By Kane S. Latranz
Maribeth Batcha received her MFA from Columbia University in 1990, and has worked in magazine circulation for more than 12 years. With Atlantic Monthly alumna Hannah Tinti as editor, Maribeth launched the literary magazine One Story in 2002.
One Story includes no advertising, articles, poetry, other stories, or illustrations, the idea being one read of truly exceptional quality, from 3,000 to 8,000 words, showcased simply, and elegantly, by itself.
I've read three issues of this magazine so far, and was blown away by two of the three. What I found to be one of the most memorable yarns was Bruce Machart's "What You're Walking Around Without." Partly disabled and a physical aberration, Dean Covin is not well-trusted by the grownups in the working class neighborhood where he lives. On top of that, he supplements his disability pay by delivering diseased organs to laboratories. With some hesitation, Dean amazes an insistent neighborhood boy with his gruesome cargo, and recalls his life, including when he fell from a great height on an oil rig. Like all the tales I've seen in One Story, "Walking" addresses such themes as humanity and loss through character study and metaphor, superbly rendered in language.
Pauls Toutonghi's "Thomas Hardy's Heart" is about a third generation Egyptian-American, Peter, raised by a good-natured smoker of Gauloises cigarettes, Elias Abasi. Peter's father loves to tell stories of near fairy tale proportions about being a boy in Egypt. Choosing to live in a college dorm against his family's wishes, Peter becomes the least traditional and most American of his line to date, no longer wanting to hear his father's fantastic and colorful yarns, until Elias suffers a fatal heart attack and Peter begins receiving a succession of the tales in the mail. Toutonghi, of Latvian and Egyptian descent, has crafted a minor masterpiece, juggling various elements about the human experience, every word carrying weight and meaning. I savored "Thomas Hardy's Heart" twice with pleasure, and will probably read it again at some point.
The current issue, as of this writing, features a story by Jennifer Davis, who has received numerous literary awards. "Rapture" concerns a plague of tornados in the Bible Belt; a woman who has been brought up with a fear of God to the point that she has hardly lived her life at all; and her concern for her free-spirited mother-in-law, who must weather the potentially deadly storms in a convalescent home.
The One Story website includes Q&As with each author about the genesis of their tale, and, should you ever find yourself in the Big Apple, on the second Monday of each month there is a One Story reading and cocktail hour at Arlene Grocery, located at 95 Stanton Street, which sounds like a lot of fun.
You can get a sample copy free from the website. Otherwise, One Story is available only to subscribers, who receive an issue approximately every three weeks. No fries or apple pie, thanks. Just one unforgettable à la carte read after another.
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