The $6.99 cover price did make me pause, the magazine was very slim (but also sparsely inhabited by ads) and I haven’t been a huge fan of The Atlantic in the past. Two things made the choice for me: I really needed something else to read on the plane besides F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise and the cover art. The cover art shows a grungy young man in a gross armchair reading in what looks like a garbage dump. Perched atop the chair is a cat and in the background a bright blue sky. Something about this image really appealed to me and made me want to see what else was inside.
What was inside was nothing short of remarkable. Every piece of fiction was flawless and engaging, beautiful pieces of art were scattered throughout, some illustrated for the stories some not, and two essays which took new perspectives on writing.
Each story was distinct from the others. Ariel Dorfman’s “The Last Copy” was about a man trying to stop his recently published book getting to a certain nun he once had an affair with 20 years ago, “Sold” by Wendell Berry is about an old woman selling off her farm and possessions as she nears the end of her life, Sarah Turcotte’s “Scars” is about a breast cancer survivor and a tattoo artist’s brief encounter, “Vigil” by Stuart Dybek is about a young boy and his father disposing of a large fish on Christmas night, “How to Win an Unwinnable War” by Austin Bunn is about a young boy struggling with his parent’s divorce, “Little Sister” by Jerome Charyn is a particularly creepy story about a woman finding out she has a violent sister locked up in a pricey asylum, “Someone I’d Like You to Meet” by Elizabeth McKenzie is about a young woman bringing her fiance home to meet her intense mother and easy-going father, “L’amour, CA” by Lysley Tenorio is about a Filipino family that moves to the United States and struggles with acclimation, and “The Great Zero” by Jonathan Walter is about a family (primarily father and son) struggling to survive/escape the dust bowl.
Obviously all of these stories are about much more than those brief descriptions, but I’ll leave the exploration of these stories to you. They are really worth reading, each one is compelling and unique.
Bret Anthony Johnston, in his essay “Don’t Write What You Know” dispels the age-old writing rule of writing from personal experience. Johnston discusses ways in which to use personal experience as a place to draw from, but also as a place that needs to be ignored sometimes.
“Do I Repeat Myself?” by John Barth, discusses how throughout history writers have felt trapped by the fact that everything has already been said or written about before.
Both essays are short and give an interesting perspective on these common writer’s problems. I highly suggest this issue to all readers and writers out there, it’s really fantastic and well worth the $6.99.