At long last I finished Conjunctions: 43. I already blogged about my lack of skill with poetry and my thoughts on Kelly Link's piece, so these are my thoughts on (most of) the rest of the issue.
T.M. McNally's "The Gateway" is probably the most instantly accessible. It's a somewhat circular story about a man and his wife Phoebe. The unnamed man was once a would be novelist who turned to writing screenplays for children's television and eventually left that for a career as a real estate agent. Phoebe is a painter who gave up her art to run a gallery. Much of the story revolves around their past relationships with famous people, and questioning how and why they came to be together. In the end the narrator agrees with his father that the best thing that happened to him was his wife. A very nice piece, and it hit on some thoughts I have been having in my own life lately.
Rick Moody's "She Forgot" is an interesting experiment in repetition and memory. This narrator's mother lives in a nursing home, and we see her memory deteriorate as the story progresses. Each segment is fairly short, running 1-10 sentences, and always starts with the line, "She forgot". The story brings up several interesting thoughts on memory and how it shapes our lives and relationships. Towards the end the narrator begins to question his own memory, wondering how much of what's in his head is real and how much is fabricated. The piece is also an excellent example of using a slightly experimental technique tied directly to the theme of the work.
Gilbert Sorrentino's "Head Arrangements" tells the story of a wife having an affair. The piece jumps around in time and point of view a lot, but it's an effective albeit unusual way to move this type of story around. In the end, you get a very full sense of the affair, the wife's reasons, and everyone's perspective on it. I've read a number of pieces by Sorrentino over the past year, and I find I like him more and more. I'll probably be adding him to my list of people to check out more deeply.
Two pieces I had great difficulty with: M.T. Anderson's "Nine Yelps From the Eisteddfod of Idiots" and "Just Because It Never Happened Doesn't Mean We're Still Alive" by Ben Marcus. Both hold a wonderful sense of language, but I'm hard pressed to say what they are about. There is probably some esoteric postmodern style I'm missing, and without knowing what they're working towards it's hard to interpret the pieces. I've had similar troubles with Ben Marcus before, most notably his collection The Age of Wire and String. Perhaps if I read a little more about the authors and go back to these peices, I'll understand them a bit more.
The issue closes with a translation of "A Certain Quanity of Conversations or, The Completely Altered Nightbook", a short Russian play written in the 1930's by Aleksandr Vvedensky. Although probably not the most intelligent way to describe it, I'd call it a blending of Seinfeld with Samuel Becket. Meaning, nothing really happens as far as plot but the author manages to take these situations and transform them into odd but witty dialogue that at times contain some hints of philosophical thought. The play is broken into several different segments, each one a conversation about or around a different topic. "A Conversation About Cards", for example, places some friends around a table setting up to play a round of cards. The characters (named the First, the Second, and the Third) banter back and forth on why they like cards, who else should be playing, and what else they could and should be doing besides playing cards. Needless to say, the segment ends before the cards ever get dealt. It's an interesting play, although I'm sure it works even better on stage than it does by reading it off the page.
Overall, I'm very pleased with the issue. The readings were diverse, and it challenged me in some ways I haven't been challenged in awhile. It's made me miss more experimental work. But, I'm afraid, duty calls in the form of the Anthony Kiedis bio, Scar Tissue.