A MIXED BAG 

A MIXED BAG

River City “American Drag” Department of English, University of Memphis, 182 pp., $7. The winter 2001 edition of River City , the University of Memphis’ fiction and poetry journal, is something of a mixed bag of literary delights. Presumably in an effort to gather a more cohesive array of contributions, the editors of the journal choose a specific topic for each edition. For this season’s offering, we have “American Drag.” Most of the work does either 1) deal directly with one’s gender as projected by the clothing one wears or 2) skirt, no pun intended, the idea of clothing and its general implication in one’s life, whether it be functional or manic. But this by no means limits the quality of the work. The thematic contributions range the spectrum of writing. There are a few startlingly good short stories, some boisterously comic and others searingly witty or poignantly surreal. Of the many poems stuffed into the journal, some are forgettable, but a good portion of the work is accomplished and utterly approachable; and a few pieces satisfyingly shove at the boundaries of the form. Also featured are some selections of photography that for the most part address the topic of appearance and all that’s tangled up in it. From drag queens to the living Barbie herself, from Mr. Bette Davis to a little girl in an overwhelming cosmetics aisle, from a Thinker taking a dump to an urban shotgun-wedding Van Eych, many strike out from the page. Outside the confines of the topic of clothing, this edition also features the first, second, and third place winners of the annual River City Writing Awards In Fiction. Out of a field of some 300 entries, 10 stories were chosen to be read by renowned author Richard Ford, who chose the three winners. These were the highlight of “American Drag” for me, but don’t start with them. Give the journal a chance to alter your perception a little first. You will notice yourself picking up on things you wouldn’t have otherwise. I also particularly enjoyed Thomas Russell’s prefacing editor’s note, a unifying statement for the journal’s theme of dress that lays out the many intriguing ideas the disparate authors jointly represent throughout this issue. My only criticism of “American Drag” would be that it could have used a little more fine-tuning in the proofing department. I may be prattling on about nothing of great concern, but easily corrected typos distract readers. Copies of this newest issue of River City are available at Davis-Kidd Booksellers and a few other bookstores in the Memphis area, as well as the English department of the University of Memphis at 678 4591. Information regarding the River City writing contests can be found on the Web at www.people.memphis.edu/~rivercity.

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