Bedtime Stories for Grownups: A Lit Mag For Your Listening Pleasure
I love nothing more than a beautiful, tense family drama. If you were to ask my husband how many times I’ve forced him to watch The Family Stone, his eyes would roll back in his head and he would foam at the mouth. These family dramas are the films I will go back and watch forty or fifty times, and the books I will read over and over again. This is why, upon reading the descriptions of the stories in issue twenty-three of The Drum, I nearly wept. (Keep in mind that I’m massively pregnant, and weeping is how I express joy.)
The Drum is based in Boston, and dubs itself “a literary magazine for your ears.” This is because the issues (which are published monthly but updated with a new piece weekly) are made up of four or so stories and interviews, and each story is read by its author (or by another appointed reader). If you have ever attended a public reading (of short stories, poetry, whatever), you will already have an understanding of how much more the reader can pull from a story when that story has been read aloud. The Drum isn’t just a literary magazine—it’s an experience. It’s an experience that has been graced with the work of some serious fiction heavyweights since its debut in 2010, including Jenna Blum, Ben Percy, Susan Orlean, and many more. (Just in case you’ve never heard Ben Percy’s reading voice, I assure you—you really need to. Type his name into the search box on The Drum’s site, and listen away. The story is “The Neighborhood.” You’re welcome.) The Drum also publishes interviews with some phenomenal authors, including recent Pulitzer-Prize winners. This is not a magazine to be missed.
Angela Foster’s “Shards of Glass” is heartbreaking, and written with a perfect, chilly knowledge of theMidwest. The narrator and her brother dream of defeating their abusive stepfather with an escape toWyoming, with a hunting knife, or with the gun that the brother found shockingly easy to obtain. The heartbreak comes from the sneaking in of small, terrible details, like the narrator’s realization that her stepfather has stolen her underwear, and in the certainty with which the reader knows these children will not escape to their nonexistent ranch inWyoming.
Daniel Roberts’ story, “Sandwich,” is April’s Zip-Code Stories winner. (The Drum and WBUR’s Radio Boston began naming four zip codes every month, and asking listeners to submit their own stories about these zip codes. One story is featured on Radio Boston. This has been going on since August 2011, and it’s a pretty fantastic idea.) “Sandwich” is quick. It’s a funny and rather sad kind of snack, though the “sandwich” of the title refers to theCape town, not the food. Eugene and his wife Jan are vacationing for the purpose of curingEugene’s hypochondria, and perhaps to salvage their marriage. There is so much hopelessness at the end of this piece that the reader (or listener) is overcome with the desire to send Eugene a care package of his beloved Cheerios, which, he is certain, is good for his heart murmur, whether it is imagined or not.
Do you remember that Nia Vardalos film that came out a few years ago—My Life in Ruins? I had so badly wanted to love it. I just couldn’t. It was a sloppy, rather awkward film about a tour guide and the relationships she developed with her tour group. Eric Weinberger’s “Once More With Feeling” grabs hold of this tour guide/tour group dynamic, and does a really lovely job with it. It is charming, quiet, and exactly what I was hoping for. It is written with a great deal below the surface. Does Weinberger have experience in all of the countries (primarilySwitzerland) in which the story finds its protagonist, Adam? I have no idea. But it sounds like it to me, and that’s really all that counts, isn’t it? Believability. I love an author who sounds exactly like they know what they’re talking about. I also love a bit of cold scandal and infidelity (on paper, not in life, thank you), and both of these things are found in spades in “Once More With Feeling.”
Finally, there is a really lovely interview with Eleni Gage, conducted by Drum editor Henriette Lazaridis Power at Newtonville Books in Newton, Massachusetts. Gage discusses her new novel, Other Waters, and her family’s fascinating history.
I’ve submitted to The Drum before, and I’ll submit there again. I love the concept of this magazine—it’s essentially full of really gorgeous bedtime stories for grownups. So, fiction lovers, listen to it and submit.