Archive for January, 2014

Remembering Cathryn Long

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Nicola Mason: For the last couple of months I’ve been attempting to approach the difficult task of informing our far-flung contributors, readers, and friends about the death of Don Bogen’s wife, Cathryn Long, from inflammatory breast cancer. She passed just before Thanksgiving, and needless to say, inhabiting the world feels vastly different now that Cathryn’s not here to grace it with her sprightly intelligence, her sly wit, her great warmth, and her encompassing curiosity. She could boast a great many triumphs and accomplishments, but she didn’t. Her loss is deeply felt by friends and family in small- and large-scale ways—and, of course, by none more than Don and their two children, Anna and Theo.

Cathryn was a huge supporter of The Cincinnati Review, and even a fan (she read every issue cover to cover and when we met would bring up this story or that essay), but few know that she also generously lent first her eye or ear to poems Don was considering, then her thoughts. Engagement was one of Cathryn’s gifts, and the magazine benefited from her focus on, and passion for, words in specific and creative enterprise in general. For this—and to her—we will always be grateful.

Why We Like It: Daneen Bergland’s “Animals Invaluable to Epidemiologists for Tracking the Spread of Disease Will Appear to Us as Angels”

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Sara Watson: As an animal lover, I was immediately drawn to the subject of Daneen Bergland’s “Animals Invaluable to Epidemiologists for Tracking the Spread of Disease Will Appear to Us as Angels.” This poem not only considers our relationship with animals, but even offers them an autonomous dream life.

The speaker in this poem is assertive. She knows her stuff. “A body is just a place to keep your guts safe,” she says, and, “Music has always been good for sad things.” It’s more than the phrases Bergland builds that ring true, however; it is her tone of utter assurance. But the speaker is curious, too, and compassionate, gazing into the face ( the teeth, to be exact) of what must be a very small and very frightened bat, asking, “Do you think we are the stars of animals’ anxiety dreams?”

Charming, funny, and smart, the voice here leads me, ultimately, to new questions about myself and the world.

Contributor News

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

We’ve received some delightful news from contributor Katherine Bode-Lang, who just learned her poetry manuscript “The Reformation” has been awarded the 2014 APR/Honickman First Book Prize. All three of the poems published in our pages are included in the collection, which will be available for purchase in September. The selection was made by Stephen Dunn. Congrats, Katie!

What We’re Reading: Cloud Atlas

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Brian Trapp: I’m currently writing a novel, which has not proved helpful for my mental health. I’m beset with the usual first-draft questions: How many narrators? One? Three? How much time will the narrative cover? One month? One year? Ten? To keep from quitting forever and taking up a more forgiving occupation (Bomb defuser? Smoke jumper?), I take comfort in the fact that there are only so many options. But after reading David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, I am once again on the cusp of mental breakdown. Mitchell’s novel has six (!) narrators and covers oh . . . why not . . . a thousand years.

The book can more accurately be described as a series of interlocking novellas, each blending chameleon-like into different genres (seafaring journal, Victorian epistolary, mystery/thriller, sci-fi dystopia). The novel starts and ends with an epic of British imperialism, but in between it trapezes to 1970s California, Victorian Belgium, contemporary London, future Korea, and more distant end-of-civilization Hawaii, employing Mitchell’s assured prose and expertly curated detail.

This author is best when painting other worlds, and he can find the most telling detail to make a scene believable. For instance, in “The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing,” when the nineteenth-century seafarer gets to a racist missionary outpost on an obscure island, he notices a dining room table with its legs immersed in a dish of water to keep the ants away. How did he come up with that? It’s the best of details: utterly convincing and also thematically significant. Civilization in this novel is always on shaky ground, and yet there is a hopeful air to many of these stories. In the mostly depressing Phillip K. Dick-inspired “An Orison of Sonmi-451,” a cloned “fabricant” gives her confession to a government minder after a quashed rebellion, and yet her Bill of Rights lives on as a religion in the next novella, showing that even when characters die, their stories can matter for future generations.

Cloud Atlas is held together like a symphony, with repeating themes of reincarnation and cannibalism, even down to the novellas themselves, each one existing as a text in a later novella. Mitchell, who did a master’s thesis on postmodern literature, offers the complex intertexuality of his postmodern forebears, while still supplying the old-timey pleasures of a good yarn. In other words, he is both sophisticated and accessible. While some novellas are better than others, cumulatively, this novel holds up, and in its last line makes a compelling case for itself: “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”

Saddle Up for Seattle

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Join us at Unicorn, everyone, for this oh-so-special AWP Thursday. Our lineup thus far: in poetry Chelsea Wagenaar, Mark Wagenaar, and Jehanne Dubrow; in fiction, Ian Stansel and Colin Winnette. Listen in bliss while scarfing fried ginger and jalapeno pork balls and guzzling drinks called the Shay Shay Mar Mar and the Gavin MacLeod. Something is guaranteed to make your eyes roll back in your head. We mean ALL the way back. In a good way. Unless you hate cute, colorful unicorns—in which case it’s okay if you don’t come, but you might consider getting some counseling.

LIKE us on Facebook and join our event. All the details are there!

Longing for Length

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

We here in the CR office are all, in a word, short. Brian Trapp, the giant among us, tops out at three foot eight. Needless to say, we rely pretty heavily on Photoshop when posting images of ourselves. But in the spirit of  those reveals where celebs appear proudly in unretouched-up photos without makeup, we want to “come out” to CR’s devoted following and show ourselves as we really look.

Just as people with curly hair wish they had the straight stuff and angular people want curves (and vice versa), our diminutive statures make us long for length. Not much we can do about that in the physical sense, but we’ve decided, as strong proponents of placebos, to devote an issue of CR to forms that we can lose ourselves in. You got a poem cycle that circles the globe? Send it. You got a novella nosing through the top of the giraffe house? We’re your mag. The limits (because, well, when are there not limits?): for prose, NO FEWER THAN 10,000 words and NO MORE THAN 35,000 words; and for poetry, works NO FEWER THAN 10 pages in manuscript. Put us on the rack of your writing and give us a good, sustained stretch. Attenuate our attention spans. Gangly up our ganglia. NOTE: When you submit your protracted pieces, be sure to click the category “Longform – Poetry” or “Longform – Prose” in Submission Manager. (That way your submission goes to the right readers right away.)