This issue’s themed art exhibit is “Exotic,” and our featured poet is “Stephen Kampa,” interviewed by Chelsea Woodard. Other poets in this issue include Tim McGrath, John Beaton, Richard Cecil, Estill Pollock, Bruce Bennett, Anne Delana Reeves, Elise Hempel, Terese Coe, Verga Ignatowitsch, Dan Campion, and others. Plus, a selection of book reviews; essays by N.S. Thompson and Christopher Rivas; and an international fiction special feature. See more contributors at the Mag Stand.
A philosophy professor wants to get out of his head . . . and into the Godhead.
Thousands of years ago in India, great beings explored the inner Cosmos of their own minds through meditation, seeking answers to the big questions. Who are we? What is the purpose of life? How can we overcome the intractable problem of human suffering? These are the metaphysical matters at the center of To Be Enlightened, the debut novel by Alan J. Steinberg.
Set in southern California, the story tracks the spiritual quest of Abe Levy, a philosophy professor at Pomona College. Deep into midlife, he struggles between the duties and pleasures of being a husband and the strong desire to expand his consciousness. As his pursuit grows increasingly zealous, so does the anxiety of Abe’s longtime wife, Sarah, who fears Abe’s ascension will divide them. At the college, Abe teaches “The Insider’s Guide to Our Self” (a survey of Vedic philosophy and the roots of religion), which serves as the setting for much of the novel’s Socratic-style debate and helps outline the book’s philosophical ideas. Namely, that Vedic philosophy addresses many questions left unanswered by Western philosophy.
Connecting the dots between science and alchemy, Eastern and Western philosophy, and the underlying wisdom of many faith traditions—from Judaism to Christianity to Hinduism to Sufism—Steinberg invokes the “God” beyond all religion, reminding us that no religion has dibs on Ultimate Reality. A pleasurable read that makes Eastern philosophy accessible, the book is plausibly far-out. It makes a convincing case that everyone has the potential to transcend.
To Be Enlightened by Alan J. Steinberg. Adelaide Books, 2021.
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A new Tint Journal is out and at the Mag Stand. Read 25 new literary creations by ESL writers from all around the world online and for free at our website. Each text is accompanied with visual art creations by international artists, and many feature audio recordings of the writers reading their work. The 25 new poems, short stories and essays by writers identifying with 19 different nationalities and speaking 18 different mother tongues are just as diverse in their subject matter: Ranging from immigration, food, loss, LGBTQ+ and race to horror and romance, they will cue readers to think about the pressing issues of our time and open new literary landscapes to enjoy.
In addition to the 2020 Short Nonfiction Contest winners, Miriam Grossman, Mary O. Parker, and Stella Li, the Mar/Apr Kenyon Review includes “Nature’s Nature,” our seventh annual special poetry section centered on “nature, the environment, and ecological witness,” as Poetry Editor David Baker describes it in his introduction. See what else you can find in this issue at the Mag Stand.
New poetry by Heather Lang-Cassera, Wale Ayinla, Suphil Lee Park, Anne Champion, and others; fiction by Joseph Bathanti, Natanya Ann Pulley, and Grant William Currier; and essays by Tariq Al Haydar, Karen Salyer McElmurray, and more. Plus Patrick Hicks reviews Angel Bones by Ilyse Kusnetz. See more contributors at the Mag Stand.
Mudfish 22 is now at the Mag Stand and is bursting with poems, prose and art, that are revelations, that grab you by the lapels, that defy forgetting. They are before and after visions and celebrations of our world today. Guest art editor John Yau has filled the pages with work from young New York-based artists that is immediate and sparkling.
Inside the latest issue of Missouri Review now at the Mag Stand: first fiction from Isabelle Shifrin. Featuring poetry by John Gallaher, Jennifer Sperry Steinorth, and Teresa Ott, fiction by Drew Calvert, Yxta Maya Murray, Mehr-Afarin Kohan, and Sam Dunnington, essays from Molly Wright Steenson and Phillip Hurst, and more, including a Curio Cabinet piece on Hans Christian Andersen.
In this issue: family and relationship works, a thread of Greek myths, bullies, and a couple NASA poets. Nonfiction by Anne McGouran, Frances Park, Marilyn Stablein, and D. E. Steward; fiction by Sean Gill, Frederick Highland, Len Kruger, Jillian Oliver, Max Talley, Curtis Smith, and more; and poetry by CL Bledsoe & Michael Gushue, Roger Camp, Kathleen Clancy, German Dario, Holly Day, Alexis Draut, Robert Estes, Michelle Fenton, and others. Find a longer list of contributors at this week’s Mag Stand.
I’ve been watching a lot of comedy movies and TV shows lately, enjoying the much needed escape from reality, so it makes sense that I’d gravitate toward Wesley Korpela’s “An Email to the Rose Creek School Board” in the Fall 2020 issue of Emerald City.
Korpela writes an email to the “Members of the Facilities Committee” from Genevieve Powers-Harrison’s point of view. Genevieve requests the elementary school’s name be changed to honor her still-living ex-husband Carl. Carl’s obsession with getting on the show America’s Funniest Home Videos drives the couple apart, but ultimately Genevieve believes he deserves the award as “a ‘win.'” After all, “he’s a nice enough man.”
I loved the voice Korpela gives to Genevieve and found the obsession with AFV to be a fun and fresh twist on the divorce story. There’s no ill-will between the two, just many failed attempts at five seconds of fame. A good, silly story is just what I needed.
Issue 103/104 of River Styx just hit our mailbox, bringing the winners of the 2020 River Styx Microfiction Contest with it. The winners were selected by the literary magazine’s editors. These stories must be 500 words or less.
“The Great Migration of Whales” by Michelle Kim Hall
“Weighted Vest” by Rachel Furey
“His Exposure” by Matthew Pitt
“Wild Thing” by Haley Creighton
“Maybe This One” by Robert McBrearty
“On Liminality” by Marc Sheehan
When Sayaka Murata writes, she blocks out the version of herself that lives in the real world, the one bound by conventionalities of a so-called functioning society. Instead, she conjures scenarios that might lead to ‘real truths’ she’s been searching for since childhood. That’s what her 10 books have been, experiments to unveil what senses dulled by normalcy can’t spot.
Konbini Ningen—Convenience Store Woman in English—became a sensation of sorts when it was published back in 2016 and addressed the revered subjects of marriage, social norms, and work dynamics in Japan head-on. In just over 160 pages, the author lays out the full picture of Keiko Furukura’s life as a single convenience store employee in her late 30’s. A self-proclaimed cog of society, her mere existence threatens the carefully assembled foundation of everything that is acceptable; and what’s more unnerving for anyone that knows her, that’s all she wants to be.
Diving into Murata’s transparent narrative is a trip. One worth taking for anyone willing to defy conventional thinking. And if that sounds odd to you, tell me, what does normal mean, anyway?
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori. Grove Press, September 2019.
Reviewer bio: Vanessa Cervini Rios is an avid reader in four languages and enjoys writing about the link between cultural products and the social imaginary. More words by her: 12booksclub.substack.com.
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