Recently, I subscribed to Midwestern Gothic, a quarterly print literary journal out of Ann Arbor, MI. Before subscribing, I’d stumble occasionally over their work and and was always impressed by what I saw. In a region of the country that many dismiss as “flyover territory,” MG is evidence that even if there are planes in the sky, there are feet on the ground and stories in our heads. This is where the next generation of Midwestern writers are publishing.
I was excited then when, last month, the Summer 2014 issue arrived in the mail. Of the 37 stories and poems, several stood out that I recommend. These are worth the price of admission alone, and I suggest you check them out.
My hands-down favorite was “Last Request,” by Ashley Swanson. The story’s about two sisters, Grace and Eve, sorting out the property of their recently-deceased father. Their mother died in childbirth (with Eve), which forced Grace to take on the role of caretaker. When she wasn’t caring for her sister, she was caring for her father. With Grace’s life on hold, Eve — now a twenty-something — went to New York City, and even for her own sacrifices, it’s not Grace who’s “Daddy’s Little Angel.” These feelings of rejection culminate in the story’s climax when, opening a box of their mother’s items for the first time — they find a letter.
Swanson’s prose is phenomenal, the characters believable, and I was moved by Grace’s anger, disdain, disgust. Any story that can evoke such feelings is the sign of an author who’s on to something. Check it out.
Other stories worth reading:
- “A Day of New Things,” by Jessie Ann Foley: A teenage girl has to move on with her life following the arrest of her father for police corruption. As a minor celebrity in the city, all eyes are on her while hers are on the boy who broke her heart. Overall, an excellent example of telling a story in the Age of Twitter.
- “Radar Gun,” by Chuck Rybak: A college student named J.J. returns to the County Fair he hasn’t visited for years. Playing a game that tracks the speed of a baseball pitch, he discovers that he’s not moving. He and the carny investigate whether the radar gun is broken, but through flashbacks we find it’s not — and why.
- “Title Fight,” by Samuel Sayler: An aging professional wrestler is scheduled to lose his title against a young-up-and-comer “who sells more T-shirts than me.” This is the end of him — he’s being written off — and as he struggles with this, he muses on how the sport’s changed since his early days. (I have a soft spot for professional wrestling).
- “Watch Out for Lions,” by Rebecca McKanna: A seventh grade girl gets her first period and is mocked by a former boyfriend. She proceeds to beat the shit out of the boy. It’s better than the summary I’m providing here.
You can buy the Summer 2014 issue here.