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Review | Crazyhorse Spring 2017

Crazyhorse Spring 2017

Number 91 Biannual

College of Charleston

Fiction Editor Anthony Varallo begins the Spring 2017 issue of Crazyhorse with his declaration of the pieces inside: “These submissions formed their own kind of news, a report of what it’s like to be alive, told through the written word”. The Editor’s Note sets up the scene of routine detailing Varallo’s, like many of our own lives’, routine of coffee, internet, email, news, news, coffee, news. The news surrounds us. This opening prepares readers mentally, providing the framework for this issue to be viewed as important as news in the real world, detailing attentiveness and value of the written word.

In an interview with The Review Review, Varallo mentions what keeps him reading a story: “language, style, elegance, characterization – but the best is the feeling I’m not reading a story at all”. Issue 91 exemplifies Varallo’s aforementioned attributes. For a journal originating with a real emphasis on poetry in the 1960s, it’s no wonder poetry editor Emily Rosko chose poems like L. Lamar Wilson’s “How to Pick Cotton”, Erica Dawson’s “Berry, the Sweeter”, and Sally Wen Mao’s “Solitude Generation”. Elegance pervades the poetry in Crazyhorse, hitting with lines such as Wilson’s “Than rows & rows of pearly white / Gleaming like blood-stained sperm, / Wasted like generations of sons”.

Crazyhorse runs a competitive short-short contest each year, fittingly named “Crazyshorts!”. This issue’s winner, Kate Keleher’s piece, “Sweater” is no exception from the importance of the written word. In under the guideline’s 500 words, Keleher tells a masterful, economical story packed with characterization and ending with the familiar, gut-wrenching feeling at the end of a tellingly good piece. Waiting until the remaining two paragraphs to introduce the sweater, Keleher plants an image in the mind that the reader won’t possible forget. The sweater is the vehicle for the narrator’s dark reflection on her place in the world.

Like “Sweater”, Mike Alberti’s “Woods, Kansas” highlights human need and shame. Jen’s unsteady relationship with Wayne consists of the constant back and forth of Wayne’s desires and Jen’s readiness. Jen eventually gives in, resulting in the end of their relationship, and finds out she’s pregnant only to result in her quiet, solitary tears. While alienation is noted throughout this piece, in the end, “No one’s going to help her. She’s alone”. Alberti portrays his characters with depth. Jen is alienated, but persists in trying to help others throughout the piece. “Woods, Kansas” reminds us to help ourselves.

Reading in order, I couldn’t help but notice the pieces of Issue 91 coming together in theme. A focus on school, students, and teachers are noticeable in Jackie Thomas-Kennedy’s “Tundra”, Alberti’s “Woods, Kansas”, and Douglas Silver’s “Waiting for Andromeda”. There is the theme of alienation and needfulness found in “Tundra” and Rachel Blakley Ball’s “One Last Thing”. This issue effortlessly reminds us of the feelings, experiences, and roles that include or surround us all in our daily lives.

“FacebookTwitterInstagram” is a repeated phrase in Silver’s “Waiting for Andromeda”. James “returned home after each debacle, FacebookTwitterInstagram”. Silver is showing the true presence of social media in his fiction which serves to bring out James’ own needfulness and alienation. He needs the satisfaction of likes, the recognition of an active lifestyle. Silver beautifully brings in the thread of science and space, which serves metaphorically throughout the piece. Readers are given a failing, yet likeable character struggling with the same struggles in our own lives. He is blind to his faults, but deserves love and good things. Real, authentic, relatable characters are found all throughout the pages of this wonderful issue.

Similar to Jen in “Woods, Arkansas”, Ball’s “One Last Thing” portrays alienation on a smaller scale. Tess exemplifies quiet desperation and subtle, justified, exasperation. Ball’s fiction is heart-wrenching, but does leave the reader off in a slightly positive story moment, showing the variety’s off narration in this issue.

In the same interview with The Review Review, Varallo says the journal receives around 500-600 fiction submissions each month. Issue 91 shows current and future writers the types of work fit for Crazyhorse: elegant, economic, masterful, exciting pieces. Take your readers into a story-world so familiar yet so exciting, they forget they’re in the story. Take your readers into the words of Crazyhorse.