An eclectic and interesting anthology, American Writers Review - Summer 2018 is a "multi-genre literary journal," containing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, photography, and art. The visual elements add depth and resonance to the written works. Among them, Autumn Whiltshire's pictures of moody Paris are a commentary on "art, life and death" that's scattered through the book. Jeff Talarigo's photos of Northern California are gathered in the area of contributor bios, creating a lovely thread through that section.
Perhaps my favorite use of graphic elements, however, is the beautifully composed "fiction with art" by Gregg Willard, "Recesses." In a post-WWII elementary school, a disturbed vet-turned-custodian casts a shadow over an already shadowed childhood for a man named Robin, who returns forty years later and begins to see events with a different eye. The drawings that accompany this brief story are compelling without being specific. And the whole feels like the beginning of a longer, fuller story, perhaps a novel.
The same could be said of other pieces included here. Another intriguing fictional beginning is "Schmuck" by Ross Klaven. A team of DJs, Elkin and Fox, are sick of each other, and when Fox refuses a movie offer, it stokes Elkin's resentment. But then Max Rosenbloom appears, whose "business partner" has been beheaded in Haiti. Elkin and Fox and their shtick are the humor that lightens his mood, as he heads to a meeting with his partner's Russian connection. At the end, when Max tells his driver, "Turn it off and pull in here," you just know there has to be more to the story.
In contrast, a piece that feels quite complete (and creates an exquisite shudder) is the fiction by Mona D. Miller, "Dancing with Millicent." There is a satisfying twist to this look at long unsatisfying marriages. A completely different sensibility in Catherine Moore's fiction, "Raindance and Moon-eyed Mae," describes a brief visit to an ancient Southern woman with both compassion and humor. And "The Time I Got An Oak Leaf Sticker in Printing" by Michael Cohen conveys how the simplest natural difference can bring out kindness or cruelty, even bigotry.
There is nonfiction, as well. "Hand Me Downs" by Tara Caimi, speaks to being the steward of your family's history. In Milton T. Burnett's vignette, "New York City and Freedom," he speaks of being released from prison into the immense city, with no money, but an astonished sense of liberation.
And it would be wrong not to mention the many wonderful poets represented here. "Irene and Prince in 1938" by Colin Pink is accompanied by a photo that stirs speculation about a life "more dramatic than she planned." Dawn Leas calls up romantic and other losses in "This is how it ends," with the heartbreaking image of "Two cups in center / of brown formica table. / Lids off to calm the heat." In "Eclipse," John Bishop looks hard at the fear of commitment: "I'm afraid of going / places where the light goes out." And Robin Metz, in "New Moon Rising, Buck Creek, Wisconsin," shows us the other side:
...There is a chime, my love,
there is a breeze, and starlight
sows the crevices and seas.
We know the rest.
The collection is presented with essentially no introduction or context. Some effort reveals that the 55 pieces by 46 writers are contest entries, selected by a panel of six judges, plus AWR editor, D Ferrara, and founder Patricia Florio. Though their intentions and processes are vague, they have put together a perfect carry-around book, easily read in short bits of time, and giving you things to ponder. The American Writers Review proves to be compelling, and offers both insight and entertainment. It's a book worth reading.
D Ferrara, the editor of American Writers Review - Summer 2018, also co-edited Jewels of San Fedele by the same publisher. An award-winning playwright and screenwriter, she has also published short fiction and non-fiction work.
Authors/Publicists: For promotion purposes, you may quote excerpts of up to 200 words from our reviews, with a link to the page on which the review is posted. ©Copyright to the review is held by the writer (review posting date appears on the review page). If you wish to reprint the full review, you may do so ONLY with her written permission, and with a link to http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org. Contact our Book Review Editor (bookreviews at storycirclebookreviews.org) with your request and she will forward it to the appropriate person.
StoryCircleBookReviews.org has received a copy of this book for review from the author, publisher, or publicist. We have received no other compensation.