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Dzanc Books

Best of the Web 2008


DZANC BOOKS

1334 Woodbourne Street Westland, MI 48186 www.dzancbooks.org info@dzancbooks.org

Each work is copyright by the author, 2007, first appearing in the journal listed on the title page of each piece.

©2008 Dzanc Books All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher: Dzanc Books, 1334 Woodbourne Street, Westland, MI 48186 Published 2008 by Dzanc Books Book design by Steven Seighman

06 07 08 09 10 11 5 4 3 2 1 First Edition July 2008

ISBN – 13: 978-0-9793123-4-2 ISBN – 10: 0-9793123-4-5

Printed in the United States of America


Dzanc Books

Best of the Web 2008 Guest Editor Steve Almond Series Editor Nathan Leslie

DZANC BOOKS 1334 Woodbourne St. Westland, MI 48186 www.dzancbooks.org


Contents

i. Series Introduction Nathan Leslie vi. Introduction Steve Almond 1. Promise Elizabeth Crane Failbetter.com 8. A Girl Made of Glass David Willems Hotel St. George 10. Fish Catcher Melanie Carter storySouth 12. Some Brief and Frightening Tips from George Saunders George Saunders Konundrum Engine Literary Review 16. Basketball is not a Drug Richard Jespers Blackbird 46. Route 1 North, Woolich, Maine Tess Taylor Memorious 47. My Small Murders Ron Tanner Wheelhouse Magazine 56. An Interview with Ron Tanner 58. Zone Christopher Rizzo H_NGM_N 66. Overhanded Amy Minton Hobart 68. Pageant Queen J. W. Young Apple Valley Review 77. To See Them Again Juan José Millás - Translated by Peter Robinson Mad Hatter’s Review 80. [envy is a nude door] Anne Dyer Stuart 2River View


81. Fireflies Jacques Rancourt Rumble 83. The Black Folks’ Guide to Survival Kris Broughton Eclectica Magazine 95. Corner Knows the Dust Stevie Davis Failbetter.com 99. Shotgun Amy L. Sargent Wheelhouse Magazine 100. The Jealousy of Angels Justin Taylor Del Sol Review 103. So You Know Who We Are Carmen Gimenez Smith diode

104. Tattooed People Seth Harwood Storyglossia 113. Ceremonial Spoon Arlene Ang Caffeine Destiny 114. Postcard From My Brother Paul Yoon Memorious 125. Blue Shirt Abby Frucht Brevity 127. The Split Kim Whitehead Terrain.org 135. Swan Falls in Love with Swan-Shaped Boat Christina Kallery Failbetter.com 136. An Interview with Christina Kallery 138. The Stiff Jew Michael Bahler Swink 141. Prophet Township Jared Carter Valparaiso Poetry Review 144. Tell Me if You’re Lying Sarah Sweeney fringe 154. Waking Cara Hoffman Our Stories 158. Casa de Serenidad Zachary Amendt Underground Voices


162. Thirst and the Writer’s Sense of Consequence David Bottoms Kennesaw Review 172. Okeechobee Claudia Zuluaga Narrative Magazine 177. The Doctrine of an Axe Maurice Manning Cortland Review 179. Bugaboo Jenny Pritchett Fiction Attic 180. Household Poisons Thomas King Contrary 185. Yearly Trek to Bear Valley Nancy Cherry Green Hills Literary Lantern 187. The Women of My Father LaTanya McQueen BluePrintReview 190. An Interview with LaTanya McQueen 192. The One That Got Away: Why James Wood is Wrong About Underworld (And Why Anyone Should Care) Garth Risk Hallberg Quarterly Conversation 207. Island Fever Edward Byrne Apple Valley Review 208. Childbirth in Alabama Robin Behn Brevity 210. The Minimalist Museum Edward Hirsch Per Contra 211. Eels Sandra Huber Danforth Review 222. Olor a Cuba Anna Kushner ep;phany 228. Bruxism Andrew Sorge Menda City Review 234. Still Life with Childhood Andrea Cohen Memorious 235. Huckleberry Thumb Elaine Chiew Juked


237. Headway Bill Mohr Pemmican 242. Anatomy Test, Eleventh Grade Valerie Loveland wicked alice 243. My Biafran Eyes Okey Ndibe Guernica 251. The Cabalfish Benjamin Buchholz Storyglossia 256. The Attraction of Asphalt Stefani Nellen SmokeLong Quarterly 258. Flat at Dawn and at Twilight Bruce Fisher The King’s English 266. An Interview with Bruce Fisher 269. I am not a man; I am dynamite Leigh Anne Couch Blackbird 270. Woodbury Notes Charlie Geoghegean-Clements Furnace Review 272. Walking an Old Woman Into the Sea Frannie Lindsay Valparaiso Poetry Review 273. What I Omitted from the Office Personnel Services Report R. T. Smith Per Contra 279. The Daughters Myfanwy Collins Monkeybicycle 280. The Mystery of Henry’s Bicycle Michael Wood introduction by Jonathan Ames Konundrum Engine Literary Review 306. 2008 Notable Stories 312. Contributors’ Notes 322. Index


Introduction by Nathan Leslie

The Cursor In the beginning there was the cursor. In 1985, they shuffled us into computer pods, taught us the rudiments of DOS, the floppy disk, booting-up, but mostly I remember the cursor. It blinked. It winked. Even on the tiny screen of the educationally ubiquitous Apple 2E, the cursor was alive. It had spark. Did we imagine great literature would emanate from these machines? No. When I was young,the computer was the very antithesis of the creative. I was a horse led to the stream. But here we are. A Guy in Bethesda 1996. I’m taking a short-story workshop in the basement of the venerable Bethesda Writer’s Center. I’m in that goateed-Ethan Hawke slackerdom phase—post-undergrad, pre-grad, no benefits, low pay. One of my classmates tells me he’s been submitting his work to online magazines. He mentions the Blue Moon Review, Pif and a few others I can’t remember. “You should submit work to those places.” I suppose I had heard of the existence of online magazines, but I hadn’t read a single one. I had a slow dial-up, which I mostly used for e-mail. I certainly hadn’t submitted work to an online magazine, much less read one. I was a crusty contrarian in the face of the burgeoning online frontier; I fancied myself something of a Luddite. That day in the basement I was probably dismissive. I was probably snooty. Evolution This is not intended to be a personal history, much less a history of online publishing. Obviously we know what has happened since— especially in the wake of high-speed Internet usage. Online literary magazines carved a niche, graphics improved, readership burgeoned, the quality of writing grew by leaps and bounds. Though initially skeptical of online magazines, as the technology improved, I began reading them, with interest. I began submitting my own work to them. I particularly began enjoying the alternative i


Best of the Web

vision to the sometimes prissy, stuffy—and usually dromedarian— print world. I began to see the real potential here. Then a funny thing happened: many print magazines began to develop their own classy sites with sample work. This indirectly seemed to validate everything online magazines stood for. They were for real. Sidebar “Online magazines” is our preferred working term. It’s neutral. It’s functional. “Electronic journals” is too dusty, “e-zines” and “webzines” are too trivializing, somehow. Ancestors and Precursors There are so many online magazines that have since become defunct, but without which, this anthology wouldn’t exist. I won’t name names, but these virtual pilgrims laid down our foundations. They stuck their virtual necks out. Likewise, there have been several anthologies prior to this one, without which, perhaps, I wouldn’t have the gumption to put this whole ball of wax together in the first place. Jason Sanford’s storySouth has amassed several excellent online Million Writers Awards. Sundress did a Best of the Net. By 2004, I was editing fiction for The Pedestal Magazine. John Amen (my online guru and an overall-generous chap) and I talked about doing an anthology a few years back, but we simply couldn’t find the time and energy to indulge in launching a new press on top of publishing a bi-monthly and working on our own writing. The Pitch In 2006 I trudged around the cavernous AWP stomping grounds in Austin, Texas floating the idea of a best of the web anthology. A few nice folks nodded and said it was a great idea. A few nodded politely and asked, “Why would you publish these things in a book? They’re already online, right?” I said it was important to show the print people we could assemble a book just like they could, that it was a statement, an official symbol of our collective significance. But that’s not the real reason. I pitched the idea to Dzanc Books last summer because I simply thought it would be fascinating to see how it came out. I thought it would be a fun gig, important to construct a book that we could all read and admire. I wanted to throw a party, to bring online mags together, to create a good read for what has become a community in need of a community presence. I’m ii


Introduction

grateful to Dzanc for agreeing to see my vision through. This is our stab at a substantial neighborhood sign. Aretha Franklin Sorry, Mashall McLuhan; I’d argue that at least in terms of literature we’ve past the point where the medium is the message. Or the massage. Good writing is good writing is good writing no matter where you find it. I would also argue that the Internet serves the purpose of making literature accessible so well that it actually levels the experience of reading. The audience for online magazines is, of course, infinitely larger than any print magazine. Still, in terms of literary prestige print mags still hold the upper-hand, for some reason. I have my theories. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is something not easily garnered in the literary world. That elusive grail, “reputation,” is earned, not granted. This is slowly changing. Any publication worth its salt has put various noses to the grindstone at one point or another; in other words, reputation is malleable. This anthology is an attempt to make inroads. “Firsts” This anthology is the first of its kind. Sorta, kinda. Melvin Sterne at Carve Magazine put together a best-of-online fiction anthology a few years back. It was good, but like so many good things, it folded. One real first here is the fact that we are, in print form, including not just fiction, but also poetry and creative nonfiction as well. This is a wide-ranging anthology, eclectic, various and sundry. This anthology is built to, we hope, stand the test of time, year in and year out. After all, this is the point of an annual anthology. It should be an eagerly awaited arrival, something to look forward to. The Process Q: Who is this “we” he keeps referring to? A: Excellent question. I am usually mystified by the decision-making process of the best-known, annual, best-of anthologies; conversely, we strive for transparency. Though I initially entered into this project solo, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I gained a few friends along the way. Steven Seighman—our art director—has had the courage of a lion throughout this process, taking on this massive and seemingly ever-shifting project with nary a complaint. Executive Director iii


Best of the Web

and Publisher Dan Wickett has exhibited some serious heart and wielded a mighty metaphorical axe from time to time. Steve Gillis— founder and publisher—has acted as the brains behind this operation, helping guide me (and all of us) from point A to point Z. Q: OK. So who was in charge of this bad boy? A: As series editor, this project has always been my baby and I saw it through, from infancy to college, but I also realized early on that I couldn’t go about a project of this magnitude solo. This was the best decision I made. I would not have been able to steer this ship forward without Dan and the two Steves. Q: So who handled the selections, then? A: It went like this: In early September, I sent out solicitations for nominations. Simultaneously, I scoured the web for good writing— anything published in 2007. I received a host of nominations and (even more importantly) made a rolling list of what I found in my own perusing. Then I sent the list to the two Steves and Dan. We read, we voted, we conquered. Ultimately, out of the hundreds of nominations and self-selected pieces, it took four “yes” votes for a story or poem or essay to even get its foot in the door. Even then, we had to eliminate, for one reason or another, many pieces that we all admired. Though in some ways, I initially struggled with the decision-by-committee framework (it’s difficult for writer/editor types to play well with others), it ended up eliminating the kind of aesthetic fetishism that mars some other anthologies. Since the work collected in this anthology has passed through four sieves, what you see here is an eclectic crème de la crème. Q: Anything else we should know? A: Yes. Nice of you to ask. This anthology represents work from January 1, 2007 through October of 2007. Since we made our final calls in the autumn of 2007, we had to halt our reading of new work. We did not consider work published in print magazines. We did not consider work self-published in blogs. We published the best of online magazines. Period. iv


Introduction

Learning Curve In several ways this was not an easy first birth. I felt my way through the process as I went; we all did. Also, the sheer quantity of material out there is astounding. There are even more online magazines out there than we fathomed. We tried to list them all here in the index; we are also pretty sure we missed some. And we are sorry if we did. Given the world of spam (and lacking postal addresses) we were sometimes unsuccessful at contacting editors and authors, though we tried our best. We’ve learned a lot. Caveats Abound, this anthology does not attempt to capture some very vital aspects of the online experience—no multimedia experience, no interactive texts, no surfing here. We limited ourselves to four genres—poetry, fiction, flash fiction and creative nonfiction. There are others; this isn’t our attempt to build Rome in a day… Rome will come. It will take time. For now I simply hope you like the anthology we put together. Read, enjoy, savor. Gracias To Steve Almond for putting his mighty pen to paper. I can’t think of a hipper member of the literati to help us put forth our first venture (of course, candy freaks and the Web go hand in hand). To John Amen for believing in the power of online magazines and in me. To Newpages.com and all the other great portals—you made our lives much, much easier. To the lion, the tin man and the scarecrow for everything else. We did it. Onward and upward.

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Profile for Steven Seighman

Best of the Web 2008  

This print anthology compiles the best fiction, poetry, and non-fiction that online literary journals have to offer in an eclectic collectio...

Best of the Web 2008  

This print anthology compiles the best fiction, poetry, and non-fiction that online literary journals have to offer in an eclectic collectio...

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