I’d planned on reviewing Special Topics in Calamity Physics, a novel by the young and talented (and beautiful) Marisha Pessl, but I couldn’t get through it in time. I blame this not on the writer, but on my own brain’s current fitful, circuitous state. My mother-in-law and mother, two women whose literary opinions I hold in high esteem, both thought the book was brilliant. It just wasn’t linear enough or short enough for me right now and I needed to give myself permission to put it down.
I’ve been spending a lot of time with magazines lately, both as a means of planning submissions and as a source for inspiration. Narrative Magazine is an online literary journal; in its five years of existence, it has blazed a path of great prestige in the online world. To say you have been published by them means that you are Well On Your Way (if you aren’t already There); in the journal’s current issue are essays by Gail Godwin and Bill Barich, both Guggenheim fellows, fiction by a woman named Ann Pancake, who I happily discovered a few years ago, and poetry by Ted Kooser – the US poet laureate from 2004-2006 – among others.
Whether the writing featured in Narrative is by Guggenheim fellows or by up-and-comers, I’ve found it is consistently engaging, moving, solid and smart. Yesterday, I read a piece by Wendy Sanford called “Bodies.” It depressed me. In fact, it depressed me and the depression stayed with me – which is always proof of good writing. This morning, I read the magazine’s excerpt of Gail Godwin’s “Solo Notes,” and got inspired – and the inspiration has stayed with me. I will feast upon Narrative’s pages until I’ve read each piece even if its writing makes me angry for an entire day, or wistful, because there is such joy and satisfaction that comes from reading good sentences, such affirmation to be found in reading about Things That Matter.
In my opinion, there are few magazines – in print or online – that offer readers such fine work with such consistency. The Establishment once dismissed online publishing as unsophisticated – akin to self-publishing and self-promotion – but we are living in a digital age, and digital media has begun to become very sophisticated, indeed. Best of all, Narrative is free!