It's fall, a big literary season and Mr. Bib can't ignore the many questions (okay, one) from fans of this blog (okay, two) about the date of the arrival of the newest issue of the Santa Monica Review, a terrific West Coast literary journal featuring both original fiction and nonfiction and edited, as it happens, by Yours Bibly. Here's the cover of the Fall 2013 magazine, a gorgeous black-and-white photograph by social justice artist Andrea Bowers. SMR is published twice yearly, and I am especially proud of this issue, for no good reason, not really, as I am proud of all of them. Except that there seems to somehow be more in this one, a couple of two-fers and a lot of shorter stories and essays (21!) instead of fewer long ones or even a novella. Oh, and some big names. No, not like Tonkovich is a big name, but big shorter names by well-known writer: Carlson, Latiolais, Lutz, Gifford. And some littler big names, from newbies or writers unknown to this reader but to whose work I have now, happily, been introduced by way of publishing them. Damn, I have a great job! (Thanks to Santa Monica College and my boss, Don Girard, for that. I am pretty sure SMC is the only community college sponsoring a nationally distributed lit mag that's not just for its own students and faculty and staff but out there with the other ones regularly acknowledged by Best American and Pushcart prizes.
Of course, most of all of nearly everything about what is good or strong and enduring about the magazine today is due to a really great writer, teacher, mentor who founded SMR. Jim Krusoe used to be famous and esteemed as a poet, then started teaching a legendary fiction workshop at the college, then turned out to have been writing, all along, his own amazing dreamy, smart, humane and terrible funny (sometimes funnily terror-ble) short stories. The first collection was Blood Lake. Then, a novel or five, most recently Parsifal. Krusoe has always been and remains a mentor to many, teacher and friend of
serious, sincere writers. Anyway, thanks Jim. Lee Montgomery took over for a bit at SMR, then went on to write her own memoir, The Things Between Us, and then joined the good crew at Tin House. (I'm some name dropper this morning, huh?)
The fall 2013 issue includes work by a bunch of frequent contributors, as we editor-types like
to say, including Dylan Landis (Normal People Don't Live Like This) and Rich Ives (A Dirty Little Book About Writing the Truth). There's a first-time-in-print writer from Krusoe's SMC workshop named Grace Singh Smith, and a terrific memoir piece by another workshop alum named Alex R. Jones.
But, briefly, by way of Orange County, the ostensible geographical literary focus of this blog, there's another frequent contributor (and mentor), and UC Irvine Writing Programs co-director Michelle Latiolais, most recently author of Widow. And her co-director, the legendary short story writer and novelist Ron Carlson. And a winning piece by Ryan Ridge (Hunters and Gamblers), a grad of Latiolais's and Carlson's nifty program. And Linda Rui Feng, who commutes to a teaching gig in Toronto, but lives here. Oh, and the remarkable cover is from Andrea Bowers, also a Lecturer at UC Irvine. So there.
None of that should matter, except that the magazine tries to represent the West Coast lit
world, and I'm proud that there's a couple of Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart) short-shorts, another installment from what I hope will be another memoir by poet Christopher Buckley (Cruising State) of Santa Barbara and writing from Marilyn Abildskov from the Bay Area (The Men in My Country). Los Angelenos? Yup, including two stories by the extremely funny and political g c cunningham, a lovely coming of age and knowledge and sadness deal by Andrew Nicholls and an essay on visiting Iran by Tom Lutz, founding editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books, one of the best things to happen to the So Cal (and beyond) lit world lately.
Sorry if this is too inside baseball, though I have never actually seen baseball played inside. At our house, there is a firm rule about not throwing baseballs or Frisbees or toys, generally, unless they are cat toys.
Not that you asked, but one of the great things about reading work for submission is discovering writers, being introduced to them. I'd not
known the work of novelist David Kranes (Thanks, Ron Carlson!), whose story so hit the mark for me, ostensibly about a teacher being harassed by the parent of a student, but becoming so much more. Kranes has published seven novels and three short story collections, is also a playwright (author of fifty plays) and an esteemed teacher. I get a little testy when people wonder what to read. And not just what to read by one of the most famous writers from the state of Utah.
Come to think on it, Ron Carlson's story is about teaching, too. And, yes, cunningham's shorter piece is a fake essay written by a very nasty if hilarious Marine, with all the dark humor and irony both of them could muster. (Muster, get it? Military story…?)
There's experimental work (as in the always, always rewarding and blissfully fun to read Ives) and more traditional, and funny. I bring it up because the host of an SMR reading I organized at Skylight Books the other night asked me about the next theme of the magazine, of which there is none. Never is. Just whatever great work gets sent to me over the period of about six months or so. I read all year.
All of this toward inviting you to purchase a copy of the newest issue or subscribe to the magazine. And to invite readers of this blog, from OC or not, out to a terrific reading by three of the contributors and the magazine's founder. Yes, Latiolais, Lutz, Carlson and Krusoe have all agreed to read their work at a benefit for Santa Monica Review on Sunday, October 13 at 4 PM at the Edye Second Space, a cool black box theater in the Broad Theater Complex-Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center on Santa Monica Boulevard at 11th. It's ten bucks, and tickets are on sale now at Brown Paper Tickets. Thanks to Linda Sullivan at the Broad for making that happen, and to the Santa Monica College Bookstore, which will be offering books by the readers for sale.
And if that's not enough OC for you, and making a long drive to the former People's Republic by the Sea, guess who's offering the “Welcome” for this cool literary event, of which KPFK is a media sponsor, hint, hint? Yup, it's “the same old story,” lucky us. Professor Jon Wiener, my broadcast mentor, favorite Left historian, Nation magazine contributor, author most recently of How We Forgot the Cold War, pain in the ass to the John Lennon-harassing FBI and host of “The 4 O'Clock Report” and second favorite voice on the radio.
Thanks to all, contributors, readers, subscribers. Hope to see you at the Edye.
Santa Monica Review is available by subscription or single issue from Santa Monica Review, 1900 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90405.
Tickets for “Santa Monica Presents…” are available at Brownpapertickets.com.
Andrew Tonkovich hosts the Wednesday night literary arts program Bibliocracy Radio on KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California.