Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review of "Cityscapes" an anthology

        Jacob Steinberg is putting out this anthology called "Cityscapes" and I was given the chance to review it ahead of release. The collection ostensibly centers around the writer's cities and the experiences the environments form. It has a November 9th release date and will be available for free. Info can be found hereabouts. In a community that seems to has major international centers in New York, New York and New York the chance to get a sense of what people are doing in Chicago, Miami, Wellington, Dubai and the rest of the world is absolutely refreshing. Steinberg has done a nice job gathering pieces from the well known (Noah Cicero, Frank Hinton, Sam Pink) and the currently less well known (at least to me), as well as writers with a range of experience. As with any themed anthology the adherence to the theme varies considerably between pieces and ultimately has little correlation to the quality of the piece. The quality of the pieces does vary, though the majority are at the very least engaging, and a decent number are of high quality. I'll focus the review on the latter.  I will admit that my attention to the poetry was sparse, certainly not because I found the verse lacking quality but simply because I do not feel as adequately equipped to judge poetry.
        One of my few complaints with the anthology (and this isn't with the anthology so much as with the writers themselves) is that some of the pieces are woefully short. Some of these writers are the sort where a short piece can be a bad thing. Some of these are teases, leaving the reader (me) wanting more, wanting the thought to go on, develop, become something great when they don't. My other complaint is Steinberg found no one to rep Seattle.
       As for the writers...
       Frank Hinton's writing is in excellent shape here, hands down the best I've read from her and in a different style from her pieces I've seen in the past. This short story is down right terrifying: she depicts a descent into hell, a movement from the sterile comfort of the city to a hedonistic confused rural scene from which the narrator does not emerge unscathed. No punches are pulled and she avoids over-dramatizing the events that occur.
       Mira Gonzalez has a nice poem in which she whips the reader through the extremes of scale, replicating the enormity and isolation of city life. Breif and disorienting.
      Morgan Lent's piece is a series of vignettes of Los Angeles from different views narrated with an excellent voice and merciless wit. Within LA she encompasss the world from pole to equator and works the city theme for all it's worth.
      Mike Bushnell drops a breathless metaportrait of New York, switching voices on you without warning and replicating the driving ghost of the city.
     Janey Smith, a writer I had as of yet not heard of,  has a really nice piece of strange realism in which the narrator prepares to attend thier father's funeral. This is the sort of piece that has a quality that can't be adequately put into words, suffice it to say that it definitely stands out from the rest in it's degree of cohesion, development and heart. Certainly a writer I'll be looking into.
     Irene Gayraud's piece, translated by Caitlin Adams, is written with an ease and grace that hints at considerable talent. The fact that the setting is a pretty run of the mill relationship scene (one which could be portrayed a hundred different ways, 90 of them uninteresting) makes her piece that much more impressive.
      Noah Cicero predictably blows it out of the water with a trifecta of tiny funny poems. Just read them.
      Vivek Nemana's piece is one of the longer of the bunch and is socially and personally aware. This might be unsettling for those used to the often pathologically self-centered bent of internet writing, and Namana's piece certainly stands out for better or worse. I loved it.
      Viktor Iberra Calavera has these eye sharpening, fucked up word salads reminiscent of, though separate from, Sean Kilpatrick's style. I'm often lost in this style but Calaverra (with the help of Steinberg's translation) drew me in and shook me. It's all about the sounds.
      The pieces in "Cityscapes" are framed by a peroxide clean layout and Steinberg's terse and thought provoking introduction this is a well done anthology, definitely worth the money (it's free, duh) and your attention. Bask in your favorites, expand your horizons authorially and geographically.

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