Archive for April, 2011

Trophy Reviewed

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

It is time to embarrass our fiction editor, Michael: His new novel Trophy just garnered a starred review from Kirkus!

We’ve always thought of  Michael, the man, as “a quirky, imaginative, dazzling black comedy,” and much of the pleasure of having him around the office is due to his “word wizardry, his facile puns, his insight into the human heart, and his topsy-turvy sardonic approach [to everything]”—and that is why the bronze plaque affixed to his office door has, for years, read  Topsy-Turvy Pun Wizard of the Human Heart. We are glad that Kirkus has spotted all of these same qualities in his new novel too.

In celebration of Trophy—which will materialize as a physical object in the world next month—we commissioned our Resident Troubadour Don Peteroy to memorialize the event, and his own hair-loss issues, in song.

Cincinnati Review Stories Earn Special Mention in Pushcart Anthology

Monday, April 25th, 2011

More good news for CR! Three stories from issue 6.1—Chris Bachelder’s “Lucky Abbott,” “Christie Hodgen’s “Bedtime Stories for the Middle-Aged,” and Brian Mooney’s “SPQR”—have been listed as “Special Mentions” in the 2011 Pushcart Prize anthology. Congratulations to Chris, Christie, and Brian!

“Wing”: Why We Like It

Monday, April 25th, 2011

It’s wonderful to have our offices here in the campus clock tower (a space we’re afforded because no one knows we’ve moved in), but the giant, moving machinery—wheels and pinions, swinging levers, spinning gears—could be considered a hazard of the job. One quickly learns how to duck, hop, and somersault with the rest of the staff, but every once in a while a new editor does the splits a half-second later than everyone else, and then—whoosh!—is snatched by the shirt collar and disappears into the depths of the mechanism for a twelve-hour rotation. Lucky for us, Lisa Ampleman  (who will be joining our nimble staff in the fall), had our forthcoming issue in hand when a pulley dragged her up to the auxiliary ratchet, which then shifted her over to the drive shaft mainspring. While she spun, rotated, and turned through the night, she managed to chime out the following message across campus every hour on the hour.

Lisa Ampleman: Lisa Williams’s “Wing” (Summer 2011 issue—forthcoming) turns us and then turns us again. The first line is the only one-line complete sentence in the poem, and it acts as a sort of thesis for the poem: “People can remove themselves from us.” We are turned immediately, though, warned that death is not the subject at hand, that instead it is “another/ undeniable turning,” the cold shoulder, enacted through the enjambments, which leads us to the edge of a idea and then sends us in another direction. The rhyme of turning/wing/swinging does this, as does the repetition of face; the second time we see the word, it means something else. The poem ends on abstractions, but Williams has prepared us for the counter-thesis of the poem: We are at the mercy of those whose affection we want—and the reader is at the mercy of the poet, who “has the power to move” away from what we expect.

What We’re Reading

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Fiction Editor Michael Griffith: What I’m reading now? I realize I’m late to the party—Elmore Leonard calls it “the best crime novel ever written” and says it “makes The Maltese Falcon read like Nancy Drew,” and my fortieth-anniversary edition features an introduction by Dennis Lehane, who tabs it “the game-changing crime novel of the last fifty years”—but this week I’ve read for the first time, and with steadily mounting amazement, George V. Higgins’s The Friends of Eddie Coyle. A tale told almost exclusively in dialogue, and content to have the plot emerge from and be subordinate to the conversation, it seems an obvious precursor both of The Wire and of everything that’s most interesting in Quentin Tarantino movies. If the sentence “Jesus, I forgot how bad a thing a cheese sandwich is to eat” thrills you as much as it does me—and thrills you far more than a car chase would—this is the crime book for you.

Game of the Month Winner: Chelsie Bryant

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Thanks to those who played our 1961 National Book Award mix-and-match game! Three people—Jodi Hader, Chelsie Bryant, and Laura S.—correctly matched each excerpt with its author. When we put their names into the randomizer, it chose Chelsie as the winner, so she will have her pick of prizes (thermos, slingpack, or issue). Everyone else gets a free back issue of his/her choice. Congratulations, all!

PS—PARTICIPANTS (whether you guessed correctly or not), please email your choice of issue and mailing address to

Game of the Month

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

For this month’s contest, we’re excited to present a matching game for our National Book Award feature. As you may have read, our upcoming issue will contain a reassessment of the 1961 fiction prize. Contemporary authors Leah Stewart, Alexander Chee, Keith Lee Morris, John McNally, and Justin Tussing serve as the judges, documenting in essay form their process of narrowing the NBA contenders to a shortlist of five, then picking a new winner. You’ll want to check out the new issue to see which novel they selected as their number one, but in the meantime we offer this bit of trivia to test your knowledge of classic American fiction.

The five finalists are listed below, along with an excerpt from each work. Anyone willing to try his/her hand at matching the excerpts with the authors/titles will receive a free back issue (your choice). For those who answer correctly, we’ll pick one of you at random (Seriously! We found a randomizer online!) to win either a thermos, slingpack, or the upcoming issue.

To enter, simply post your comments on the blog by clicking the post title above.

We stop taking entries on Monday, so enter soon, and good luck!

  1. John Updike’s *Rabbit, Run*
  2. John Knowles’s *A Separate Peace*
  3. Flannery O’Connor’s *The Violent Bear It Away*
  4. Harper Lee’s *To Kill a Mockingbird*
  5. Wright Morris’s *Ceremony in Lone Tree*

a. With nothing to block it the wind flung wet gusts at me; at any other time I would have felt like a fool slogging through mud and rain, only to look at a tree.

b. Down the tracks to the east, like a headless bird, the bloody neck still raw and dripping, a tub-shaped water tank sits high on stilts. Bunches of long-stemmed grass, in this short-grass country, grow where the water drips between the rails.

c. He used to love to climb the poles. To shinny up from a friend’s shoulder until the ladder of spikes came to your hands, to get up to where you could hear the wires sing.

d. She was horrible. Her face was the color of a dirty pillow-case, and the corners of her mouth glistened with wet, which inched like a glacier down the deep grooves enclosing her chin.

e. It had taken him barely half a day to find out that the old man had made a wreck of the boy and that what was called for was a monumental job of reconstruction.

“Better”: Why We Like It

Monday, April 11th, 2011

What our carpet looks like now

Last week, while taking breaks from proofreading, we tore out our vaguely brown office-grade carpeting in order to prepare the floor for the Italian marble we’re hoping to get sometime in the next month (which, we’d like to say, will look fantastic with the gold-plated light fixtures and doorknobs we’ve ordered, but that’s another story).

How we imagine the office will look when we're done remodeling

However, as we  peeled back a corner of carpet, we noticed that a  letter, addressed to the people of the future, had been placed under the unlovely mat of man-made fibers at some unknown point in time. Upon further inspection, we realized the handwriting belonged to Jessica Vozel, a former CR volunteer. She had tucked away the missive shortly before ending her tenure at the review. It appears Jessica wanted to ensure that the citizens of the future would not forget how haunting and beautiful Victoria Lancelotta’s story “Better” (issue 5.2) was. We’ve reproduced the letter here, and we plan to enshrine it under the first marble tile.

Jessica Vozel: Victoria Lancelotta’s “Better” is a story of would-be saviors. Its characters aim to save but fall short, thwarted by misinterpretation and missed opportunity. Susan, whose thoughts we follow as events unfold, cares for her husband’s aging alcoholic father, Raymond, a once-bright history professor whose slurred speech retains the air of intellectualism but not the substance. No one demands that Susan attend to the details required of a dying man—“the blood pressure monitor, the laundry and groceries, fragrance-free detergent and high-fiber cereals, salt-free seasonings, antibacterial wipes and disinfectant sprays.” In fact, her diligence annoys both her husband and his father. Like the waitress with whom Susan shares a moment of kinship, “there is nothing left in her to save,” and so she turns her attention to aiding even those who resent her help.

The story is both complicated and deepened when we learn that her husband Michael missed by minutes the opportunity to save his first wife. When he found her on the bathroom floor, bloodied by slit wrists, he futilely attempted CPR and wrapped towels around her wounds. In his efforts, “he did not consider the possibility that someone unhappy enough to do such a thing might not want to be saved.” The story closes at a poignant, skillfully crafted moment when Susan comes to understand what her husband did not.

In “Better,” the details of a life deteriorating are wrenchingly rendered. Lancelotta encourages the reader to find beauty even in tragic moments with her poetic prose. Her descriptions combine corrosion and death with light and vivid color: beside rusted razor blades and tubes of Bengay and Polident, Raymond has arranged “a row of women’s perfumes, the bottles old-fashioned, glass heavy and faceted and golden, capped with stoppers meant to look like birds and ribbons.” Similarly, the scene of Michael’s first wife’s suicide is described in light-infused terms: the white tile floor, her long pale hair, the silver band on her finger, the sunny street where they lived, the lemon candy in her pocket.

Ultimately, Lancelotta’s exquisite story redefines what it means to save and be saved, and explores lives made better in unexpected ways.

Arner, Robert D | Professor

Ash, Beth S. | Associate Professor, English and Womens Studies

Bogen, Don | Professor

Borah, Rebecca S. | Associate Professor

Braziel, Jana Evans | Professor of English; Affiliate Faculty in Africana Studies; and Affiliate Faculty in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Bryan, John | Vice Provost for Academic Personnel

Carlson, Julia S. | Assistant Professor

Chambers-Letson, Josh Takano | Assistant Professor

Chancy, Myriam J. A. | Professor

Clayton, Philip Terry | Assistant Professor

Corkin, Stanley J. | Professor; Charles Phelps Taft Research Center Fellow

Cummins, James V. | Professor and Curator of the Elliston Poetry Collection

Davis, Frank A | Associate Professor

Dean, Sharon G | Associate Professor

Debs, Mary Elizabeth | Associate Professor

Drury, John P. | Professor

Durst, Russel K | Professor and Department Head

Dziech, Billie | Professor

England, Amy Sue | Assistant Professor

Epstein, Grace A. | Associate Professor

Glaser, Jennifer | Assistant Professor

Godshalk, William L | Professor

Griffith, Michael | Associate Professor

Hall, James M | Associate Professor

Hall, Wayne E. | Vice Provost for Faculty Development, and Professor of English and Comparative Literature

Heller, Tamar | Associate Professor

Henley, Trish Thomas | Assistant Professor

Hogeland, Lisa M | Associate Professor, English and Womens Studies

Hughes, Jon | Professor, English and Journalism; Director, Journalism Program

Kamholtz, Jonathan Z | Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies and the Helen Weinberger Center for the Study of Drama and Playwriting

Larkin, Antoinette M. | Associate Professor

Martin, Barbara R. | Assistant Professor

Meem, Deborah T. | Head, Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Meloncon, Lisa | Assistant Professor, Professional and Technical Writing

Micciche, Laura R. | Director of Composition and Associate Professor, Rhetoric and Composition

Person, Leland S. | Professor of English, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and Affiliate Faculty in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Rentz, Kathryn C | Professor

Ridolfo, Jim | Assistant Professor of Composition and Rhetoric

Rieke, Alison R | Associate Professor

Schiff, James A | Associate Professor

Sheehy, Michael W. | Assistant Professor

Slotkin, Edgar M. | Professor

Stewart, Leah | Assistant Professor

Summerlin, Laverne | Professor

Twomey, Jay | Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Vaughn, Gary | Associate Professor of English

Weissman, Gary | Assistant Professor

Wenner, Barbara | Associate Professor, 18th-Century British Novel, Jane Austen, Women’s Travel Narratives

Wilson, James C | Professor

Arduser, Lora | Field Service Assistant Professor

Beckelhimer, Lisa L J | Field Service Associate Professor, English Composition

Bossmann, Marilyn J | Field Service Assistant Professor

Brannan, Beverly J | Field Service Assistant Professor

Campagna, Christopher | Field Service Assistant Professor

Cook, Teresa F. | Field Service Assistant Professor

Gerstle, Mary V. | Field Service Instructor

Greivenkamp, Dianna L | Field Service Instructor

Griegel-Mccord, Michele L. | Field Service Assistant Professor

Hammond, Allison E. | Field Service Assistant Professor

Holley, Michelle A | Field Service Assistant Professor

Houston, Patricia J. | Field Service Assistant Professor

Hughes, Sean | Field Service Assistant Professor of Journalism, Photojournalism and Design Coordinator

Hundemer, Ronald | Field Service Associate Professor

Kerley, Aaron M | Field Service Instructor

Knippling, James R | Field Service Assistant Professor

Leech, Mary | Field Service Assistant Professor

Maddux, John A | Field Serivce Associate Professor

Malek, Joyce | Field Service Associate Professor

Mitchell, Pama | Field Service Assistant Professor

Oberlin, Molly L | Field Service Assistant Professor

Opengart, Bea C | Field Service Assistant Professor

Peck, Maurice | Field Service Instructor

Penix, Leonard N. | Field Service Associate Professor

Reynolds, Victoria P. | Field Service Instructor

Ris, Cynthia | Field Service Assistant Professor

Romagnoli, Maria | Field Service Assistant Professor

Sharp, Judith | Field Service Assistant Professor

Sonnenberg, Elissa | Field Service Assistant Professor, Assistant Director of Journalism Program

Wilson, Laura Ann | Field Service Instructor

Wohlfarth, Jennifer | Field Service Assistant Professor

Zipfel, William H. | Field Service Associate Professor and Director, Arts and Sciences Writing Center

Callinan, Thomas

Crippen, Bruce

Doane, Kathleen

Florez, Rosalind C

Henley, Charles M

Hennessey, Michael S.

Henry, Douglas

Houghton, Charles G

Hovious, Darrell | Adjunct Instructor, Annual

Kaufman, Benjamin L.

Mason, Nicola F | Adjunct Assistant Professor, Annual, Managing Editor of The Cincinnati Review

Moores, Lew A

Stern-Enzi, Terrence

Wilson, Kathy Y | Adjunct Instructor

Norton, Furaha D

O’Keeffe, Patrick P

Armstrong, Elizabeth | Emeritus Faculty

Atkinson, Michael | Emeritus Faculty

Bains, Yashdip S | Emeritus Faculty

Chard, Leslie F. | Emeritus Faculty

Golding, Sanford | Emeritus Faculty

Harvey, Nancy Lenz | Emeritus Faculty

Jenckes, Norma Coleman | Emeritus Faculty

Lasher, William E. | Emeritus Faculty

Leclair, Thomas E | Emeritus Faculty

Lepage, Peter V. | Emeritus Faculty

Milne, Fred | Emeritus Faculty

Palkovacs, Marilyn I | Emeritus Faculty

Reed, Janet L | Emeritus Faculty

Ribble, Marcia L | Emeritus Faculty

Schultz, Lucille M | Emeritus Faculty

Stephens, Martha | Emeritus Faculty

Stewart, John Keith | Emeritus Faculty

Stokes, Terry | Emeritus Faculty

York, Anthony D | Emeritus Faculty

Hinkle-Wesseling, Geri L | Business Manager

Nixon, Devore Mae | Administrative Coordinator

Vieson, Jessica | Coordinator for Graduate and Undergraduate Studies

Alaee, Lea

Alexander, Andrew G

Allen, Sheri L

Ampleman, Lisa | Graduate Teaching Assistant

Bailey, Byron B

Bell, Josh

Berthoud, Julie

Bess, Chelsey J

Bliman, Eric

Boehr, Christiane

Bosse, Walter

Burke, Michelle Y | Graduate Teaching Assistant

Carr, Allison D. | Graduate Teaching Assistant

Cassel, Adrienne M

Chandhoke, Komal

Chuha, Nicholas

Cobb, Alexander

Connair, Ryan J

Cornelson, Jesseca A

Cummins, Garrett J

Dargue, Joseph | Graduate Teaching Assistant

Darley, Mical A.

DeLong, Joseph

Depolo, Arthur K

Dobson, Andrew A

Dudley, Benjamin H

Fisher, Alisa M

Fitzpatrick-Jones, Megan E

Frank, Rebecca M

Frasch, Preston E | Graduate Teaching Assistant

Grace, Andrew

Grimes, Peter J

Hales, Scott A

Hamilton, Heather | Graduate Teaching Assistant

Harmon, Elizabeth A

Harnist, Sarah E

Haynes, Becky

Haynes-Henry, Lisa

Jewell, Amy L. | College Relations Graduate Assistant, College of Business

Jones, Daniel S

Kaufman, Nicole S

Kay, Les | Graduate Teaching Assistant

Kelly, Nicholas R

Koslowski, Christopher

LaVecchia, Christina | Graduate Teaching Assistant

Lively, TaiShawn D

Maloney, Allison M

McBride, Matthew D

McCormack, Leah

McLaughlin, Neely D

Mellas, Tessa | Graduate Teaching Assistant

Merten, Karen A

Miller, Anamarie L

Mitchell, Sarah F. | Graduate Teaching Assistant

Moody, Christian | PhD Candidate (ABD) in English and Fiction Writing; Associate Editor of The Cincinnati Review

Morwessel, Barbara A

Mundhenk, Justin C

Nemec, Jason | Graduate Teaching Assistant

Nickels, John M

Nielsen, Dave | “Slugger”

O’Shea, Catherine

Oldson, Scott R.

Ontrop, Jenna M

Pedroza, Courtney N

Pennington, Eric W

Peteroy, Donald | Captain of the GA Squad

Philbrick, Ethan

Phillips, Mark A

Pihakis, James L

Poissant, David

Polak, Katharine | “Captain”

Potter, George E

Putthoff, Gina L

Rieder, Shannan

Rule, Hannah Joy | Graduate Teaching Assistant

Russell, Timothy J

Scherner De La Fuente, Tara S

Schoesler, Matthew J.

Scott, Amanda

Smith, Bryan

Smith, Madison G

Smith, Zachary C


Bonus Material: Dean Bakopolous, Claire Harlan Orsi

Monday, April 11th, 2011

We’re done proofreading! We learned a few new style rules.  iPods, for example, have earned their own special rule in the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style: “Brand names that begin with a lowercase letter followed by a capital letter now retain the lowercase letter even at the beginning of a sentence or a heading.” Crikey!

We’ll have to decide whether we’ll abide by this rule or flip Chicago the bird and add an exception to our house style guide. While we debate and thumb wrestle about this, enjoy our last two contributor comments from the current issue.

Dean Bakopoulos: My essay “Where You At?” came out of the strange feelings of emptiness and guilt that plague writers when they’ve wasted too much time at the computer, not writing. It occurred to me that I had lost a great deal of the shadowy, wonderful mystery of memory by reconnecting with so many old friends, and I found myself longing to become invisible.

Claire Harlan Orsi: “A Fine Illusion” emerged out of research I was doing on the intersections of lesbianism and spiritualism around World War I. Anyone familiar with spiritualist practices can attest to the ripeness of the associated images—otherworldly knockings, luminescent ghosts, joined hands encircling a table—not to mention the larger themes—a yearning for connection in the face of the greatest loss, the anxiety of fraud, the power of ritual. Though my initial approach to the material was purely academic, it seemed too good to pass up for fiction

The Cincinnati Review is available for order through our secure online form

Bonus Material: Davis, Pitt

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Our policy is that we don’t eat, drink, or sleep until we finish proofreading the forthcoming issue. However, when Assistant Editor Matt McBride learned of the following, recent change to The Chicago Manual of Style he stiffened, stopped blinking in response to stimuli, and developed an impressive head of mouth-foam: “In a return to the 14th edition of the manual, the generic term in a proper noun is uppercased if used in the plural (e.g., Fifty-Fifth and Fifty-Seventh Streets, the Thames and Mersey Rivers, the American and French Revolutions).”

We’re glad Matt snapped out of it on his own. We don’t have time to hydrate, so we sure as hell don’t have time to pause for emergency medical procedures. We’re proofreading.

While we double-check the uppercase plurals of our proper nouns, we hope you enjoy these behind-the-scenes contributor comments from our current issue:

Susan Davis: “Gravity” is an associative poem that develops in its speaker’s head as she immerses herself in setting. I like such poems because they are a ride in the quality of someone else’s mind. Sometimes we have to hang on; sometimes we are comforted. I was surprised where this poem ended up, and hopefully that’s a good thing.

Matthew Pitt: “These Are Our Demands” is rooted in my fascination with the ways adults (often those most blessed with privilege and means) gird and steel against crisis—even potential crisis, crisis in the abstract—then seem dumbfounded when they can’t shake health problems, when lines of communication with loved ones break down, when anxiety becomes a constant companion. I wonder if this obsession with driving out darkness instead drives out any opening for serenity or solace: Can you ball your fists and receive beauty at the same time? Finally, I was interested in the notion that having to combat, or anticipate, crisis constantly could become a turn-on; become the stand-in for beauty.

Bonus Material: Varallo, Morris, Lumans

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

We’re still proofreading our forthcoming issue. Our blue pencils are worn to nubs. We’re pinching them between pennies to make our marks.

Our last geeky proofreading factoid caused a riot on the quad of our campus, with pro-hyphenation factions dance-fighting anti-hyphenation factions, so we thought we’d fuel the revolution by pointing out another change to the Chicago Manual of Style: “The title of a work that ends in a question mark or exclamation point should now be followed by a comma if the grammar of the sentence would normally call for one or, in source citations or in an index, if a comma would normally follow the title.”

Whoa. You might want to go back to your Swamplandia! or U.S.! essay and stick in some more commas.

While we continue to check our own commas, here is some bonus commentary from the writers in our current issue:

Anthony Varallo: Most of my stories are written in a matter of weeks or months; “Some Other Life,” though, took ten years. This was due to a deeply intellectual/aesthetic crisis I experienced about halfway through, called But I Have No Idea What Happens Next. So for a decade I scrolled through the story (insert video montage of seasonal change, presidencies coming and going, me switching Mira’s “Walkman” on page one to “iPod”) until I realized I hadn’t really figured out why Mira felt so down. Imagining her broken engagement—and following it wherever it might lead me—helped carry the story to its long-overdue completion.

Keith Lee Morris: I have no idea what the hell I was thinking when I wrote “Diego Rivera.” I remember this: I had a dream that I was staying in this big hotel somewhere on the coast of Mexico, and someone was painting a mural on the wall of the hotel bar. I like to write from dreams, and that was enough to get me started. The rest just kind of happened on its own—I know at some point I was remembering two early Woody Allen plays, God and Death (that had something to do with the baby running around in the fog and the character talking to actors on a stage). Then Diego Rivera got involved (someone had to paint the mural, after all), and somehow, armed with just a bucket of the wrong color paint and a roller, he ended up in a duel with the silent, insensate universe.

Alexander Lumans: My story started with the word: birdmen. Nothing about it ever sounded amiable or charitable. It’s the kind of word that I could picture people being frightened to say too loudly, outside, for fear of what it might suddenly conjure up or call down. This is probably because I’m obsessed with large birds. Up close, they command so much awe. They aren’t too many mutations away from turning into insatiable tyrant-storks; and what better creature to take away human children than the one that supposedly delivers them in the first place?

The Cincinnati Review is available for order through our secure online form