Julia Braun Kessler, April 22nd, 1926 - June 30th, 2012
From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
This issue is dedicated to Julia Braun Kessler, a longtime contributor and former Spotlight author. Julia passed suddenly in her sleep two weeks ago, leaving behind a tremendous void once filled with what her husband Jascha described as "all that hustle bustle and solid work of Julia." Because the work that she generously shared with Eclectica was her memoirs, those of us who have been reading that work for the last five and a half years have been privy to at least a glimpse of the hustle bustle, and we can at least begin to imagine what the void might feel like to those who knew her as a friend or family member. My condolences go out to Jascha, their children, and anyone who has been stunned by this devastating loss. And yet, even as I write the words "devastating loss," I imagine the whole story is not one of pure tragedy, because how can we ultimately view the sum of an existence of this quality as anything other than a triumph? We are all of us afflicted with the human condition, and it is for all of us a terminal one. How many of us, though, both earn and are blessed with the kind of life that Julia lived? Only the hardest working and most fortunate, to be sure.
Pieces by both Julia and Jascha are included in this issue's nonfiction section, a section compiled by one of the new additions to our masthead, former and current contributor turned editor David Ewald. Also joining us is Anne Leigh Parrish, who will be helping me with the fiction section. Both did a fantastic job right out of the gate, and I look forward to seeing where their talents and energy take us in the future. As mentioned in the April issue, Colleen Mondor is leaving us, at least as the review editor. We hope to continue to see a review now and then from her. Also as mentioned, Michael Spice is once again taking up the duties of travel editor. We hope to see a rejuvenation of Eclectica travel writing in the coming issues.
Some quick news concerning members of our extended "family" of contributors... Charles Yu has a new fiction collection coming out this month called Please Thank You: Stories. Clare L. Martin's collection of poetry titled Eating the Heart First is coming soon from Press 53. Of Night and Light, a new collection of speculative fiction by Michael C. Keith, is coming out from Blue Mustang Press. A collection of Stanley Jenkins' work has has been accepted for publication by Outpost19. Details are still forthcoming, but it will come out as both an e-book and a paperback. Alex Shishin has turned his "Booger Eater" stories into an episodic novella that he has published with Smashwords under the title of Fidelity: Episodes from Three Lives in Japan. Katherine Holmes' Curiosity Killed the Sphinx and Other Stories won the Prize Americana, and Jekwu Anyaegbuna was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Matt Freese recently turned seventy-two. To say he's still "going strong" is an understatement. He published eight stories this year, including "Of No Use" in Eclectica. His book, This Möbius Strip of Ifs, won the nonfiction category of the National Indie Excellence Book Award, and his story collection, I Truly Lament—Working Through the Holocaust, was one of three (out of 422) manuscripts chosen as a finalist in the 2012 Leapfrog Fiction Contest. Finally, Julia Braun Kessler's four Jane Austen novels, written under the name Julia Barrett, are coming out as ebooks. Their titles: Presumption, a Sequel to Pride and Prejudice; The Third Sister, Sequel to Sense and Sensibility; Jane Austen's Charlotte, her Fragment of a Last Novel Completed; and Mary Crawford.
As always, there's a lot of great stuff to read, beginning with a few words from the rest of the folks who generously helped put this issue together. Enjoy!
From Jennifer Finstrom, Poetry Editor
It seems that with every issue of Eclectica, I am able to pick out some threads of thematic connection in the work of the poets. I love how it feels to find these correspondences—or really, how it feels when they find me. This issue, I was struck by how many of the poems looked at the ways we understand the unknowable in our lives, the unseen worlds we hold within us. In Michelle McMullin"s "Sign Watching," the poem's narrator states, "My mother searches not for rainbows, / but for the absence of them," and collects not only the tangible "Food in neat rows," but also the intangible "shelves of possibility." And Ruth Ann Baumann writes in "Small" that "growing up means / dying. Even worse than dying, / forgetting." Baumann's poem concludes with the simply and aptly stated, "the last time & only time you were eight / you became nine." But even though something like our childhood has vanished from sight, it still remains with us. In Joel Fry's "Car Horn," we are taken into a different viewpoint. Fry writes, "The world an old man inhabits is never / as large as the world he hears." To me, this line could be carried even further—the worlds that we all inhabit are vastly different from the worlds we hold within. It is these things—memory, the unseen—that provide an understanding of the even greater unknown. Spotlight Poet Milena Wieczorek might reference this vast unseen world when she writes in "In the Gallery," offering the reader a gift, "Drink. / I will bring you a crumbing glass / from the ruins."
From Anne Leigh Parrish, Fiction Editor
This was my first experience editing a literary magazine, and as a writer, I found it fascinating. There's so much diversity out there, so many different points of view! Bringing them together is an art that rivals writing any day. I never really believed that editors had an easier job than storytelling—and now I know I'm right. It's plain hard work, but as with anything worth doing, the process itself becomes the reward, just as much as the final product.
And this one's fabulous! We have fiction with a distinctly international flavor. Morgan Brazilian's powerful piece, "And Falling is Like This," takes us inside a rare and deadly genetic disorder, set in both the post-war countryside of Japan and a French monastery. In "The Builder of Invisible Bridges," author Richard Dragan presents an Eastern European architect named Malak who survives a bomb blast and discovers during his long recovery that he's able to see beyond his own perspective. No longer feeling sorry for himself, he gives—in small but significant measure—to another. The protagonist of "The Okani-Nkam Modern Day Project" by Esame Okwoche is a girl in a remote African village who wonders about the larger world she sees through the eyes of a close friend who eventually leaves, never to return, and her uncle, a musician who abandoned his home for a better life, only to return to it in death. South of the border, Bosley Gravel's "Insecticide" reminds us that sometimes there's not a sharp divide between life and death. Closer to home, "Sasha, That Night," by G. K. Wuori, shares with us an affliction of a different kind, and though completely surreal, the plight of the protagonist is still something we can recognize. Don Thompson's five flashes let us consider the power of time, the process of destruction, and the impact of altered realities, such as the harm and devastation sheep could cause if they were predatory. "Trouble of Her Own" by William Cashman underscores the selfish-centeredness that comes from being down and out, and how we can lose sight of the fact that others suffer equally—or to an even greater degree—than we. In "How Arthur Met Janet," author Will Lasky gives us a lonely young man living an odd, fairly isolated existence until he meets the quirky yet interesting daughter of his late employer.
These are stories that take us into private worlds, then lift us off from reality to startle us into recognition. This is the highest and best aim of literature. I'm sure that reading through these pages you'll agree.
From David Ewald, Nonfiction Editor
This issue is my first as a member of the Eclectica staff. I was grateful to read many strong submissions, but the strongest were those in which the writing sold itself, as they say. Whether the subject is airports, as is the case with Matthew Wollin's aptly titled piece, or the various ways in which one can be cold, as is the case with Natasha Watts's "On Being Cold," the writing held, charmed, and impressed me. So too did the writing of Jascha and Julia Braun Kessler. Though the Kesslers' pieces are more narrative-driven, they nevertheless achieved a resonance that lingered with me long after I'd finished them.
On the whole, I hope you enjoy these pieces as much as I do, and I look forward to seeing what the next batch of submissions will bring.
On a side note, I'd like to mention that this will be the last issue that will feature a nonfiction piece of mine. "On the Twelfth Anniversary of the Crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261" was submitted before I came aboard as editor, and Tom generously insisted that the piece be included. I'm grateful to be a part of the magazine as a contributor again, but now that I have some authority over the nonfiction section, I won't be selecting my own work for publication.
From Michael Spice, Travel Editor
I'm happy to be back editing the travel section and looking forward to seeing more submissions. If you will permit me an observation, we do seem to spend a lot of time going in circles, going out to work, to school, on vacation, etc. and returning to our starting point. I am interested in what we learn when we have that calm moment of reflection that brings us back home, or after the journey is done, that shows us we are in fact changed by the journey.
From Colleen Mondor, Outgoing Review Editor
I've greatly enjoyed every moment of my association with Eclectica and hope to continue submitting my own reviews in the future. The position of Review Editor was one that I loved, and it helped me become a better writer as I read the submissions of so many great reviewers each quarter, most notably Gil Purdy and Ann Skea who have been a delight to correspond with over the years. I won't be straying far, just reducing my duties a bit, but I look forward to many more years of reading everything Eclectica's many talented contributors have to offer.