Barrelhouse, or, Some Reasons Why I Am Not an Impartial Reviewer and Don’t Care

Barrelhouse 10Barrelhouse is one of my favorite literary magazines. It’s one of the first I picked up, at Von’s Books in Lafayette, Indiana, along with the now-unfortunately-defunt Quick Fiction. It’s one of the magazines that I am proudest to have been able to contribute work to. What I am saying is that this is not, and really cannot be, an impartial review.

I’m not really that concerned about giving an impartial review here. Barrelhouse is great.

Barrelhouse 10 is out. It’s been out for a little while, actually. But when it first came out, I was in the middle of PhD exams – now passed, thankfully – and most of my reading was confined to like articles about Longinus and Burke and the concept of the frame and so forth.

I’ve since had the pleasure of sitting down with Barrelhouse 10. It’s lovely, duh.

Adam Robinson once told me that people who put out print journals are “doing the Lord’s work.” It’s basically impossible to put out a beautiful print journal and actually make back your printing costs. I know. I’ve tried. (Artifice, the magazine I edit, has moved to a quarterly, online format; we’re going to be focusing our print efforts on books for the time being.)

On the other hand, I don’t want to suggest for a minute that you should give Barrelhouse your money for their sake. That’s a ridiculous reason to support a magazine. Here are some good ones:

  • Jessie Marshall’s story “Billy M.,” which, like a good ghost, sneaks up on you from the side, takes advantage of your blind spot:

“I think one of us is a ghost,” I said. “I think it’s you.””Well,” he said. “You know what that means.””What?””No condoms.”I went to the mirror, said my name three times, and spun around. I closed my eyes and opened them, but I was still there.

  • Sarah Sweeney’s memoir of what highschool girls did before the internet killed the prank call. Girls who “breathed heavily,” who said things like: “My panties are so wet,” or “What do you think about when you come?” Who “were experts, actresses, criminals”:

Josh, hello? Yeah, I’m here. It’s me, Margaret. You don’t know me, but I know you. I watch you. I like what I see, and I touch myself.

(I was in a class once with Sarah Sweeney, in Greensboro, NC: I can vouch for her, that she does in fact make prank calls to authority figures. Or did, still, in college, at any rate.)

  • Melissa Broder’s “Arson Wife,” fuck damn:

I only want you to dance
on my smoking undergarments.

With G_D’s help the pile will re-ignite
each time you reach the door

so I can pinch a moment alone
beneath my iron skirt.

  • Crime, duh. This is the Crime Issue, after all. Throughout the issue you’ll find mugshots, with fictionalized accounts of real crimes, written by Brian Evenson, Paula Bomer, Craig Clevenger, Randall Brown, Graham Jones, and Stewart O’Nan.
  • Also, a really beautiful story by Emma Straub illustrated by Elizabeth Graeber, whose ink drawings are Quentin-Blakeish, mixed with maybe a little Gorey.

I read somewhere that Nabokov was actually a pretty terrible literature professor. He didn’t have much to say about the books that he loved. He had that problem, that I think a lot of writers have, of just wanting to point at something in a book and say: That. Pay attention to that. That right there.

This. Barrelhouse. This.

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3 thoughts on “Barrelhouse, or, Some Reasons Why I Am Not an Impartial Reviewer and Don’t Care

  1. Sounds like a good issue. Too bad Nabokov wasn’t a good teacher of literature–one, I feel, would want to defend him against–was it Jakobson?–who said that Nabokov teaching literature was like an elephant teaching zoology. Congrats on passing your exams. Longinus, Burke, and parergonality–fun stuff!

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