First Year: an mlp anthology
J.A. Tyler, editor

Mud Luscious Press, 298 p.
review by Tobias Carroll

The work of forty-four writers is contained in this anthology, the first collection of Mud Luscious Press’s series of chapbooks. The scope is wide-ranging, incorporating fiction, prose poems, and memoir, and stylistically ranging from the realistic to the conceptual and surreal. Despite the disparate work on display here, certain editorial decisions have lent the book an air of consistency: throughout the pieces, dialogue is rendered in capital letters and ampersands replace the word “and.” These are, admittedly, choices that may seem overly stylized to some, but they do help to create a unified experience while reading the anthology as a single document.

Many of the stories here fall on the experimental side of things. One notable exception (which I previously reviewed for The Chapbook Review) is David Ohle’s “Those Bones,” an excerpt from a memoir that suggests the roots of Ohle’s ability to produce visceral imagery, seemingly from thin air. Nick Antosca’s “Rat Beast” and Brian Evenson’s “They” utilize surreal imagery to raise questions of identity while making the skin crawl. Other highlights include Eugene Lim’s evocation of dreams in “& Then She Wakes Up,” the specific moods summoned by Jac Jemc’s “A Heaven Gone,” and the juxtaposition of medical precision with surreal logic in Kevin Wilson’s “So Dark in the Wolf’s Maw.”

Given the range of work here, reading this anthology may be a divisive experience for the reader — what one person finds challenging or groundbreaking may well be simply frustrating for another. (With respect to a collection of forty-four stories, this is very likely stating the obvious.) Some of these stories impressed me; others, I found confounding. But even with reservations, this collection is worth a read. It’s a good survey of a particular corner of fiction circa now, and the best of these stories get under your skin — emotionally, figuratively, or literally.

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