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The Winter 2014 issue is out now, literature-loving peoples. The easiest way to stay current is to subscribe, and we urge you to become a subscriber/supporter of the Gettysburg Review and/or give it as a gift to your loved ones, but you can also buy individual copies at our Online Store, where you will find all things Gettysburg Review. Please also visit and like us on Facebook.
We rarely assemble topically themed issues, and the newly released Winter 2014 issue is no exception. This doesn’t mean that theme is absent from our latest offering—this is a literary magazine, so how could it be?—but amid the grand and ubiquitous subjects of love and death, I have noted that a fair number of this issue’s authors explore the vexing problem of family, apt given that the season of post-harvest clan gathering approaches.
Family can be a balm and a burden, often simultaneously, but what happens when family fails or is simply gone? In “Constance Bailey in the Year of Monica Lewinsky,” our opening essay, Sarah Vallance portrays how, in the absence of familial succor, one ekes, or is unable to eke, meaning from a life of poverty, misfortune, and loneliness, an endeavor made more acute when, in Constance’s case, that life has extended well beyond the common measure. Amy Benson closes the issue with “We’ll Take Them with Us,” a lyrical, elegiac memoir that is more provocative prognostication than remembrance. In it, she poses some challenging, even unsettling questions and exposes some bitter ironies about what we, the human family, do when we have failed our nonhuman cohabitants. Can art suffice to save the diminishing natural world and stave off humanity’s encroaching collective loneliness?
Between those perhaps dire but very poignant bookends are several works that take tonally different approaches to family, a few of which are about mothers, including Peter Gordon’s “Richard,” a funny and heartbreaking story of a mother’s indomitable, self-sacrificing love for her wayward son, and Garnett Kilberg Cohen’s personal essay “Scrambled,” in which the author attempts to solve the puzzle of her mother’s dementia, fathoming what it means to her and her family’s future. Lest we forget the fathers, we have Craig Reinbold’s “Notes from the Backyard,” whose fulsome narrator refuses to wither beneath his awareness of the universe’s vast indifference and instead finds sustenance in his patrimony—in this case, his father’s woodworking tools—and solace in the knowledge that we are, all of us human and non, “made of star stuff.” (Thank you, Carl Sagan, and up yours, Stephen Crane.) The poets, of course, are all over the thematic map, but the conversation about family, as well as the related comforts and complications that home represents, continues in Ron De Maris’s “The Peaceable Kingdom,” Carrie Shipers’s “In Transit,” and Natania Rosenfeld’s “Family Weather.”
My assessment of the themes in our new issue is, naturally, my assessment, and as such doesn’t encompass all of our contributors’ diverse preoccupations, so here’s a brief list of what else you will find: David Kirby, Lesley Wheeler, A. V. Christie, and Tyler Wetherall consider the joys and perils of travel; John C. Hampsey recalls the dangers of his boyhood in Pittsburgh; Kent Nelson depicts the post-familial, RV-park world of swinging retirees; Bruce Beasley and Robert Solomon illustrate, respectively, the feverishness and sterility of faith. And still there is so very much more.
Read, reflect, and let us know your thoughts on this non-themed issue’s themes.
Richly deserved congratulations to longtime Gettysburg Review contributor Leslie Pietrzyk, who has won the very prestigious 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize for her collection of short stories This Angel on My Chest, which will be published in the fall of 2015 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.