The new issue features a delicate china cup in a traditional motif, but it’s cracked, without a handle. In Granta terms, that’s a big clue as to contents. This look at Britain is anything but stuffy or traditional, and it’s one of my favorite issues ever. Seriously, I’m the person you see at the thrift store going through piles of old books to find back issues of ancient Grantas, and who does a little happy dance when she finds one (one day I found five!!).
As usual, the journal features poetry, journalism, short stories and photographic essays. I first dove into Ross Raisin’s short story, “When You Grow Into Yourself”, because I was so fond of his novel, Waterline, which came out last year. And Mario Vargas Llosa’s piece, “The Celt”, is unforgettable in its sly humor and devastating realism.
Then there's Sam Byer's story, "Some Other Katherine":
"Katherine didn’t like to think of herself as sad. It had a defeatist ring about it. It lacked the pizzazz of, say, rage or main. But she had to admit that these days she was waking up sad a lot more than often than she was waking up happy.
“Like much of Katherine’s life, what she read and what she watched were governed by her sense of types of people: types she wanted to be; types she couldn’t stand. She didn’t want to be the sort of person (woman) who watched soaps and weepie movies. She wanted to be the type of person (woman) who watched the news and read the Booker list. She imagined herself at parties, despite the fact she never went to parties, being asked her opinion on world affairs and modern literature
Byer's short story is going to win some sort of award, even if I have no idea what they give to astonishing short stories. The O.Henry? The "Katherine" that he creates is at times familiar but also scary as hell. The affect he can give to a fictional character is nothing short of brilliant.
Several poems are featured, my favorite being Robin Robertson’s “1964”, where the day’s journey of a kid --from playing in puddles, through the “museum of men” at the local barbershop, and to an unexpected end—creates an edgy yet innocent character.
“Under the gritted lid of winter, each
ice puddle’s broken plate
cracked to a star. The morning
assembling itself into black and white, the slow dawn
its developing tray. Cold steams off the grass;
the frosted yarrow and sea holy
smoke in the new sun.
I know how children came, so I look for the stork
in the cliffs over the mussel pools…
Search for her everywhere
in the gantries of the storm woods, in the black pines,
that she might take me back.”
For the most serious read, a section on Belarusian journalism by Nikolai Khalezin and Natalia Kaliada details the numerous suspicious deaths of reporters who were falsely accused of being agitators. The article studies a group of thespians as well as the efforts of the KGB to intimidate them.
Special thanks to Saskia Vogel for the Advance Review Edition.