Thursday Apr 18

RobertClarkYoung3 This month, instead of telling you everything I think about the essays I’ve chosen for publication, I’ve decided to let the pieces speak as much as possible for themselves.

In “The Pump Room,” Elizabeth Block describes an experience I’ve never read about before, told from the perspective of a new mother. Every paragraph of her tale is compelling, compassionate, and revelatory, as is this one: “Draped in hospital robe, I seek privacy and dignity, or just some moment where I don’t have to use this post-industrialized breast pump, to feel like a commercial milking cow. To place my breast milk in the right receptacle, label it properly, and deliver it promptly to the nurse for my daughter’s consumption, or—if I’m lucky—to produce enough to freeze for later, which is always a game of catch up. I am never a good enough mother milk fucking factory.”

“Nineteen Thousand Eight Hundred/2014,” by Michael Collado, is probably the best and certainly the most entertaining essay I’ve ever read about the challenges of being a young adult. I love all of its observations, of which the following is typical in its friendly brilliance: “Owning a car is weird when you actually think about it. You buy one of the most expensive things you’ll ever own which you have a high risk of dying in and just leave it in random public places for most of the time.”

In “Molotov Cocktails, ” Robert Joe Stout writes about the most serious theme any writer can approach: injustice. Any one of his paragraphs conveys the desperate seriousness of what he is telling us, and here is a typical one: “State authorities had filed orders for her apprehension. Five members of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca who were confined in the prison in Miahuatlán signed documents that accused Sánchez of instigating them to burn buildings and to riot. All five recanted when they were released from police custody. One of the five reportedly informed members of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca, ‘They beat me. Said they’d rape my wife. I didn’t know what to do. The paper I signed was blank!’”

“Jesus in the Morning” is a great title, and in the hands of Craig Stormont, it’s the title of a great essay. This story about drifters is what used to be described as “gritty.” Here is just one of its many compelling moments: “I asked the driver where they were headed. He replied, ‘Texas,’ and his tone suggested that he wasn’t as keen on the idea of picking up every hitchhiker on the road and buying them beer and cheeseburgers as his brother-in-law was. While I waited for the cheeseburger to arrive, I concluded that it would be in my best interest to wander off once I had eaten it.”

Yes, and it is definitely in the best interest of the reader to wander off with each of these storytellers.