March 10, 2016
Review by Nathaniel Leies, Susquehanna University, Class of 2018
Disclaimer: The squid commands you to read this review.
There. Now that you have no other choice, let me tell you all about The Album.
The Album, Hollins University’s newest literary magazine, appears displeased with the format of the orthodox literary magazine. Down with monotony it seems to say. Down with one uniform page following the next. The Album will take a plain-Jane page and flip it upside down, literally. The Album will turn a poem sideways! (practical application aside) You will find this magazine a topsy-turvy read. Not only a page-turner, The Album is a book-turner too, as some stories and poems are printed upside down. And have you met the squid? If not, check out the Album’s Facebook page. That squid is a rather bossy fellow.
The Album provides a home for Hollins students’ experimental writings. What can you, the reader, expect? Think thought-provoking. Think unexpected.
This magazine is a fun new trip, full of distinct voices, tales, and genre-bending agendas. All forms of writing and artwork may be submitted for consideration. After reading through the 2014 issue, I reflected on Cori Rupe’s “on being with and of my mother”: “you are a misplaced fingernail, a scrap of hair, finding its way onto the wrong body…you are the summation of small triumphs.” What pieces of ourselves have been lost? the work seems to ask. Pasts collected into fragments, pieces of identity. Estranged, perverted, become something else, these experimental writings are bits of ourselves and others—the parts we did not expect to discover, to idealize.
In Michelle Mangano’s “The Skeleton Man,” a young girl devotes herself to the mock-religious practices of “The Thin.” Her teacher, The Skeleton Man, oversees her practice of self-starvation. Mangano writes, “After months of tutoring, I had dreamt of the skeletal world. Skeleton girls in flowered sunhats waved at me, their yellow sundresses catching the wind. Children rode their bicycles, their bones chattering as they pumped the pedals.” This strange and chattering story feels like bones pushing up through skin. Mangano immerses the reader deeper and deeper in the self-wrought torment of the narrator’s devotion; meanwhile, the story’s flesh recedes, and reader and story meet at the bone, when the narrator asks the man, “I’ll just die, won’t I?” In a sudden singe of realization, reader and narrator together must find the strength to pull themselves from the torment.
In other works in this issue of The Album, the reader meets experimental work coupled with experimental layout. This feat provides authors the awesome benefit of formatting their work in ways that free it of conventional format. In Kiki’s poem, “I Slept With Alan Ginsberg and All I Got Was This Lousy Poem,” the poem appears on two adjacent pages. On one side Kiki creates the poem in Greek letters, on the other the Cyril-Phoenician equivalent. The title, too, is split between the two pages in order to achieve a two-part effect. In this way, writers may wed content with layout to create unique visual effects.
Full of beautiful writing, artwork, collected into one unique and quirky magazine, The Album is the collection of our lives into one literal album—all the bits and pieces of ourselves we may not have expected to find.