Phalluses aside, this issue of Slush Pile Magazine is a literary bro down.

What I mean is, the majority of writing in Issue Sixteen is by men, and collectively portrays many facets of male life. In this issue, there are young men, old men; tough men, sensitive men; crazy men and sane men.

One of my favorite pieces this issue is from Andrew Ellis Bates who has written a story about growing up, growing tough, and scraping by with an element of choosing your family. Then we have Sean Prentiss’ story “Bound for Glory or Albuquerque” which is a kind of fantastical journey through a man’s rumination on his life, his mistakes and his estranged son. As an interesting sort of companion piece, Shannon Deaton has contributed a story about an aged janitor who seems to be losing his handle on reality. So the fantastical element of this piece is really, well, dementia.

On the other side of the spectrum is Stephen Bauer’s very sane and subtle piece about a family vacation, and the contemplations it occasions about life, death, and fatherhood.

Another of my favorites (why can’t they all be my favorite?) is William Black’s contribution. The acquisition of this particular piece took me quite a bit of time — two years, perhaps? — and here, at last, is “Fires” about the ways we try and fail to help those we love, and the ways we try and fail to forgive ourselves when we can’t.

We’ve also got a piece of micro-fiction from Eric Barnes that I think serves as a lovely amuse-bouche to the issue, which is, as the foodies among you will know, “a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre.” To quote Wikipedia: “Amuse-bouches are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu by patrons, but, when served, are done so free and according to the chef’s selection alone.” That’s right folks. Slush Pile is a restaurant of prose and I’m the chef.

Oh wait, I guess the writers are the chefs so in this analogy I am…the waitress? Hashtag, too close to the truth. Hashtag, getting too colloquial. But I’m not just a waitress, am I?

When you make your way to Rebecca Maizel’s story, you will meet a bartender, asking herself a similar question (Hashtag, SEGUE!) and falling for the charms of a trumpet player. Turns out some trumpet players do have a certain inescapable magnetism, as I have only just recently learned myself. There’s nothing like a lingering smell of brass to really whet one’s romantic appetite. (whet one’s appetite — see what I did, there?)

The other lady interloping on guy’s night is Meredith K. Gray whose story is touching and clever — as were, I must say, the other two stories of hers that I read en route to the procurement of the one that has ended up here. I’d keep one eye on this lady, readers of the world.

Back to the phalluses. Though the imagery is perhaps deceptively simple, our very talented featured artist Alexia Stamatiou explains that they are symbols for “love and sex and birth and joy” brought on by a moment of literary inspiration: “I was reading Joseph Campbell and it was like a lightning bolt shot through the window when he described The Cosmogonic Cycle and The Universal Round[....]That led me to make sparkling, adorned phalluses shooting mimes into an inky void.” Thanks, Joseph Campbell!

The last thing I am serving up this issue is another healthy portion of delectable songs that have been in my personal listening queue lately. I have again put them in a section called “NOW HEAR THIS” so that you may hear them, now. But by all means hear them later, too.

Bon appetit! And please consider leaving a nice tip. We don’t come to work just to have fun, you know.

 
— Mister Branwen

 
 
 

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