Online Journal Celebrates 25th Anniversary With Writing on Social Change
Mobius Magazine publishes poetry, prose poems and short fiction on social change, and was previously reviewed on The Review Review in Summer 2011. As mentioned in that review, Mobius calls itself a 'Journal of Social Change'. This is a pretty broad theme and while it's not exactly political, its political leanings are fairly evident. Featured in this edition were stories, poems and prose-poems about war, religion, immigration, manhood, modern technology and nuclear fallout.
This Winter 2014 edition marks the 25th anniversary of the magazine. That's a pretty long life for a literary journal and its success can be put down to the longstanding involvement of its key staff, most notably its founder and Executive Editor, Fred Schepartz. This issue contains 10 poems, 4 short stories and an editorial. Whether by design or accident, all the authors in this collection are from or reside in the USA.
The ten poetry pieces were all excellent and are very definitely aligned with the theme of 'social change'.
"An Apology" by Emily Zhang is an angry, terse and beautiful reproach against pointless wars. The war theme continues with Heath Brougher's prose-poem "Necessity", Beth Cato's poem "Sorry", Abraham Younes' "Right of Return" and Gary Lark's "Much Improved."
In "Bring Me the Head of Yukio Mishima", Wade German takes lines, or part-lines, from Mishima's short story "Patriotism" and weaves them into a poem. I'm not prudish about the idea of re-using other people's work to create something new. It's an interesting experiment and tells a very different story from Mishima's.
Karen Greenbaum-Maya's "Passing Through" is a prose poem, or perhaps more of a vignette, in which we follow a Jewish woman walking through the 'Bible Belt Cafe' around Christmas-time. In Deonte Osayande's "Henry Ford Hospital, 2007", we sit in a hospital waiting room after an accident. The poem has a beautiful rhythm and only those final words, "he called your love an abomination", suggest the cause of the underlying emotional tension.
I felt that "Praise Song" by Stevie Edwards was the most polished and complete piece in the whole journal. The poem is a sort of ode to her Republican father and explores one family's complicated relationships in 20 well-formed lines.
"The New Navigator" by Mark Danowsky is a very short poem which reveals all the frustration of modern life. I particularly liked the closing lines "If only we had options / to override like the good old days / when everything went wrong all the time."
The sense of not having options, of being trapped in a world where people or things make bad decisions for us, is perhaps the best way to describe the overall feeling or connecting thread of the journal. It is evident again in the four fiction pieces, which are a curious collection of stories. Each piece is very different in voice and style but they all still follow a more-or-less conventional structure.
At 5500 words, "Corrugated Righteousness" by Janna Moretti is a long short story. Moretti manages to pack a lot in and the pace never lags. The story follows young Sam as he constructs a toy town in his bedroom, copes with his overbearingly twee mother and his veteran dad, and the usual bevy of schoolyard friends and bullies. Sam is a believable character, who is both vulnerable and a little scary.
"La Laguna" is also long, but is another satisfying read. The story of a Mexican immigrant looking for a better life in Tucson for himself and his sister is by Eric Z. Weintraub, who is working on a collection of stories about immigration. "La Laguna" won first prize in the USC's Undergraduate Writers' Conference.
The last two stories are considerably shorter. "Mr Green the Funnyman" by Elizabeth Alexander is a collection of a girl's remembrances about the professional party clown of her childhood. Alexander subtly explores racism and classism, and it's difficult to say if the story is fiction or fact (not that it matters; it was my favorite story).
"Snuffy's Last Walk" by Jack E. Dunning is an unusual addition, given the more political leanings of the other stories. It's the tale of a rescued dog and his family, and with that title there are no surprises. Poor little Snuffy.
Editor Fred Schepartz pulls no punches in his Editorial. Schepartz comments on the Wisconsin gubernatorial election, saying "Scott Walker was democratically elected, and he has ruled like a tyrant." If you feel like disagreeing with Schepartz on either his political or literary views, be careful before sending in a snarky email: Mobius publishes anything nasty on its hate mail page.
My main criticism with this as a journal is that it's not easy to navigate. The 'current issue' page is simply a list of titles and authors - no blurbs or previews. To reach a story you need to click on its title and then afterwards return to the contents page. A sidebar menu with all the stories, or even a 'read next' button would aid navigation a great deal, and there's no option to read offline. However, this is really a minor quibble in what is otherwise an interesting collection of stories and poems.