Exaltation of Voices in Lively Online Lit Mag
Newcomer to the scene (founded in 2014), Madcap Review is a semiannual lit mag that embraces “the impulsive, the reckless, and the lively,” but they also “have great respect for form and restraint.” One of the first and easiest distinctions to be made about Madcap is that they have no genre restrictions. They do this because they believe that great writing isn’t easily categorized, and this lack of categorization largely pans out. Helmed by Editor-in-Chief Craig Ledoux, this ship is a raucous one, but it’s one that often heads where it’s charted.
Right away in issue 5, I was struck by the abstract visual entryways posed in Jane Wunrow’s “Two Doorways.” In three pendulous circles, we’re given the hint of a pattern, while in the background we see what looks like the slide of a plant cell, fading into nothing up above. Alexandra Ford in “I Held Them Like This” gives us a character with a list of colorful past lives, “I was a model. I managed a flower shop. I trained parrots in a zoo. I was a chocolate maker. A candy striper. A horseback rider in the circus. I taught the rhumba on a cruise ship.” As we move down the (sometimes contradictory) list, we open in on a woman who laments the life she lived before. Talking to an old woman on the bus, “ ‘Such a rich life you’ve had,’ the old woman said. I saw my reflection in the window behind her. Everything passed by straight through it.”
We’re treated to a delightfully easy read in Monica Prince’s “How to Survive a Break-Up: Quit Smoking,” where we follow a young woman of intellectual brilliance take on new habits and new friends as she enters into college. Our protagonist gradually eats less and less, drinks more, smokes more, and starts to stall out in her education. The entire story shifts, however, when she becomes the victim of rape. We watch as the protagonist struggles with reclaiming her agency, finally latching onto it in the end. When her rapist calls her:
When he asks how I am, something snaps. I tell him he raped me, that I don’t want any further contact with him, and that he should leave me alone. It’s so abrupt I can hardly believe I’ve said it. He gets quiet. He doesn’t confirm or deny my accusation. He says he understands, apologizes, and hangs up. I go outside on the back porch and smoke my last cigarette. I have another pack in my room, but I don’t open it. I don’t smoke again. My body never feels the withdrawal, never asks for more.
After this piece, we’re given a mesmerizing visual piece called “Anesthesia” by Ashley Mackenzie. We stare at a dark figure on a red background, nose and mouth impeccably detailed, eyes missing for the miniature clouds that have overtaken the upper half of the face. It’s this counterpoint of art and text that really sets Madcap apart. Instead of pairing artwork with the stories, they opt to present their artwork separate from them.
In “Increasingly My Mind Is a Cloud,” Andrei Kozlov presents meticulously crafted verse that expertly tells a portrait of loneliness against a backdrop of domestic miscellanea, using its title in the following:
thank Oligarchy for freeze-dried thoughts
dredged in oceans of lye
I’ve extracted the vapors
increasingly my mind is a cloud
a strip of dialogue blue pixelation
Another image, this one called “Overgrown” by Sivan Harim, is of a mournful-looking woman, all of her body and most of her face covered by a latticework of flowers.
There’s an exaltation of voices in Madcap, a shimmering sense of aliveness that bristles through every piece. Writers would do well to submit pieces that tackle big and heavy themes through easy, brisk language. Pieces with characterizations that are full and rich but at the same time understated. Pieces with language that’s economical while still communicating a great deal. I’m thinking here of a piece in particular, this one a poem called “No Passing Zone” by Mya G. Mya tells us, “you can hear our warrior cry / wind through this bayou / you can hear us all the way to the moon.” Or another poem that packs linguistic force, this one “Allegory” by Farryl Last. Here we have a line that does so much with so little, playing with space as it does so:
like mountaintop glory-
Madcap publishes with a conventional bent verging on the experimental. They publish an even selection of poetry and prose, all of it broken up by art that’s as ethereal as it is simple and understated. Madcap claims to have great respect for form and restraint, and judging from issue 5, you’ll see plenty of both on display in this newcomer lit mag.