spring 2012, volume 93
review by alyssa turner, susquehanna university (class of ’17)
There is a tree. Its leaves are in full bloom, a mosaic of emerald and olive. The thick mushroom of leaves is interspersed with petals. These petals form the tree’s trunk as they drift gently to the forest floor. There they collect in a growing pile of ivory. There are no roots.
Marisa Rence’s “Spring Wonderland,” a landscape done in watercolor, opens Otterbein University’s literary magazine Quiz & Quill. Aside from being beautiful, Rence’s piece, like many in this lit mag, challenges the audience to take another look. I’ll confess that I only glimpsed the artwork before devouring the prose. But the piece demanded a second glance, and it was only then that I noticed the trunk was absent, the crown poised above a waterfall of petals. That was when I realized I would have to take a second and even third look at each piece that followed. I knew then this lit mag was going to keep me on my toes.
Jennifer Rish carries the torch set by Rence. She explores in her short fiction piece “Miss Austen” the sacrifice shared by all people with a passion, specifically the sacrifice of an author for her craft. Rish’s heroine, a romance novelist named Evelyn, has been seduced by a character of her own creation. She tries to resist the man born from her imagination, only to realize that she could never love anyone as much as she loves her novels. When her fantasy lover remarks on the irony of a romance novelist who doesn’t believe in love, she replies, “You’re right. I don’t. But I still believe in my work.” There is a deep truth in Rish’s fiction. Every person has a passion that, left unchecked, can evolve into an obsession. Her story is a warning to not let the love of a craft consume. Yet I also find cold comfort in knowing that my work, like Evelyn’s character, will always be with me. What the reader must decide is whether the consequences are worth the sacrifice.
Brittany Ivy Dorow challenges the reader on a simpler level, contradicting the popular connotations of the color yellow. Since childhood, we’ve formed our opinions of yellow. Every kid uses a yellow crayon to color the sun. It’s a cheerful color, a bright color. When I behaved well in kindergarten, I was given a gold star. Not a black star or even a red star, but a gold star because what’s a better color than gold? Dorow, however, describes yellow in her poem “About a Color” as “the only color left/before death,” as a “deep, broken-hearted/ son of a color.” She takes our assumptions and expands them, tests them, and then breaks them in half until we’re forced to adapt to the poet’s perception. She steals our level ground and forces us to jump from rock to rock until we come to her way of thinking.
The reader finds no rest in Vian Yohn’s nonfiction essay “On the Southern Accent.” Yohn rebels against assumptions held towards the South. She points to Florida, which—and this is taken as a compliment—is not commonly considered Southern. “What’s so great,” Yohn asks, “about not being Southern?” The question hits home. I’ll admit to a certain Northern pride in my hometown of Eastern Pennsylvania. Where do I and my Northern peers assume our sense of superiority? Why is it good to be from the North as opposed to down under? Once again I’m given no quarter to hide. Yohn tears off my rose-colored glasses and dares to ask why a prejudice exists and in doing so calms my arrogance.
“Monsters,” a drama by Whitney Reed, further challenges readers with the confession of a serial killer. The Haywood Killer, alone on stage, defends his brand of vigilante justice to his wife and brother-in-law, both of whom consider him a murderer. The man regards himself as a hero and tells his wife “even though you look at me with those sightless eyes, I have no trouble meeting your gaze.” Reed pushes readers to define what is immoral and moral, what is an unforgivable crime, and what is a selfless deed. I finish the scene torn between sympathy and consternation for this husband and killer.
There is a certain honesty and even intimacy in Quiz & Quill. With only sixteen contributors, the reader comes to know the authors and artists. We learn their quirks, their talents, their tone. The colorful and simple layout—not to mention the poignant array of art—lures the reluctant reader. And with this volume’s special addition of a Halloween Chapbook, we’re offered six more “spooky” short stories and poems. Short and sweet and sometimes chilling, Quiz & Quill is a definite to-read.