The 34th annual gathering of the small-press tribes, as broad-ranging as ever.
In a time when publishing is conglomerated and compromised and when, notes ringmaster Henderson, writers are called “content providers,” it’s hard to remain hopeful. Yet, Henderson adds (a touch predictably), we now have “a president who can actually read, write, feel, think and govern,” so things may not be so terrible after all. Having worked through 7,000 submissions, Henderson and his fellow conspirators present some of the usual suspects, if sometimes in lesser-known guises: Edward Hoagland as fiction writer, for instance, rather than as travel essayist and journalist. Some of those usual suspects are academics ironically distancing themselves from the academy while honoring all the usual academic tropes. (Identified in that lineup: Christie Hodgens, J.C. Halliman, Brock Clarke.) Other contributors operate somewhere between the fringe and the mainstream, doing their work without much support but with obvious devotion—poet Kim Addonizio, for example, represented here by a delicious send-up of the academic poetry scam: “Spend an afternoon having your makeup professionally done for the taping of a Barnes & Noble interview in which you say things like, ‘If you want to be a writer, you must simply persist.’ ” Among this year’s highlights: a paranoia-tinged story by Richard Powers about a computer virus that may be more deadly than even its makers intended; a superb piece by Adam Zagajewski about the all-too-human but somehow divine Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz (“tender, magnanimous, and charming…but when he spoke in public he retained the tone of an angry prophet”); a searching investigation by emerging writer Ginger Strand of the life of Iron Eyes Cody, and of the big-polluting sponsors of his “crying Indian” ad; and, best of all, a meditation by Sallie Tisdale on, of all things, flies.
Smart, if perhaps a touch thick around the middle, as befits the onset of middle age.