Saturday, November 13, 2004

Wind the Black Clock

I'm finally getting to my review of Black Clock.

I'll start off talking about synchronicity. Two stories in this mag I read previously in the Lit Riffs anthology I blogged about earlier. One I liked a lot, Jonathan Lethem's "National Anthem, and one I thought was just ok, Heidi Julavits's "The Eternal Helen". So right off the bat, that was a little odd. It also has "Oblivion", the title piece to David Foster Wallace's new collection in it (I have that book on reserve at the library).

Black Clock comes to us as a product of Cal Arts, published in association with their MFA Writing Program. The chief editor Steve Erikson, coincidentally, had a book in the 80's called Tour of the Black Clock. I've never read it, but from the reviews it seems to be a well written blend of mainstream and Philip K. Dick style sci-fi with some WS Burroughs thrown in for style.

This is Black Clock's first issue, and it looks like it first came out in March. Don't ask me why bookstores here only got in October. Overall the mag is pretty high quality. Mostly fiction, it also features two short poems, an essay by Rebecca Goldstein and the interview with Samuel Delany I blogged about earlier. The writing is good, very professional, very artful. In alot of ways, it reminds me of Fence, one of my longtime faves. My main complaint is that most of the pieces are rambling first person narratives with little or no action, and little or no dialogue. They're also very, very serious. If I had one suggestion overall, it would be more variety. Mostly because the pieces I think are the best are also the ones that don't fall into these categories.

Aimee Bender's "Debbieland", for example, is a riot. The story opens with a nameless narrator beating up a fellow highschooler named Debbie for wearing a skirt that's a few days out of fashion. I know, it doesn't sound funny, but Bender's telling through the eyes of the narrator gives it a dark humor that really works. The piece then skips ahead about ten years, when the narrator runs into Debbie again. Debbie confronts the narrator for past events, and some odd reflections occur. "Toyota Window" by Mary Caponegro also comes from a place of dark humor. A woman takes her Toyota into the dealership for a well overdue oil change. As she's sitting in the waiting room watching t.v, she convinces herself that the announcer on t.v is her dead husband.

"T' Zuid" by Nicholas Royle is interesting. Through a lot of point of view shifts, it relates the making of a movie to a series of recent murders. It's got an interesting structure with a somewhat mystifying ending.

Bruce Bauman's "And the Word Was" was the most moving for me. The main character is a NY City doctor who lost his son in a street shooting. The doctor has lost his faith in God, and travels to India to find Levi Furstenblaum, a WWII holocaust survivor who published books about how the Holocaust caused him to lose his own faith and how he moved on without god in his life. The piece intertwines the growing relationship between the doctor and Furstenblaum alongside some of Furstenblaum's own writings. There are some very profound passages in this story on loss, religion and the search for meaning when nothing seems to matter. I've never read Bauman before, but will definitely be on the lookout for more.

As far as a potential market, there's no info either in the mag or on their website regarding submitting work. My guess is the editor Steve Erickson solicits everything from people he knows. Perhaps after they get the first few issues out, they'll open up for submissions. Strangely, the mag contains no info on how to order copies, and there's only a phone number for ordering on the website.

As a final bit of synchronicity, I went to Borders on the way to work today to do some early holiday shopping. They were just unpacking issue #2 as I came in. Taking a quick look at it, a lot of the same writers are in it: Lethem, Bauman, Moody, (supporting my theory that they solicit everything in the mag). But the pieces are shorter in this issue, and it does look to have more variety. Issue two has a Shelley Jackson story, and one by Greil Marcus. I bought the newest Grand Street instead, because it was the last copy and I've been meaning to get it for few weeks. I may pick up Black Clock #2 later in the month, after I get some more holiday shopping done.



LadyLitBlitzin said...

I love synchronicity. It always weirds me out because sometimes I wonder what the logic is in the universe that we don't see, which connects seemingly unrelated things. It's very odd.

Black Clock sounds really awesome, I'll have to check it out. I can't wait to read some Delany, too.

That's interesting about all the "rambling first person narratives with little or no action, and little or no dialogue" -- a lot of my early, more experimenetal, semi-surreal stuff is like that. Perhaps that's why a lot of my old pieces have gotten published in the last year or so, perhaps now it's "in," ha. However, I remember reading that lots of editors don't like it. Personally, I think it needs to be done very well to work.

Hey, when is that Gargoyle reading again? I forgot to mark my calendar. Hopefully I didn't make plans already (or miss it).

Hebdomeros said...

The rambling style is hard to pull off. It usually needs a really strong and interesting voice, otherwise I tend to get a little bored with it. I have nothing against the style, there was just too much of it in this issue. Strangely the new piece I just started looks to be heading that way.

The Gargoyle reading is on Tuesday the 23rd.

LadyLitBlitzin said...

Oh cool, I didn't miss it... I was having this nagging feeling that maybe it had already happened. I'll definitely write that on my calendar when I get home!

Not to mention, November is all blending into itself for whatever reason...

Hebdomeros said...

Yeah, this month is flying by. I keep thinking Halloween was just last week. I just hope I get next Tuesday night off for the reading. I'll feel silly if I don't get to go, because I only work a couple blocks away from Chapters.

LadyLitBlitzin said...

Yeah, I think the same thing, that Halloween was last weekend. It's going to be Thanksgiving and I'm going to be absolutely floored.

Good luck getting that night off!