Sleights of Hand

Conjunctions 65For years I received my copy of the latest Conjunctions journal through the mail in a somewhat flimsy cardboard envelope barely thicker that the insert in a shirt just back from the laundry. Now it comes in a sleek corrugated pre-formed book mailer indistinguishable from a book that some Amazon warehouse robot used to zip me my requested copy of the current issue of JEF. I would say that the packaging is an improvement but more importantly, the contents of the Conjunctions contained inside is just as provocative and imaginative as anything that has gone before (even in the flimsy cardboard envelop).

Conjunctions is still published twice a year by Bard College with its long-time editor, Bradford Morrow. The current issue is #65 and is titled Sleights of Hand. The editor’s forward remarks are sufficient to get me interested; you?

People of every age and stripe dissimulate, bluff, and beguile, whether in order to harm or protect. The writer, the artist, the magician, the thief—deceivers all. Animals, too, are masters of deceit. Even the orchid employs a wonderfully varied arsenal of pollinator deceptions, luring bees and wasps with a false promise of nourishment or sex. And consider Marina Tsvetaeva, who appropriated from Pushkin the observation that “a deception that elevates us is dearer than a legion of low truths,” thus complicating the subject entirely. This special issue of Conjunctions gathers a wide spectrum of essays, fiction, and poetry on the classic subject of deception, exploring a world in which truth is a most fragile, elaborate, and mercurial thing.

Here is an overview of the contents of Conjunctions #65:

  • James Morrow, Tactics of the Wraith
  • Laura van den Berg, Aftermath
  • Bin Ramke, Five Poems
  • Porochista Khakpour, Something with Everything
  • Rae Armantrout, Six Poems
  • Gabriel Blackwell, La tortue or The Tortoise
  • Susan Daitch, Piracy, Chemistry, and Mappa Mundi
  • Can Xue, Story of the Slums, translated by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping
  • Michael Martin Shea, From The Immanent Field
  • Joyce Carol Oates, Walking Wounded
  • Arielle Greenberg, Seven Pieces on Deception, the Whore, and Anderson, IN
  • Margaret Fisher, A Monologue Addressed to the Madame’s Cicisbeo
  • Edie Meidav, Blind in Granada, or, Romance
  • Eleni Sikelianos, Six Poems
  • Gwyneth Merner, Wounded Room
  • Michael Sheehan, September
  • Andrew Mossin, From A Book of Spells
  • Terese Svoboda, Curtain Call
  • Yannick Murphy, Caesar’s Show
  • Magdalena Zyzak, Zeroes
  • Paul West, The Admiral
  • Paul Hoover, The Likenesses
  • Aurelie Sheehan, From Once into the Night
  • Peter Straub and Anthony Discenza, Beyond the Veil of Vision: Reinhold von Kreitz and the Das Beben Movement

conjunctionsAnother quotation about Conjunctions comes from Karen Russell:

Conjunctions is a translation into a multiverse of stories and poems and essays and even weirder hybrid forms, the mutant menagerie of literary fiction. I read it with Christmas pleasure.

Despite my dislike of the term “literary fiction,” I accept the sentiment, understanding that she (as I) opens up every new volume of Conjunctions with the same kind of excitement as we experienced Christmas morning long ago when we wore pajamas with feet to keep our toes warm.

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