February 20, 2012
Review by Michael Fiorilla (Susquehanna University ’12) and Christopher Rodriguez (Susquehanna University ’15)
The spring 2011 issue of Mary Baldwin College’s national online literary magazine, Outrageous Fortune, greets its reader with a stark, minimalist presentation, beneath which lies a heart of turmoil. This dichotomy, a placid surface masking confusion and fear, is mirrored in the writing featured in the issue. The journal casts a wide net in securing its content, offering fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and visual art. Outrageous Fortune is a journal that, like each of its pieces, has a lot to offer lurking just beneath the surface.
Margery Bayne’s essay, “In the Eye of the Beholder,” begins with a look at social politics at a wedding before plunging into an unflinching examination of modern standards of beauty and the author’s own insecurities with them. She reflects on herself when she writes, “I realize I could be so much thinner. So much better. No matter what, it will never be enough,” and, “When I am shy, do I seem standoffish? When I try to be outgoing, is it annoying? Is there something deeper and nastier about me that I cannot see?” The author highlights an internal struggle, which intensifies the question at the heart of the piece: Why is beauty, something that does little to reflect on the “worth” of a person, a quality that society holds in such high esteem?
For another example of depth and conflict hidden in everyday life, we look to “Play Ball,” a short story by Kelly Cernetich, in which four brothers take their game of catch from the baseball field to their backyard. The author portrays the children’s mother by writing, “Mom used to come out and chase us with her broomstick if we were caught messing around too close to her garden. But the begonias had given up on us and seemingly, so had she. With six other kids to look after and a house to keep, we just hoped she wouldn’t mind if we played a harmless game of catch.” Through her concise description, Cernetich adds depth to a story that might otherwise read as a “harmless” game of catch gone wrong. The author gives life to every child’s fear of angering their parents and delivers a well-crafted, entertaining piece in a very short space.
In poetry, there are a number of stand-out pieces, including Kaitlyn Duling’s “Paris Doesn’t Inspire You,” which contemplates a conflict inherent in writing, trying to convey abstract feelings on the page, to give them shape. Duling writes, “you touch your tongue to your nose, / stack your erasers and wonder how to say anything / worthwhile about about soaring above the clouds / that doesn’t include the phrase ‘soaring above the clouds.’” These lines highlight the author’s struggle with the page, pointing out the frustration a writer may feel when the words they can muster do not convey the emotions they feel. This subject is not only attractive but difficult to capture in a way that is accessible and emotionally resonant, and here Duling succeeds.
Outrageous Fortune is a journal that harbors depth behind a minimalist exterior. We find this iteration of the magazine concerned with inner conflict, as it takes a nuanced and contemplative approach to experiences of turmoil, fear, and frustration. The editors of Outrageous Fortune have created a collection that brings to light the depths of doubt and confusion into which all readers are capable of sinking.