Around the Literary Carousel
At first glance, the 2012 Spring edition of Booth, a literary magazine published by MFA students in Butler University’s Graduate Writing Program in Indianapolis, IN, might not seem very impressive. The cover is dark, with muted colors that seem to resemble the blurred view of a carnival’s carousal in motion. Once readers get past the cover, that’s where the real thrill of a carnival ride comes into play.
Booth separates its submissions into a variety of sections: Chapter One, Stories, Nonfiction, Art, Poetry, Interviews (written by Booth staff members), and Comics and Miscellany. Before I go into depth about each section, I wanted to state that I enjoyed the editors' decisions to separate each section with beautiful photographs.
Chapter One is an intriguing section, one that I haven’t seen in many literary magazines. Here the first chapter of works-in-progress are displayed. Both of the pieces in this section are completely opposite from one another, but yet they have a unifying similarity: they both take place in the Midwest. While "Calamity’s Child" by Kevin Ducey takes place back in the time of Thomas Edison, "The Un-Game" by Kathleen Founds takes place in a more modern setting. They also have a similar aeshtetic: both chapters of include letters from exchanged between characters. Other than those similarities, I enjoyed the development of the characters. In particular, I felt the character of Janice in "The Un-Game" was strikingly realistic, with her biting sarcasm and compelling worldview.
In the Stories section, there were two borderline-genre fiction stories. I was pleasantly surprised, as most literary magazines I’ve come across have been limited to literary fiction. One notable mention is "Monitors" by Ryan Boudinot. This gripping story of technicians watching computer screens to monitor human behavior reads like science fiction and takes an unexpected twist at the end. Another notable mention is "The Mathematics of Waiting" by Kirsty Logan. The inventive structure of her story emphasized the relationship between mathematical equations and the main character's pursuit of her passion.
My favorite sections after the Stories section was Comics and Miscellany. This is where the truly experimental and creative pieces were at. Comics, especially graphic novels, are becoming more well-known, a fact highlighted in the Interviews section. It was great seeing Booth giving them special attention and setting comics apart from the rest of the magazine. The only fault was there weren’t enough of them. Booth wants to change that though, from what I gathered about their desire for more of those pieces, along with nonfiction and artwork, submitted on their online submission page.
Overall, my thoughts on Booth’s Spring 2012 magazine are mixed. The Stories and Poetry sections are exceptional. On the other hand, it would have been great to see more than two nonfiction pieces (against the eight short stories), and a wider variety of artistic contributions rather than just one series of photographs by a single photographer. But surely this will change in time, as this lovely little magazine continues to grow and shape its identity. And for now, there is plenty of reason to enjoy the ride.