Monday, March 14, 2005

On the Fence

Not surprisingly, Issue 14 of Fence is poetry ladened. I'll just be commenting on the fiction in the issue.

The opening story, "The Artist's Voice: Hearing is Believing" by Manuel Gonzales, tells the story of Karl Abbasonov an immensely talented musician and composer who suffers from a unique affliction. Starting at a young age, whenever he focused his mind on playing or composing music he would endure painful, horrible headaches. Despite this, Abbasonov loved music and kept working on his art. His condition worsens with age, to the point that he becomes completely paralyzed. Without the ability to speak, Abbasonov develops the ability to manipulate the internal workings of his ear allowing him to speak. As far out as it sounds, Gonzales does a wonderful job at working in just enough explanation to make it believable.

Lisa Pearson's "How the Slowworm Struggled, But Not Too Much" focuses on a small worm plugged from the safety of the earth by the claw of a bird. The worm feels special for being the one chosen by the bird, obviously not aware that the bird probably chose him as dinner and not for anything profound. It's an odd but effective mix as you feel this poor little worm's joy in soaring through the air and seeing things like clouds and sunlight for the first time, but the fear for the worm knowing it's about to die. A simple, short piece but very effective.

Two pieces move into the wacky. Alice Bradley's "The Panty Thief" works in a silly mode for the most part, having great fun with a man's obsession of stealing panties from clotheslines. The story shifts at the end, transforming his joy into painful shame. "An Account at the Advance at Northgate" is a wild account of an inexperienced general leading his troops against the onslaught of the Roman Empire. The twist: the disputed territory is a modern-day shopping mall.

The issue closes with Harry Matthews' "My Life in the CIA: How it Began". It's actually part of an older, longer work by Matthews being reissued by Dalkey Archives Press. It's a first-person narrative of a man who everyone thinks to be a CIA spy. Most of the piece is spent with circular arguements, denying any and all connections. Matthews was the only U.S. member of the France-based experimental literature group OULIPO, who combined mathematical structures into their poetry and fiction. Nearly countless jokes and jibes are made at the art world in particular, as well as the culture at large.

Overall a pretty solid issue. Enjoy if you find it.


1 comment:

LadyLitBlitzin said...

Wow, sounds good. Fence is just a print pub, I take it? I have been to their site before but for the moment I don't remember if anything's posted there for reading.