One — which shall remain nameless — is pretty well known, includes work from some big names you’ve probably heard of, and includes some mildly snarky, clever, self-aware, and affected stories, poems, and essays. In short, it’s the kind of journal that all the hip kids publish in, but one that leaves me a little cold.
The other journal was The Conium Review, and it’s everything the first journal isn’t. Though I did recognize one of the names (Howie Good), the rest were all completely new to me, and their work was spectacular. Indeed, paging through the journal was like stumbling upon a treasure trove of works by up and coming writers.
Admittedly, some of the works are odd, albeit in an endearing way. In one piece of flash fiction, for example, a young man dreams of eating glass despite the protestations of his girlfriend. In another, a sterile woman stirs up a baby in a pot of leftovers. In both cases, a distinct sense of loneliness permeates the narratives. Yes, we’re bearing witness to the bizarre, but it’s not just bizarre for the sake of bizarre. It’s a brand of bizarre that offers insight into the human condition.
And then there are the works that are just plain good. In a novelette titled “Dear Penthouse,” a fashion model struggles with addiction and body image issues to harrowing effect, while in a poem titled “Earl Grey Moonlight,” a homeowner laments the passing of the wall that once separated his kitchen from his dining room. These works alone would make the journal worth the $12 cover price, and the fact that the other works contained therein are equally engaging makes The Conium Review a journal to watch.