Welcome to the issue - Issue 125
Disquiet is an elegant word, one that might be accused of trying to betray its meaning, the want of quiet in body and mind. Disquiet, so much more sophisticated than worry or anxiety. It suggests a refined anxiety, one with a polished surface, one that is too glossy for any messy or unwarranted angst to stick. It is the sort of old world word one could imagine saying while wearing a cravat or sporting a cigarette holder—These are disquieting days.
It is also a word to hide behind. To say one is suffering from disquiet could betray any number of disturbances, especially those leaning towards noble, somewhat mysterious affairs. There is a distancing element to the word, a separation from what is truly going on. One can wear one’s disquiet as a cloak, a shield from the disappointing or despairing facts of a life.
In the quest for quiet in body and mind, the characters who populate many of the stories, poems and essays in this issue are doing just that: they are quietly getting on with life, with their failed expectations, crumbling marriages, and disorienting life changes, all the while searching for some kind of peace.
Disquiet does not favour any particular gender, of course. It is a generous and insidious state willing to spread its tendrils to any number of people who are open to supporting it. However, as the fiction, essays, and poetry found their way into the issue through the various tributaries from contests to regular submissions to solicited work, it became apparent that in this particular grouping the men had the larger share of the burden. As I read the work through the prism of this theme I saw more and larger connections. There is disquiet among the women in the pages of the issue, of course, but the men, alas, lead the pack.
An elegant, honest disquiet prevails in Zachariah Well’s essay “A Walking Shadow.” The essay, part of our “Day Jobs” series, started out as a piece about his working on the Halifax to Montreal train as a service attendant while maintaining a career as a writer. However as things started to falter in his life, the essay took another shape. As I mentioned in an email exchange with Wells, the charm of working in the field of literary arts is the unexpected gem we receive when soliciting work. So while not the essay we originally conceived this one sears with humanity as he writes of his father, the rocky future in railroading, his own history, and the question of what lies ahead.
“On the Notoriously Overrated Powers of Voice in Fiction, or How to Fail at Talking to Pretty Girls” is a witty essay by D.W. Wilson on the slippery notion of voice in fiction, the question of whether it is a distinct thing that can be extracted and examined or something more fluid, a process of connecting, the act of searching for intimacy. Read the essay to hear Wilson’s argument and the doubtless key question of whether he does indeed get the girl.
Jeffery Donaldson’s “I Stand Before You Now: Museums, Galleries and How to Find Yourself in Them” is an essay about looking, on how we live in the world, as observers, often simply passive, and how we might alter this to become less driven by the dictums of time and place. How can we truly enter the space of, say, a museum or perhaps an image, it asks.
In fiction we have “Rene and Richard: A Retrospect in Diminishing Significance,” which looks at a man’s life in three parts. Full of reflection and melancholic musings triggered by the news of someone from his past, there is no great tragedy here, just a lingering sense of a life unfulfilled, despite all things being well on the surface. This is a story of modern life, of a search for meaning in the mundane, and a gathering of the seemingly inconsequential events that form a life.
“Waiting for the Cyclone” is a tale of almost love, a short term facsimile for a couple who are spending their last weekend together. Subtly written with exquisite descriptions, Leesa Dean’s story takes place in Coney Island, where the absurd characters and kitsch of the surroundings contrasts with the intimate moments in their relationship as the day gently unfolds.
We also have our Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award runners up, each of which illustrates varied perspectives on marriage and all its complicated nuances. In “Down to Here” modern life looms large in a marriage devoid of argument, all disagreements rationally discussed. But in pursuit of the ideal, distrust, paranoia, and perhaps the truth are allowed to step in. “When Genghis Khan was my Lover” reveals the cracks in a marriage under strain from years of miscarriages and fertility treatments, leaving a remote partnership, man and wife living parallel lives, their ignorance of the other evident. “The Rate at Which He Fell” is a clever embrace of the joy of the company of men. A straightforward narrative slides sideways as a roofer insinuates himself in a young couple’s life, making a strong case for a peculiar sort of male bonding.
Our poetry selection includes runners up from our Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse contest. Susan Telford’s “My Mother’s Funeral” explores mourning the loss of one’s mother. Patricia Young’s “The Night Our Father Drove Us Through the City in a Hearse,” a luscious fantastical ride with mythical allusions, is a delight, and Cynthia Woodman Kerkham’s “Eve River Estuary,” a graceful poem on the loss of species and habitat. The disquiet continues through the rest of the issue, a suitable topic for the long winter nights ahead. So don your cravat, pick up that cigarette holder and read on.