Putting together a literary magazine is a joyful yet Sisyphean task. Just when you’ve pushed the boulder up the hill to the printer, back down it rolls. And with it go all the characters you’ve lived with and loved for months, all the small moments of joy and revelation, all the humor and sadness. From the bottom, you begin again, from scratch, always from scratch. Just as writers must court failure in order to transcend the known, we, too, are always looking to challenge ourselves. We search stories for that peculiar mix of the new and the ever-old true, but told anew.
In this issue, we found it in young writer Helen Phillips’s story “Flesh & Blood,” about a woman who can see through people’s skin. We saw it in veteran Stuart Dybek’s fractured take on the operatic life in his story “Tosca.” And in Benjamin Percy, too, no stranger to fictional and personal risks, who writes here of his monthlong liver detox (spoiler: no meat and no alcohol do not tame Percy’s inner beast).
Two books after being a New Voice in Tin House, Monica Ferrell returns to our pages with the poem “Oh You Absolute Darling.” Always searching for fresh writing, in this issue we are happy to introduce three New Voices: David Feinstein, Sam Ross, and Eric Burg.
The venerable writer William Gass, interviewed here, says, “So you try, but you probably will fail. It’s a business. Failure is what happens.” He’s echoing Beckett’s famous saying, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” To risk, to dare—that is his, and our, challenge. We’re proud of this issue, but as always, we’re never completely satisfied. We do, however, hope that we have failed better with this, our fifty-fourth try up the hill.
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