January 2019 Round Up


January Round-Up

And My Literary Journal Obsession


I hope everyone came through the holidays well and that your new year has started off with a bang.

This year, I’ve decided to share a bit of what I’ve read, watched, and listened.

With that in mind, a note about literary journals:

Adam Ross once described literary journals as the mix tapes of the literary world. I love that description. Each journal is a compact piece of art I can carry with me.

I’ve made it part of my writing, reading, and ethical practice to subscribe to at least one a year. I live on a tight budget, but in many instances it’s much more economical to subscribe than to purchase individual issues. For instance, a digital subscription to Ploughshares is only twenty dollars a year. This allows me to support the literary community, support art, and hopefully help keep another journal from folding in times of economic pressure.

Each lit journal is a compact piece of art I can carry with me.

Art is necessary, especially in times of political and social turmoil. If you’re trying to develop a writing practice, seeking publication, and you have the fiscal means, I recommend researching and then subscribing to at least one for one year. If you don’t have the fiscal means, then check with your local library. Many carry at least some literary magazines.

Right now, I’m really digging Virginia Quarterly Review, but if literary isn’t your thing there’s a wide range of choices. A fan of horror? Check out Black Static. Mystery? Try Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine or Alfred Hitchcock Magazine. Like quirky literature or dark fantasy? Try Friction. Like Sci-fi? Try Interzone. There’s a whole wealth of variety out there. Don’t know where to start? Pick up a copy of the Best American series or Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year. It’ll give you a nice survey of what’s happening.

Anyway, here is my Best of January:

Short Story: “Cougar” by Maria Anderson.

This story was originally published in the Iowa Review, but I read it in the 2018 Best American Short Stories. It’s quirky, and brutal, and I get the idea that people are going to either love it or hate it. There is animal death in this one which I usually don’t tolerate well, but in the case of this story it served a purpose. I gave the story a 9/10 which is unusual for me.

Last year’s BASS, edited by Roxane Gay has been outstanding so far. I love Gay’s work, so it makes sense I’d love the stories she chose for this anthology.

Novel: Red Dragon

I have Richard Thomas to thank for this one. I haven’t read a novel this fun in a while. It’s an oldie, published in the 90’s, but it has held up well. I don’t read a lot of books involving the FBI or CIA, or any of the other law enforcement alphabet soup. I just don’t dig procedurals. This one had enough character, heart, and weirdness to make up for the small bit of procedural in the early part of the book. I might check out the movie. Anyone have any thoughts? How did it stand up to the book?

Listen: Ramin Djawadi

I adore Mr. Djawadi’s work and often find myself listening to his Westworld or Game of Thrones soundtracks as I write. If you haven’t heard him head on over to Spotify and give him a listen.

Movie(s): Hereditary and Cargo

Both of these movies have really stuck with me, but for different reasons.

I have mixed feelings about Hereditary, but it’s a good example of taking well-known tropes and doing something new with them. They made some interesting choices and some of those images are going to stay with me for a while. Plus, it stars Toni Collette, an actress I dearly love.

There were themes in the story that bothered me, not so much because we can’t see negative representation within minority populations, but because there’s not enough good representation in popular media to balance it out. Also, I have a long and complicated history with anaphylaxis and this movie tapped into some of those fears.

Cargo was first recommended to me by Rachel Cassidy—and if you haven’t read Rachel’s work you’re missing out. Why don’t you head on over to Pseudopod and check out her latest flash, “Egg.” Go on, I’ll wait.

When Rachel first recommended this movie to me my reaction was less than enthusiastic. In my opinion, zombies have just about gone the way of the vampire. But after a hard day I just wanted something to zone out to, and I do love Martin Freeman.

Well, there wasn’t a whole lot of zoning out. Despite my fatigue, I was captivated until the very end. Cargo is a zombie movie that isn’t about zombies. This story had so much heart, so much tension and intelligence. After it was over, I hopped onto Google to see if the film was adapted from a novel. (Sadly, it was not.) Call me a fan. This is one I’m going to return to again and again.

That’s been my January. It’s been a good start to the new year.

Go forth. Read a lot, write a lot, and don’t give up. Remember:

“Keep going. The difference between a publishable and unpublishable story is that the author of the publishable story kept going.” --Unknown

Have a great February!