessment of this publication is that it's a cross between a vanity press and the specious "Who's Who" series where they basically publish everything they can get a hold of in order to sell copies to... the authors!
That said, you're welcome to check them out for yourself. Maybe I have formed the wrong impression.
There you have it. I hope you enjoy the issue, and that you'll come back again in January when we embark on year number twelve.