Using Zoom while living under the Covid-19 quarantine caused me to face something that I don’t face most of the time: my face. There it was, always looking back at me from my laptop screen. Even when I’m brushing my teeth or shaving, I only scan portions of it to make sure I don’t leave toothpaste or stubble on my chin. For the most part, it’s a perfectly fine face, I suppose. Granted, it’s not George Clooney’s, but it’s not poor John Merrick’s, either. So what’s my issue with it? Well, I guess it’s how cheerlessly it tends to rest on my skull, no matter my mood.
Kevin Grauke has published work in The Southern Review, Fiction, Cimarron Review, Story Quarterly, and Quarterly West, to name a few. His collection of stories, SHADOWS OF MEN (Queen’s Ferry Press, 2012), won the Texas Institute of Letters’ Steven Turner Award for Best First Work of Fiction. Originally from Texas, he lives in Philadelphia and teaches at La Salle University.
I know from teaching literature to teenagers for a generation that this latest bunch are not naturally romantic, and so the earnest attitude that typifies modernist American literature can be a tough sell. The raw poignant cynicism of the current pop cultural rights of passage, like Breaking Bad or Orange is the New Black, is much more to their taste these days than, say, The Great Gatsby. Because the The Great Gatsby is so strongly ‘branded,’ and perhaps more because the novel is short, the majority of honors juniors, where it typically lands in the curriculum, will get through it without too much bother, even while finding it a touch on the precious side. After a number of years I found myself agreeing with them more than I ever thought I would. After all, there’s nothing funny in the novel, nothing palpably ironic. And I understand why they’d get annoyed by my teacherly imposition to solve Gatsby as a puzzle in order to figure out ‘what’s up’ with Nick. They find him to be an inscrutable, or worse, shallow narrator, and that F. Scott Fitzgerald asks a bit much for us to infer there is something profound in Nick’s decision to separate Gatsby from the consequences of his behavior, inspiring him to go home somewhere in the Midwest and reconnect with a pastoral illusion of America.
Trevor Payne is a writer and has been an educator for the Ladue and Radnor public schools for 25 years. He received his BA degree in English from Stanford University and MFA degree in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has served as a book reviewer for the Literary Review and is currently an Editor at the newly launched Taint Taint Taint literary magazine.
A tall, lush, evergreen forest.
The sound of an airplane flying overhead.
Bird calls echoing through the forest.
Moss sleeves on tree branches.
Moss coats on trunks.
Massive ferns at their feet.
A long dirt trail.
The sound of boots walking on the path.
Maple leaves scattered all over.
The occasional heavily-graffitied sign.
There’s water in the distance.
There’s a valley. Many fallen trees rest inside it.
Mercury-Marvin Sunderland (he/him) is a transgender autistic gay man with Borderline Personality Disorder. He’s from Seattle and currently attends the Evergreen State College. He’s been published by University of Amsterdam’s Writer’s Block, UC Davis’ Open Ceilings, UC Riverside’s Santa Ana River Review, UC Santa Barbara’s Spectrum, and The New School’s The Inquisitive Eater. His lifelong dream is to become the most banned author in human history. He’s @RomanGodMercury on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Ruth Kavanagh is a former practicing defense litigation attorney. After being diagnosed as a young adult with a rare, aggressive form of brain cancer in 2014, she became a fierce advocate for brain cancer awareness. She is an award-winning public motivational speaker, fundraiser, and event planner. Ruth has also served as a Peer-to-Peer Volunteer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and will soon begin volunteering with the Art Program at NYU Rusk Inpatient Rehab helping fellow disabled-yet-abled patients. Her interests include photography, painting, and drawing. You can learn more about Ruth at her website: www.braincancerbabe.com.
My younger brother and I are sitting in the waiting room at Arbour Hospital in Jamaica Plain, hoping to talk with Mom during visiting hours, but she’s refusing to meet and blames us for being a captive in this mental hospital, in this world, at this time. We want her to receive help, but she unfortunately doesn’t believe she needs any.
Time in a mental hospital feels simultaneously infinite and stagnant. I’ve visited enough of them to understand that time here has its own speed. I knock on the window of the intake specialist, and she doesn’t answer, even though I can see her shadow behind the frosted glass. I can hear her talking, and I assume she’s on the phone. Over the years, I’ve learned to not expect great customer service from mental hospitals, but Arbour lowers the bar even more. I just want to talk with someone, anyone, who can tell us how Mom is progressing. During our last phone conversation, Mom basically told me I was a part of a larger conspiracy to ensure she stays locked up for life.
Truthfully, the thought of her freedom terrifies me. When she’s manic, doors to other worlds open to her, and we lose her in seemingly different universes. I see these doors everywhere — perhaps because I’m creative (or just my mother’s son) — but I know how to keep them shut. Most days, I’m able to hold off those other worlds from devouring me like they do her, but today is not one of them.
Joseph Lapin is an author and creative living in San Diego, CA, and his writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, LA Weekly, Salon, Huck Magazine, and The Los Angeles Review, and Narratively selected his memoir, Just Get in the Ambulance, as one of their top-ten all-time best memoirs. His fiction has appeared in Sliver of Stone, Literary Orphans, and Mental Ward: Echoes of the Past, an anthology from Sirens Call Publications. He is also the host and creator of The Working Poet Radio Show (on hiatus), a proud graduate of the MFA program at Florida International University, and the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Circa Interactive.
Lux Lisbon’s on the roof again. She crawls out every night. She went up day one, smoking cloves after sex, and the neighbor boys watch through their telescope.
Few books worm into my brain as Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides does. I first read it in the months after college graduation. My friend Charlotte and I didn’t want our minds to waste, and collectively we’d amassed a number of books to read in undergraduate fiction workshops. Somehow this one rose to the top of our book club list.
I’d never read anything by Eugenides and was magnetically pulled to the Detroit suburbs where a group of neighborhood boys spies on the Lisbon girls, five sisters aged perfectly thirteen to seventeen. The book is a reconstruction, as stitched together by artifacts pilfered from the Lisbon home (cult of Mary prayer cards and tampons, diaries and retainers) as by the collective first person voice that narrates. I found their gawking oafish and malignant, and I watched them watching the Lisbons to understand why they are so taken.
Michael Colbert loves coffee (his favorites are Costa Rican and Ethiopian) and horror films (his favorites are Candyman and Silence of the Lambs). He is currently an MFA candidate in fiction at UNC Wilmington, and his writing appears or is forthcoming in Barrelhouse, Southern Humanities Review, and Avidly, among others.
A few weeks ago, as I walked through the front door of the detox house I’m a medical assistant at, I noticed what appeared to be a familiar character languishing on his old couch haunt, but I couldn’t be sure, as he was listless and downcast, and our eyes did not meet. He was all alone in the family room while the other handful of patients were huddled in the kitchen, murmuring amongst themselves and gazing upon him with disdain.
It looked like an Inuit folklore funeral where the man in question had been put on an ice floe and sent out to sea, into the sunset of a cold world.
Charles J. March III is an asexual, neurodivergent Navy hospital corpsman veteran who is currently trying to live an eclectic life with an interesting array of recovering creatures in Orange County, CA. His various works have appeared in or are forthcoming from the Evergreen Review, 3:AM Magazine, BlazeVOX, etc. Links to his pieces can be found on LinkedIn and SoundCloud.
She’s voter polling me for Arizona and the next election. I tell her “I agree…” when I say I believe in immigration leading to citizenship and I want to put more money into education and marihuana laws. I tell her I take care of my mother and I make $3.50 an hour and she asks me if it’s true. I couldn’t make this sob story up, I tell her. I want to scream I’M A QUEER FEMINIST ACTIVIST AND POET when she asks me if I think my legislatures are: “doing well.”
I’m trying to be civil because I know this is her day job.
Ky J. Dio is the Host and Administrative Director of the creative writing collective: Juniper House Readings. She has been performing spoken word for 8 years and has been published 13 times for poetry and flash fiction—in American Writers Review 2019, Coalesce Zine, and The Nude Bruce Review Vol 9., among others. She lives in Flagstaff, AZ.
Art today is governed by aesthetic anarchy regulated and overseen by a Babel of critics whose observations are, as Barnett Newman pointed out, “as useful to an artist as ornithology is to a bird.”
The revolution began years ago when academic technique, fidelity to nature, and “beauty” were abandoned in favor of subjective, even solipsist, vision. The viewer now relies on critics to reveal what in the world he or she is looking at and what it’s worth. Responding, arbiters of taste—many, sales liaisons to curators and investors—have developed a dogma expressed in arcane jargon that has become so self-enamored that it refers more to itself than the art. Still, this rhetoric gives an air of science and unimpeachable method to matters of taste.
David Comfort is the author of popular trade books from Simon & Schuster, Citadel/Kensington, and Writer’s Digest. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee and finalist for the Faulkner Award and Chicago Tribune Nelson Algren Award. His nonfiction has appeared in Pleiades, The Montreal Review, Stanford Arts Review, and Johns Hopkins’ Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review. His 2021 essays on religion will appear in Free Inquiry, Truth Seeker, and 3AM magazine.
After attending school for many, many, many years, I have come to the realization that some of the theory I have been assigned to read can be applied at home—my childhood home. It has occurred to me that I haven’t given my parents enough credit concerning the methodology of discipline and punishment experienced by my brother and me by them (primarily my mother). Studying the work of Michel Foucault caused me to realize how applicable his ideas are to the more common, everyday institutions I have come into contact with (as opposed to hospitals, military systems, and monasteries). As children, my brother and I were observed by the panopticon that was my mother. Her methods of observation consisted of eyes in the back of the head, the glare, Santa Claus (as all seeing substitute in December), and Jesus (as all seeing substitute January through November). Her methods of discipline included the phrase, “Wait ‘til we get home,” the threat, and a bamboo cane kept under the front seat of the family station wagon during long road trips. These methods were applied to maintain order so my brother and I would appear “normal” in public and be well-behaved, respectable children. We were always encouraged to be creative and clever, but reflecting back, this was never to be done while shopping at the grocery store or kneeling on a church pew; our individualities were to be expressed in private, in the small enclosed rooms of the house.
Amy Colombo has an MFA in Creative Writing from West Virginia University, and a Ph.D. in Media, Art, and Text from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Essay and Other Nonfiction Workshops at Eckleburg
Submit Your Nonfiction
We accept polished creative nonfiction/essays up to 8,000 words year round, unless announced otherwise. Preferences veer toward shorter works under 1500 words with an arts and culture focus. If you wish to include a bio, keep it short, under 200 words. Submit your nonfiction.
Essay Collections and Memoir Manuscripts
We publish short works at The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. At this time, we do not publish novel, long memoir, essay collections, story collections or poetry collections at The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. We do offer manuscript workshops at The Eckleburg Workshops. If you are looking to place a manuscript, we can suggest several excellent small and large presses whose excellent books are promoted through our Eckleburg Book Club — i.e., Random House, Graywolf Press, Coffeehouse, Tinhouse, St. Martins Press and more.