Winter Reading

Issue #54, Winter, 2012

Putting together a literary magazine is a joyful yet Sisyphean task. Just when you’ve pushed the boulder up the hill to the printer, back down it rolls. And with it go all the characters you’ve lived with and loved for months, all the small moments of joy and revelation, all the humor and sadness. From the bottom, you begin again, from scratch, always from scratch. Just as writers must court failure in order to transcend the known, we, too, are always looking to challenge ourselves. We search stories for that peculiar mix of the new and the ever-old true, but told anew. In this issue, we found it in young writer Helen Phillips’s story “Flesh & Blood,” about a woman who can see through people’s skin. We saw it in veteran Stuart Dybek’s fractured take on the operatic life in his story “Tosca.” And in Benjamin Percy, too, no stranger to fictional and personal risks, who writes here of his monthlong liver detox (spoiler: no meat and no alcohol do not tame Percy’s inner beast). Two books after being a New Voice in Tin House, Monica Ferrell returns to our pages with the poem “Oh You Absolute Darling.” Always searching for fresh writing, in this issue we are happy to introduce three New Voices: David Feinstein, Sam Ross, and Eric Burg. The venerable writer William Gass, interviewed here, says, “So you try, but you probably will fail. It’s a business. Failure is what happens.” To risk, to dare-- that is his, and our, challenge. We’re proud of this issue, but as always, we’re never completely satisfied. We do, however, hope that we have failed better with this, our fifty-fourth try up the hill.

A note about the digital versions: If you read on a Kindle, use the Mobipocket edition; for all other e-readers, use the ePub edition. 

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William Gass

SOLILOQUY FOR A CHAIR • When we were born you wouldn't believe the fuss that was made over us: so many, so fit, so simultaneous

Karen Russell

REELING FOR THE EMPIRE • Our bodies plump and soften as the humanness ebbs stealthily out of them, and polar fur covers our faces, blanking us all into sisters

Steven Millhauser

SONS AND MOTHERS • The old neighborhood unsettled me. Things had changed everywhere, it was only to be expected, yet everything had remained the same

Diane Williams

TWO STORIES • Why would anyone be fearful that the man might become distressed or that he might lose his temper in their bedroom?

Robert Anthony Siegel

THE RIGHT IMAGINARY PERSON • Sunao was nearing the end of a long, boring adolescent period in which she was trying to become the opposite of her mother

Stuart Dybek

TOSCA • The hooded man listens for the shot even though he knows he'll be dead before he hears it

Amelia Gray

HOUSE HEART • It was my idea to purchase the girl. I had decided that would be a fine way to pass an afternoon and my partner agreed

Charles Baxter

BRAVERY • Susan married one of the sweet ones, the kind of man who waved at you

Helen Phillips

FLESH & BLOOD • I'd been to Florida once, a big group of friends, a happy bright blur of a week. It made me sad to think of it

Mary Ruefle

FAVORITE SONG
NITE NITE

Michael Wayne Roberts

DEAR NUAGES
LONGHAND

Donald Dunbar

SOMETHING TRUE

Monica Ferrell

OH YOU ABSOLUTE DARLING

Jericho Brown

WILLING TO PAY

Brandon Shimoda

THE KILLING FIELDS
FOR THE PEOPLE

Gregory Pardlo

PHILADELPHIA, NEGRO

Brittany Cavallaro

LIEBESTOD
CENSORED HISTORY

Sam Ross NEW VOICE

REGARDING THE MURDER OF YOUR BOYFRIEND'S ROOMMATE

David Feinstein NEW VOICE

THIS IS THE REMIX
PHARMACEUTICAL AD, TAKE ONE

Eric Burg NEW VOICE

FROM LOVE POEM IN C MINOR

William Gass

Greg Gerke in conversation with the acclaimed writer.

Benjamin Percy

GLUTTON FOR PUNISHMENT • Confronted by high cholesterol, the author wrestles with his many appetites. The course, he concludes: a cleanse

Alexander Chee

ON JULIAN MAY'S Saga of the Pliocene Exile TetralogySpeculative fiction's blast from the past

Andrew Scheiber

ON J.J. PHILLIPS'S Mojo HandEros and Thanatos converge in this precocious debut about the world of the blues

Marcia DeSanctis

ON GRAHAM GREENE'S The ComediansOne of the most masculine of writers might really have written for women

Aaron Gilbreath

ON LEONARD GARDNER'S Fat CityBoxing clothes this book's deeper theme: how life pits our hopes against our abilities

Joseph Martin

ON CAMDEN JOY'S The Last Rock Star Book Or: Liz Phair, A RantPop culture's narrative of celebrity invades the civilian world

J.C. Hallman

THE ART OF CHEWING • How righteous chew guru Horace Fletcher murdered the inveterate muncher William James