Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Fence Me In

Well I finally got around to reading the most recent issue of Fence, the Spring/Summer issue for '04.

It has the requisite contributions by dead poets, which usually irk me a little but these are interesting enough to justify bumping work by living bodies. First is a portion of Canto One from Pale Fireby Nabokov (this originally appeared in a novel by the same title).Second is a contribution from Phillipe Souppault, best known in the U.S. as a Surrealist poet and collaborator with Andre Breton for the landmark work The Magnetic Fields."Garland" is a wonderfully quiet poem that sneaks up on you with its imagery, and really sticks with you. New poems range from the serious tothe funny,like Anna Maria Hong's meditation on Hello Kitty entitled "HK Rules thePlanet".

The longer fiction works could have been culled out of any New Yorker or Glimmer Train issue. Accomplished, well written, but not particularly distinctive. It's the shorter fiction pieces overall that made this issue for me.

Robin Lipincott's Playing Possum is a page long, heart wrenching meditation on a friend dying from AIDS. Deb Olin Unferth's Maybe a Superheroromps through the tropes of the movie Tetsuo the Iron-Man by slowly turning a woman into a machine. But intstead of dark, violent,hyper-sexualimagery Unferth's piece is light and funny, and more about changes within women and their lives.

Gilbert Sorrentino, who seems to be everywhere lately, contributed Lost in the Stars, a odd little piece that links a U.S. salesman to a Jihad terrorist by way of masturbation.

Thalia Field's Story Material closes the issue with a mythology inspired piece that bends genres in her usual complex manner. I react to her work almost like Kathy Acker's; although I don't quite get it, I know there's something deep and complicated going on. She's definitely someone I want to check out more.

It's probably the best issue I've seen since Lethem left as the fiction editor a couple years ago. I started buying the mag because of him and his choices; a lot of the work he brought in contained an element of oddity or the fantastic that I enjoyed. Those types of work kind of full off after Ben Marcus took over a couple years ago, but it seems they are returning to them. At least for the shorter fiction pieces, anyway.


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