God, where to begin with Monkeybicycle 8?
In not one, but two stories in the issue, narrators lose a finger. But for very different reasons. In Aaron Burch’s “Sacrifice” the main character removes his own finger seemingly as a way of mourning his brother’s death. But in Matt Briggs’ “Hunger,” the narrator loses his finger to a girlfriend who nibbles bits of it away little by little.
What this says about the issue as a whole is profound. No journal editor ever thinks it possible to include more than one story about a lost finger. But now Monkeybicycle has done it, and new ground has been broken. Historians and journal editors should take note. This will not happen ever again in the same way.
Other monumental moments occur in this issue. Here are just a few.
A man defies the odds against killer robots from space in Summer Block’s “The New Yorker Fiction Section Presents: Killer Robots From Space” to see the woman he loves, but who will not love him back. It’s stunning to see him so oblivious to the carnage and the Armageddon-ish happenings around him in New York City as he takes the train in from the country just to see her. It certainly spoke to this narcissistic age we’re living in. As does Donald Mason’s hatred for Dan Lowery, who has no ill will towards him and eventually turns out to be his savior, in “Donald Mason’s City Inspection and the Stakeout Standoff” by Blake Kimzey. It left me wondering: Does Mason even really know Lowery? Has he even been paying attention beyond his own feeble mind?
I have never felt so yucky and so touched at the same time as while reading “jesusangelgarcia meets ticktockclock” about a guy just answering an internet personal from an insatiable lady. It was totally enthralling what occurs between these two.
Equally enthralling was Scott Geiger’s “Inventory” about a man named Nolasco who dies and whose life seems totally empty aside from his job in inventory at a warehouse. But there’s a secret with this man that must be uncovered.
The build-up to the ending of Curtis Smith’s “Lenin!” is a thing of beauty. There’s a secondary Igor-like character in this story I somehow related to for his devotion but also rooted against.
Michael Hickins’ “The Score,” about a big fucking drug deal in the ’70s, has some of the best dialogue I’ve read in a long time and feels, as a whole, totally real, like it’s going on in the apartment next to me as I write this. Or maybe, like it went on there in the ’70s.
I learned more than I ever would in school about biology and psychology in Annam Manthiram’s poem “Variations on a Blossoming Marriage.”
I was reminded in this issue that being near death does weird things to people (to put it lightly). It makes untruths real sometimes, as we find in Vincent Scarpa’s “The End of Jimmy.” Meanwhile, truths come to light in other places, as in Ben Nickol’s “Exceptional Red Canoes” about Hannah’s rocker dad’s demise and her ex-boyfriend Dennis’ sentimental remembrances of her. The exceptional and ordinary are juxtaposed well in this one.
Steve Himmer’s narrator, the hermit in “Rattle My Leaves” from his book, The Bee-Loud Glade, is about to have his world shaken when actual people enter his realm.
The monster comes out of the child’s closet, the universal hiding place for all monsters, and surprisingly befriends the child in Ben Loory’s “The Monster.” It seems to learn a lot from the child. A paradigm shifts.
Someone raised in my hometown is in this issue: E. Michael Desilets. Read his poem “Maro and Raquel.” Or, read Ori Fienberg’s poem, “Clockwork Dog,” which is also great. Or read both, plus the rest of the great poems in this issue. Or just read Laura McCullough’s “A Descent.” Whatever you want to do. (The poetry mix here is varied and gorgeous.)
These are just a few of the highlights, but all of Monkeybicycle 8 is a must-read. All of it is surprising, clever and filled with depth. I can’t say this about really anything. Every writer, every story, every poem contained within this issue is masterful.
As a final, parting note, I would have to say “Dolores Threnody,” by Jonathan Redhorse, is a story unlike any other I have ever read in my life. Its structure includes a random correspondence with the President. And Dolores has an ability to communicate with inanimate objects. Ottomans and sofas seem easy to talk to, while reticent public benches are noted for often being surly. Where else would this happen but inside the pages of Monkeybicycle?