I have been looking for a way to capture what I feel is an elemental dilemma of the situation in Nigeria: Why is it that Nigeria can’t progress? We have abundant oil, a strong elite educated class, a sizable youth population… Why are we still backwards as a people? The issue I think lies in the foundation itself … [A] colonizing force came in and said, “Be a nation.” It is tantamount to the prophecy of a madman.
The stories in Don’t Ask Me to Spell It Out, Robert James Russell’s new chapbook out this month from WhiskeyPaper Press, follow a narrator perpetually on the verge. Over the course of 12 interlinked vignettes we see him come of age and stumble, get up and brush it off, always moving toward a greater understanding of what it means to be a son, a friend, a lover, a man. Russell is a quintessentially midwestern writer, and those who attended the recent Voices of the Middle West literary festival in Ann Arbor may remember him as a critical force in that conference—he helped bring in Stuart Dybek as the keynote speaker and organized panels featuring writers such Alissa Nutting and Laura Kasischke.
At the age of thirty-two, I have done the impossible and returned home—not for a holiday or a funeral, but to set up residency in a region of the Florida Panhandle so remote that even Comcast Cable has declined the opportunity to overcharge us for Internet service. I say “impossible” because that’s how the saying goes, doesn’t it, that a person “can’t go home again”—or at least Thomas Wolfe and Joan Didion made compelling cases.
Adventures in Immediate Irreality: No, not a shorthand for my recent trip to Las Vegas—though that is where I read Romanian writer Max Blecher’s 1936 novel, recently reissued by New Directions.
Get your copy of MQR Winter 2015 now. Order it for $7 or get it as part of a subscription for $25 and read all about it:
Don Lago focuses on messages from outer space, Barbara Mann focuses on the films of Amos Gitai, Alesia Fay Montgomery focuses on Detroit.
Fiction, recent and early, from Nicholas Delbanco (with introductions from Peter Ho Davies and Jonathan Freedman); also from Karen Heuler, Angie Pelekidis, Shubha Sunder, and Hannah Thurman.
Poetry from Martha Collins, Laura Kasischke, Circe Maia, Aaron McCollough, Matthew Moser Miller.