-Reviewed by Caroline Crew-
Content over style.
Exactly how worn out is the idiom style over substance? Probably entirely. However it is a balance we have to work with and online literary magazines really seem to bring out this tension. None more so than Mud Luscious Press’ quarterly offering, Mudluscious. While MLP’s site is all colourful minimalism and swagger, the magazine is the bleakest of designs. No colour, no illustrations, and available only as a PDF download—a fact that really seems at odds with the potential that digital platforms offer literary magazines. Especially perplexing is this resistance to really embrace the opportunities of the online existence when Mudluscious is embracing some truly challenging writing.
We open with the marvellous Parker Tettleton’s short prose-poem ‘What I Want & How I Live’, the meta-narrative of which seems to set the stage for what follows. Something I’ve noticed with Tettleton’s prose-poetry it the extent to which he really achieves the blurring of lines that a true achievement in this genre requires. In this piece the expanse covered—from the actuality of the writer at the page to the universality of the male and female ‘thrust and ache’ as Louise Glück describes it- melds together the exactness expected of prose with the metaphoric leaps granted to poetry.
This genre crossing that is one of basic hallmarks of contemporary writing that rejects the mainstream. I hesitate at the descriptor ‘experimental’, as more often than not this is just shorthand for the myriad of more alternative approaches to creative writing. However, ‘experiment’ seems the most apt way to describe Jonas Williams’ intriguing piece ‘Ranch-Ready Crop-Tops’. There is an inherent tension in this fiction between the two sections ‘Vocabulary’ and ‘Applied Vocabulary’ that is in tune with the consumerist tension of our capitalist society—the product set against yet within the human, mass-production against organic. By absorbing as well as creating a jargon of industrial food production Williams does a great job of pulling the reader to the centre of the piece with a compelling verfremdungseffekt, making the familiar landscape of a grocery store entirely alien.
However, do not flee from Mudluscious if you think ‘experimental’ writing is not your thing. There is true lyricism to behold here. Molly Prentiss’ ‘How the West Was Lost’ is drenched in sensual landscape and disarmingly poignant advice:
And triangles are the strongest shape, but not emotionally. Here:
you must have an odd number of tattoos but an even number of lovers.
There are many, many other highlights—remarkable for such a small collection, that to discuss them all here would steal the joy of discovery. It is a delight to read a magazine that not only has no filler, but that is also aware of its consumption as a whole. The care and attention with which such a collection has been put together and arranged is marred only by the decision to shove the pieces together. The writing explodes in the mind but has no room on the page; instead the works muscle in on each other. Still, this stylistic limitation cannot truly impact the explosive content.