Monday, October 06, 2008

Book/Magazine Review: Black Clock Issue #9

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

Black Clock's ninth issue covers the current (or at least the then-current) political climate and features various discourses and short stories on the subject matter, most of which is pro-Democrat.

The first thing that caught my eye was the journal's design: despite being text-heavy and lacking illustrations, it manages to present itself as sleek and makes good use of space.

Much of the meat of the magazine revolves around its nonfiction, such as Rick Moody's "The Republican Diaries" or the exchange of emails between editor Steve Erickson and Michael Ventura in "The Hillary-Barack Emails". As an outsider (well, not really--the fate of the US presidency is very much a concern for us Filipinos as well), I found these pieces to be compelling despite their length and subject matter (I'm usually ignorant of politics). The authors write with much passion and make keen observations, such as Moody's diagnosis of Republicans as "sympathy deficit" or Erickson's apt description of Obama as America's willingness to roll the dice. And this was all written before Obama secured his slot as the Democrat's representative or McCain declared Palin as his VP.

All the short stories were actually impressive and most delve into speculative fiction territory in addition to some genre names like Brian Evenson and Jeff Vandermeer. Here are some highlights for me: George Melrod's "My Favorite President" paints an alternate history America where the Civil War ended differently--all the while using the elements of a history class paper. The prose is so effective, especially the ending, that I went back to the beginning and spotted that identifying the author of the said class paper adds an additional layer of depth.

Janet Sarbane's "The Adventures of the President's Daughter," on the other hand, has this deceptively simple tone yet underlies a much deeper concern. Not what I'd otherwise consider too fantastical in nature but a story that's a good contrast to the other pieces in the journal.

David L. Ulin's "One on One" uses basketball as a literal analogy for the Democratic candidacy. The premise seems ludicrous yet Ulin presents it in such a a tense and serious manner that it seems natural.

Vandermeer's "Goat Variation Redux" is the most off-the-top and gives each candidate their chance to shine in a dystopic limelight and doesn't hold back. It's quick and fun.

Overall, this issue of Black Clock was a great read and whether it's the editorial or the fiction, the writing is solid and compelling.

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