Content Tagged ‘Nonfiction’

Save Your Place: Whirrups of Static

Ecotone11_Cover-325x494Ecotone’s tagline is “reimagining place,” and we love work that brings us to a specific location, real or imagined. In this department, Save Your Place, we highlight our favorite descriptions of place from work we’ve published at Ecotone and Lookout. And in honor of our forthcoming sound-themed issue–out soon!–we’ve chosen some descriptions of place that sound good, too.

This place is from Joe Wilkins’s essay, “Boys” in Ecotone 11.

“The air is smoky and close. A bookshelf stuffed with paperback westerns and yellowed romances rests near the woodstove in the corner, and a battered pool table shines beneath the glare light of a bare bulb. Beer posters featuring bikinied, big-haired women draped over muscle cars hang from the walls. Country music drifts from a dusty radio on a high shelf behind the bar. Though the long antenna is flagged with tinfoil, whirrups of static snap through the jangling music. On the same shelf sits a small black-and-white television, the screen shifting and flickering without sound. Every table in the place is empty. The men–for they are all men at the Sportsman–sit on tall stools at the bar. Their cowboy hats and ball caps are pulled low, their elbows heavy on the bar lip, bellies sagging beneath. They look at us and do not look at us–a kind of slow, sideways glance. They tip their beer cans to their mouths, wipe their mustaches with the backs of their shirtsleeves.

From the back of the bar, fist on her good hip, Maureen looks us up and down. Maureen owns the Sportsman and is ancient and cantankerous and broad-shouldered and big as any of the men. “Boys,” she says, in a voice that means our answer must be good, “what do you want in here?”

House Guest with Matthew Gavin Frank: On Eating Rats

In House Guest, we invite Ecotone and Lookout authors and cover artists, as well as editors from peer presses and magazines, to tell us what they’re working on, to discuss themes in their writing or unique publishing challenges, to answer the burning questions they always hoped a reader would ask.

The following excerpt is from from the West Virginia essay in Matthew Gavin Frank’s book, The Mad Feast, out this week from W.W. Norton, which is a collection of fifty essays, one for each of the U.S. states. Each essay begins with a foodstuff typical of said state and then digresses from there, engaging various shadowy back alleys of regional history—sometimes beautiful, sometimes atrocious—in an attempt to uncover the answers as to why we eat what we eat, where we eat. Matt’s essay, “Spoon Bread,” about Nebraska, appears in Ecotone’s Sustenance Issue.


Mad Feast mech.inddThough rat meat often bears traces of pesticides, heavy metals, and human excrement, and though most residents of West Virginia (save, perhaps, for the town of Marlinton—famous for the annual autumnal Road-Kill Cook-Off featuring such local delicacies as pothole possum stew, rat gumbo, and the awesomely named Peter Caught-on-Tail Gate Roll) long to shuck the backwoods “barefoot and pregnant” stereotype (after all, we have the lowest birthrate in the U.S.), my uncle empties the traps into a stockpot as his father and his grandfather and his great-grandfather did before him, adds the water, the tomato, the salt and pepper, and the hot red peppers (his personal touch). Uncle cracks his knuckles, says something about infertility, about eighty-hour underground work weeks, about coal as black lipstick, the sort he’d smear Aunt’s face with when she was alive and well and simmering anything but rodent on the range.

According to Calvin W. Schwabe’s book Unmentionable Cuisine, step one of Rat Stew: “Skin and eviscerate the rat and split it lengthwise.” Uncle dips his face into the stockpot’s steam and inhales. He calls you to the stove, puts his arm around you. You watch the little nuggets of sour meat surface and dive down, surface and dive down. You think of the pride of Debbie “The Rat Lady” Ducommun—a Californian, no less—as she said, “I do as many necropsies of rats as I can, and between 1998 and 2003 I took measurements of the hearts of 150 rats.” You take comfort in the suspicion that you are not nearly as obsessed.

You know this: that in Bordeaux, vintners trap rats that inhabit the wine cellars and subsist on the fermenting grape juice. The vintners skin and eviscerate the rodents, then brush their bodies with a thick sauce of olive oil and crushed shallots, and grill them over a fire of broken wine barrels. Apparently, the resulting meat bears the flavors of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petit verdot grapes, the latter of which is known in French wine circles as the “little stiffener.”

You try not to think little when you think of fertility, and worry about the heritability of Uncle’s mistakes, anatomical and otherwise. You watch little heart tumble over little rib and little liver. You try to pick out the tenderloin, the neck meat. The feet. The hands. You try not to think of the appendages that anchor us into the mine shafts that only want to constrict, the earth filling itself back in, becoming whole again. This, we call collapse. You tell yourself each night in bed that those are canaries screaming into some implacable, original depth, and not the rats in the kitchen. You try not to think of stiffening bodies, of rigor mortis, of the 2010 mine explosion in Montcoal after which not a single survivor was found. The names of the dead were not released.

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Save Your Place: through mist and damp

Ecotone10_Cover-325x491Ecotone’s tagline is “reimagining place,” and we love work that brings us to a specific location, real or imagined. In this new department, Save Your Place, we’ll highlight our favorite descriptions of place from work we’ve published at Ecotone and Lookout.

This place is from Annie Proulx’s essay, “A Yard of Cloth” from Ecotone 10.

“We drove west through the mist and damp. The light was a somber, northern gray, the road blurred with light rain. Fog hung over the Pemigewasset. On the outskirts of town the road widened. We were alone on the highway. My sister was reading a letter. We came into the broad, sweeping curve that follows the river’s course. In front of us, skewed across the empty road in the smoking-gray silence, were two smashed gray cars, pillars of steam rising from each, the road a fine carpet of glass.”

Five Cover Letter Tips for Submitting to a Literary Journal

1.      Like all writers, we love animals, but after a while we get a little tired of hearing about your pets. If you have three turtles, we don’t think, oh but those three turtles probably need some fancy flies that could be bought with the money from publishing this story. We’re happy you have things in your life that you love—but this is a cover letter. Let’s get to your story!

2.      It’s usually best to keep the letter brief. Sure, we want to know that you’ve been published by the Paris Review, the New Yorker, and Agni—Hooray!—but then you’re fine with the phrase “and many other journals.” Listing another twenty places feels unnecessary. Plus the block of text makes our eyes glaze. Pick the top three or four—maybe five—and keep some mystery in this relationship.

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