Monday, September 28, 2009

Upcoming Reading with Michael Martone

For all you local blog readers, get out your pens and mark your calendars: Michael Martone (IU alum, IR contributor, and the author of several works of fiction and nonfiction) is coming to town! Full bio here.

The When & Where:
7pm Thursday Oct 1, The Collins Living-Learning center is hosting the reading in the Formal Lounge of Edmondson (541 N Woodlawn).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Book Review from 31.1

Peter Selgin. Drowning Lessons. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2008. $24.95 hardcover (ISBN 978-0-8203-3210-9), 233 pages.

Reviewed by Chad Anderson

Peter Selgin’s Drowning Lessons is a collection that, more than anything, focuses on the nature of solitude—self-imposed or otherwise. These thirteen stories travel from the peaks of Andean mountains to the watercolor coasts of Crete to a lake in New Jersey, and Selgin’s deft hand reveals the beauty of the world while never idealizing it. In fact, despite the often serious plights of his characters, Selgin’s tone is often playful, albeit cynical. The humor does not detract from the near tragedies within the collection, but instead serves as a flame to illuminate them.

Selgin’s balance of humor and heartbreak is demonstrated in the story “Sawdust.” The young narrator aches from the disappearance of his beloved teacher with whom he is suspected of having an inappropriate relationship. Juxtaposed against the narrator’s melancholy and confusion about his sexuality is the humorous character of Mr. Bulfamante, a.k.a. Sugar, a French boxer-turned-floor sander who, as a favor to the narrator’s mother, takes the boy as an apprentice and serves as his father figure:

Before he’d let me into his van, Sugar would make sure that I’d brought my thermos full of bouillon. Sugar insisted on hot bouillon as the only suitable beverage for floor sanders and boxers, summer and winter. Not lemonade or iced tea or coffee or hot chocolate. Bouillon. And not chicken bouillon, either. Beef. Chicken was for fruitcakes. Also the bouillon couldn’t be made from those little cubes, none of that Herb-Ox or Knorr Swiss crap. It had to be real. Homemade.

Sugar, however, isn’t merely comic relief. His distinct brand of masculinity conflicts with the masculinity the narrator learns from his romantic, worldly teacher, and in the end, the two ideals collide, forcing the narrator to truthfully consider the kind of man he wants to be.

As in “Sawdust,” the protagonists of Selgin’s stories are most often paired with other characters that could bring out the best and worst in them. A failed shoe store owner who happens to be the son of a failed cartoonist is hired by the whimsical Pablo Picasso to drive him from Los Angeles to the country of Colombia. A Manhattan doorman has a fling with a crippled woman and later refuses to accept that she has played him when she doesn’t show up for a date. A poor, elderly Black woman cares for the last living survivor of the Titantic, escorting him to the events of wealthy history buffs. Part of the pleasure in reading Selgin’s stories is to see how these pairs uplift or undo one another, whether they become foils or friends or both, and whether the protagonists choose solitude or fight against it.

While the protagonists are usually in the presence of a prominent secondary character, they (and by extension, Selgin) seem concerned with the nature of loneliness. In “Color of the Sea,” Andrew—a discontented, middle-aged artist—and Karina—a young, impulsive Brazilian—strangers to one another, decide to embark on driving tour of Crete together. Moving though the beautifully-rendered Cretan landscape and acknowledging their palpable sexual tension, the two travelers simultaneously irritate and fascinate one another, discussing love, sex, age, and, most especially, loneliness:

“…That’s what loneliness is. No longer being able to enjoy being alone with yourself. When you’re lonely, the person you really want to be with is yourself.”
“That is an interesting theory. And how does one learn to do that?”
Andrew shrugged. “Go for a walk, eat a nice meal by candlelight; romance yourself. Ask yourself, ‘What do I feel like doing today?’ It sounds strange, but why should it? Why should it be so strange to do with ourselves what we think nothing of doing with others? Why—for example—should I be more courteous to you, whom I barely know, than to myself, whom I’ll know for the rest of my life? It doesn’t make sense.”

In this story and others, loneliness itself is a character, creating distances between siblings and lovers, forging bonds between strangers and enemies. The characters in Drowning Lessons must ultimately choose between risking their hearts for another person and embracing solitude, and no matter what happens, learn to be content with their decision. Selgin’s surprising and generous collection suggests that only we can teach ourselves the lessons we need to endure the world or even to escape it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Poetry News

"The Academy of American Poets announced on Monday that it has awarded poets Jean Valentine and Harryette Mullen two of the organization’s top honors. Valentine received the Wallace Stevens Award, which carries a prize of one hundred thousand dollars, and Mullen won the twenty-five-thousand-dollar Academy Fellowship". Read more here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

PEN/ O. Henry!

Congratulations to contributor Ted Sanders, whose story "Obit" (in the Winter 2008 issue, 30.2) will be included in the PEN/ O. Henry Prize Stories 2010!

We are incredibly honored that Ted's story will be included. "Obit" is pretty amazing. I'm not even going to try to describe it. Every time I've opened up the issue to show off the story, the reaction is always: "Oh wow!" Seriously!

Congrats again Ted!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Shout outs!!

Congratulations to Hannah Faith Notess, IR's very own poetry editor from volumes 30.1 and 30.2 who is the editor of the forthcoming collection of essays, Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical. Here's a blurb from Publisher's Weekly, or you can read more about this book at the publisher's website.

“Written by experienced women writers from diverse evangelical Christian backgrounds, the tales are honest, approachable and revealing. Each author has put aside her inhibitions about exposing the flaws of her home church—from power struggles to the indoctrination of shame—and takes evangelicalism to task for its ‘carefully filtered’ yet ambiguous conventions. Yet all of the authors tell of a more realistic, meandering faith, enduring even while rife with doubt. Readers will be inspired to re-examine their own beliefs and perhaps even create their own un-testimonies.”
Publishers Weekly

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


My name is Catalina. Some people call me Cata. I'm the new fiction editor for IR. This is my first time blogging, so allow me to introduce myself further:

  • I dig this job!
  • I like to dance salsa and cha-cha-cha.
  • My favorite book right now is Zigzagger by Manuel Munoz
  • Two guilty pleasures are HGTV and "Dancing With the Stars."
I'm honored to be here and look forward to reading your work.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

My name is Hov! No, not Jay Z (if that’s your thing) but perhaps the deity of IR poetry submissions. I’m Marcus, the new Poetry Editor. I’ve been reading and discussing IR work for the past couple of years and I am always absolutely floored by the elite level of verse we receive. If you’re a loyal blue light reader, you are no doubt aware that we have reopened to poetry submissions. What you don’t know is that I read literary mags like a fiend and my tastes, as well as our associate genre editors’, are wide, wide-open. Shoot me your best stuff, regardless of aesthetics. I pledge to treat your work with care, respond in a reasonable timeframe and send personal rejections when possible!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

We are open!

Hey there all writers out there in submission land, Indiana Review is now open to all submissions! Send us your poetry, your fiction, your nonfiction, your this-is-too-brilliant-for-categories! Read our submission guidelines here.

We were able to make a significant dent in our fiction backlog while we were closed over the summer, and we are continuing to make headway. It's full steam ahead. If you're waiting to hear from us about fiction, thank you for your patience! You will hear from us soon! I promise!

And don't forget that we are also accepting work for the fiction prize. Guidelines are here. (Final judge: Ron Carlson, postmark deadline: Oct 15, snail mail only!)