This is a lit mag review by Bridget Lutherborrow
The Canary Press, issue 3 Edited by Robert Skinner and Andy Josselyn
Picture via Canary Press
The editor’s note in this issue of The Canary Press hits home. At the moment I’m in the process of re-learning how to make a story. I can turn water into wishful thinking, blades of grass into a crowd, clouds into almost anything, with words. But I cannot help losing my load early. The protagonist of my novel dies in the first scene and her best friend is all “Meh, we all die sooner or later”. The lovers already know their relationship is doomed, and they’re all “Meh, we all die sooner or later”. I am terrible at this. But the third issue of The Canary Press promises proper stories. It promises we will go somewhere.
The issue opens with Christopher Evans’s ‘Burrowing’, which sure does offer a lot of movement. Border crossings, boisterous owls, fire - this story has those things. It’s fun – which is how I like my fiction – but underneath it’s definitely a bummer. I feel transported physically, but not emotionally. That said, most of the time I’d prefer a writer obviously enjoying themselves rather than one labouring through an emotional journey.
Josephine Rowe’s ‘Notes on Wildness’ uproots me. Written in three numbered parts down a single page, the words are beautifully put together, emotive. I feel like I’m looking at something through a glass door, dark reflections messed over by breath. Leith Maguire’s illustration is lovely and perfectly matched. The overall effect is of being lost in a familiar place, rather than entirely transported.
Comedian Cecilia Pacquola offers the next piece, ‘Take a Knee’. This is easy, pleasurable reading, with some amusing insight into relationships. There are some fantastic lines. Take this: “Simon as always was charming as shit to everyone, and this had somehow become irritating.” ‘Take a Knee’ is a simple, self-aware piece and is perfectly positioned in the collection.
A.S. Patric’s ‘Amy In #12’ is self-aware in another way. The bird metaphor that spans the story is pretty up front, but the writer is confident, touching on themes of happiness and belonging: “You see any canaries cruising the airways outside? Have a look. All you’ll see is magpies and pigeons.” This is followed by James Earl Cox III, whose name is almost as long as his contribution, ‘Tomatoes’. It’s an evocative microfiction, but to say much more would give a lot away.
Tim O’Brien’s ‘How to Tell a True War Story’ is one of the longer pieces in the collection. At first O’Brien’s forceful protagonist is jarring to me. He’s very “tell-y,” but the more I read the more I’m willing to forgive this trait, because although the old rule is “show, don’t tell,” we all know this really means “know when it’s appropriate, ya dingus,” and besides, this guy has something to say. This story took me somewhere.
Finally there’s a piece about young travellers: ‘Foxhunting’, by Shane Joaquin Jimenez. There’s nothing surprising about this narrative, but it’s nicely written, and offers a clear portrayal of people in their early twenties grappling with issues of low-level responsibility. I once had a housemate who said everyone should just be able to do whatever they want. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment opposite a high school and he would not stop getting drunk and listening to punk music into the wee hours. This story is a lot like that. I guess it took me someplace I hadn’t been in a while.
There are letters at the end of the issue, and a few short short stories smattered throughout. I like Harry Saddler’s first one, about the warthogs. The shorts offer nice relief. They let the breeze in or something. The illustrators deserve a megaphone enhanced shout-out too, cause they’ve all contributed super-pretty work, and this really makes the magazine what it is.
The Canary Press calls itself a “story magazine,” and it seems a pretty apt title as far as Issue 3 goes. “It’s hard to tell a story right,” the editor’s note stresses. I don’t know if these pieces are right, they certainly aren’t perfect, but The Canary Press isn’t afraid of what each of these stories are. And because of that, many of them have transportive qualities, which is better than perfect anyway.
Bridget Lutherborrow is a Sydney-based fiction writer, studying for a PhD at the University of Wollongong, with a thesis on unusual narrators and a novel about lumber jills. She tweets @birtiledge and sometimes blogs about food at Straight-Talking Vegetables [www.straighttalkingvegetables.com].