OR: Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #10

A review that originally appeared in The Fix #5:-

LADY CHURCHILL’S ROSEBUD WRISTLET #10

Edited by Gavin J. Grant & Kelly Link

Whimsy is the order of the day, as the title of this American magazine might suggest, an impression reinforced by the black and white cover image. Typos are short on the ground though some deliberate errors contribute to the general air of zaniness. Some pages have information about various types of tea printed lengthways in the margin. Are these people kooky, or what? By way of non-fiction we get zine reviews, brief enough to pass muster as back cover blurbs, and a film column discussing Spider Baby, labelled ‘The Maddest Story Ever Told’, which sounds quite interesting, though sadly I suspect it’s a spoof. In a lengthy and well argued article, L. Timmel Duchamp examines feminism in crime fiction by way of the books of Joanne Dobson. There are three poems by Charles Coleman Finlay, which are rather better on a second reading, but don’t risk a third as you might become addicted. Mention should also be made of the subscription offers, which quite tickled my fancy (eg for $628 you get four issues plus ‘two tickets to a Major League Soccer game of your choice, a night at the Paramount Hotel in NY, dinner at a half decent restaurant and a dark wool sweater. Probably blue, but tastes change over time’. Sounds hard to resist).

Stories then. Eight of them. Leading off is ‘The Mushroom’ by Brian Conn, a surreal take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with two boys, Ood and Ott, discovering that people in their neighbourhood are really mushrooms. It holds the interest, with strong hints of paranoia and how sinister the world can seem when seen through the eyes of a child. Steve Bratman’s ‘The Fat Suit’ is in a more whimsical vein altogether, but with a serious point at back of the dry humour, as thin men take on more presence in the world courtesy of padding. ‘Lost Connections’ by Barbara Krasnoff strikes a more sombre note, the bittersweet story of a woman who, thanks to a new technology, is allowed to view events in the past of her family, but is left frustrated by her inability to effect history, an intriguing idea that is given genuine emotional resonance thanks to the writer’s skill. In the bizarre ‘People Stuff’ by Greg van Eekhout man’s best friend nastily turns the tables on his master, an economical slice of black comedy, while Jeffrey Ford rings the changes on National Velvet with ‘What’s Sure to Come’, an engrossing and agreeable mix of fantasy and family saga, with a grandmother who dreams the winners of horse races.

On the down side we have Geoffrey H. Godwin’s first person paranoia rant ‘Stoddy Awchaw’, whose eponymous monster is going to get you no matter where you hide, a story that is too slight and lacking in purpose to be anything more than vaguely irritating. Amber van Dyk in ‘Sleeping, Waking, Nightfall’ tries to do something new with the werewolf, telling the story from the viewpoint of a creature held captive by humans to exhibit for profit, but it has nothing much to add to the canon and the disjointed narrative structure tends to alienate the reader. More rewardingly there’s ‘Born on the Edge of an Adjective’ by Christopher Barzak, the story of two men and the strange woman who comes between them, a compelling piece about unrequited love and the bonds that hold people together, ending on a note of ambiguity that is bizarre and yet has about it a feeling of emotional rightness.

LCRW impressed me. The magazine’s refusal to take itself seriously on the one hand and a selection of quality fiction on the other proved a winning combination.

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