Contributor Update: Margarita Meklina’s recent publications

Margarita Meklina’s flash “Waiting for Warhol,” originally written in English, was just published in Star 82 Review. Her short story “Ai Weiwei’s Owls,” translated from Russian by Krystyna A. Steiger, appeared in the newly released Reunion: The Dallas Review #3. Finally, her novella, “Death in the Air,” whose title refers to a Mexican neo-expressionist Julio Galán’s death on the plane from brain hemorrhaging, was picked up by the Japanese magazine Shuei-Sha, and is slated to be published, in Japanese translation, this year.

Margarita was a contributor to The Conium Review‘s Spring 2013 issue.

NewPages.com reviews The Conium Review’s Fall 2013 issue

NewPages.com recently reviewed our latest issue.  The reviewer says “I found myself constantly itching to find out what was going to happen next . . . ” and she was pretty impressed with Claude Clayton Smith’s novella from the issue. Natalie Peeterse also gets a shout out; the reviewer says “Sonora” ” . . . cuts to the core of experience . . . ”  Take a look at the full review here.

Contributor News: Linda Boroff’s recent contest win, an article on Barbara Payton, and more

Linda Boroff (a contributor to our Fall 2012 issue) recently won second place in the American Gem Short Screenplay and Literary Contest with her story, “The Spirit Upwelling.”

She also wrote an article on the film noir actress, Barbara Payton, which recently appeared in the fashion and arts magazine, FutureClaw. The article includes several original photographs of her by Andre De Dienes.

Linda wrote the screenplay adaptation of the biography, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story by John O’Dowd, which is currently in development with producers Barrett Stuart and Ira Besserman.

Linda also signed an option agreement for her short story, “Light Fingers” with CAA and Brad Furman, director of The Lincoln Lawyer and Runner Runner.

Lastly, Linda is currently working on a novella, tentatively titled “Rabies.”

Introducing our Innovative Short Fiction Contest

We’re pleased to announce the 2014 Innovative Short Fiction Contest.  Innovative writing takes risks that pay off.  Show us something new with your subject, style, setting, or characters.  Be bold.  Be creative.  Get weird with it.

Miniature Wife CoverThe winning writer receives $500, publication in The Conium Review, five free copies of the issue, and a copy of the judge’s book.

We’ll be open for contest submissions between December 15th and March 15th.  Until then, check out the contest guidelines and get your manuscripts ready.  You can also join our virtual mailing list if you want to get occasional e-mails about upcoming calls for submissions, contests, and other news.

Our judge is Manuel Gonzales.  He is the author of The Miniature Wife and Other Stories (Riverhead Books, 2013).  He is also the current executive director of the Austin Bat Cave, a nonprofit writing center for children.

Justin Campbell receives the 2013 Hurston/Wright Award

The Conium Review contributor Justin Campbell recently received the 2013 Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Award for African American College Writers for his novella excerpt, Sitting on the Knees of Gods.  The award was established by novelist Marita Golden to honor excellence in fiction writing by students of African descent.

More information on the award is available here: http://www.hurstonwright.org/#!college-awards/cs3d

Campell’s story, “Super Tuscan,” appears in our Spring 2013 issue.

Book Review: The Sensualist

The Sensualist
Written by Daniel Torday
Nouvella, 2012
ISBN 9780983658542

The SensualistI should start by talking about the title. I’ve been walking around for the past two weeks with this book in my hand, and everyone who sees it gives me a look that hovers somewhere in the middle of mild shock, illicit curiosity, and outright envy. After all, I’m not normally one to read books that skew especially blue, at least not in public, and with a title like The Sensualist, it’s natural to assume that Daniel Torday’s debut novella is perhaps a more literary version of that book about fifty shades of something or other that was all the rage earlier this year.As it turns out, however, the sensualist at the heart of Torday’s novella is about as far removed as possible from anything E.L. James could ever imagine, and we’re all the better for it. Indeed, by focusing on a young Russian immigrant who imagines himself a sensualist in the style of Dmitri Karamazov—i.e., someone who says what he feels when he feels it and does what he likes to do—Torday gives his coming of age novel a center of gravity that speaks directly to the headstrong yet interstitial nature of the teenage years.

The novella tracks the relationship between the aforementioned sensualist, Dmitri Zilber, and narrator Samuel Gerson as they attempt to navigate the choppy waters of young adulthood in the early 1990s. What draws Samuel to Dmitri is the latter’s uncompromising nature. Where Samuel is occasionally cowed by his overbearing gym teacher, Dmitri pays no respect to anyone who hasn’t, in his eyes, earned it. It also helps that Dmitri has a beautiful sister named Yelizaveta, who catches Samuel’s eye and eventually steals heart.In love, or so he believes, with Yelizaveta, Samuel begins to see the world as Dmitri does: as a series of black and white propositions: right and wrong, good and bad, heroes and villains. Consequently, when Samuel learns that Yelizaveta has eyes for a popular jock, the jock becomes a villain from Samuel’s perspective, and much of the remaining narrative revolves around the narrator’s gradual realization that life rarely offers such cut-and-dried distinctions.

Ultimately, it’s this gradual realization that makes The Sensualist so effective. As he struggles to understand his relationships with Yelazaveta and Dmitri, Samuel must also deal with a grandfather whose delusions of persecution put a heavy strain on the family. Likewise, the delusions of grandeur that Samuel’s growing circle of friends tends to entertain place them in increasingly precarious positions. Through it all, what Samuel needs most is to grow comfortable with uncertainty, of occupying the spaces between good and bad, of appreciating (dare I say it?) the shades of gray that complicate human experience—and Torday leads his narrator through the winding maze of young adulthood with the deft and sensitive heart of someone who’s thoroughly explored its many twists and turns.

Thoroughly engaging and beautifully written, The Sensualist stands alongside such works as The Catcher in the Rye and The Basketball Diaries as that rare breed of book that perfectly captures the ambivalence of youth, a delicate balance of absolute certainty and uncertainty held together by the undeniable anxiety of looming adulthood. In short, an excellent read.

Review by Marc Schuster
© 2012, All Rights Reserved

Book Review: Heart of Scorpio

Heart of Scorpio
Written by Joseph Avski
Translated by Mark McGraw
Tiny TOE Press, 2012

ISBN 9780985822804

Joseph Avski’s Heart of Scorpio, translated from the Spanish by Mark McGraw, offers a bittersweet meditation on the trappings of fame and its discontents. Using the rise and fall of real-life fighter Antonio Cervantes Reyes as a template, the novella follows the meteoric ascent and tragically delusional crash of a fictional Columbian boxer named Milton Olivella.Haunted by the promise of his early career, Olivella has, by the start of the narrative, long since become a ghost of his former self, yet can’t stop imagining the glorious comeback that awaits him. He just needs to clean up his act, just needs to get back into training, just needs one more chance, and the world will once again be his.

“Tell [your mother] that soon I’ll be home to stay,” Olivella tells his estranged son, Julian, at one point. “I just need to wrap up a few impending issues, you know how it is. If I can get this thing ready, we can make a little money to start fresh, to get the life back that we used to have before. Tell her that we’re going to start a new life.”

Heart of ScorpioNeedless to say, Julian, who’s been a first-hand witness to his father’s complete emotional, physical, and financial collapse, isn’t buying what the former champion is selling. Yet Julian is deluded in his own way. Born at the height of Olivella’s popularity, he lacks the motivation to make a life for himself outside the boxer’s shadow. Instead, he wallows in self-pity, wishing he had the money, the clothing, and the social standing to make women want to “hit the sheets” with him—a phrase the character utters almost incessantly throughout the novella.That Olivella and his son eventually come to blows comes as no surprise. Theirs is a world where nearly all disputes are settled through violence. More often than not, however, it’s a tragic, desperate, impotent brand of violence that ultimately and without fail ends in self-destruction. There’s no winning, Heart of Scorpio seems to argue on every pageThe best we can do is to wrap comforting narratives around the myriad failures that life inevitably delivers.

Review by Marc Schuster
© 2012, All Rights Reserved