Editors: Pam McCully and Kathryn Morrison
Vol. VIII, No. 4 (Fall 200l)
Cover art: Wayne Hogan, “Taking a Walk”
104 pages (7 stories, 6 poems)
Vol. IX. No. 1 (Winter 2002)
Cover Art: Michael P. Greenstein, “The Maestro”
110 pages (7 stories, 12 poems)
“When we were launching the magazine, Kathryn and I were stumped and didn’t absolutely love any of the five or so suggested names for our magazine. So we pulled out the handy Webster’s and randomly read dictionary entries. Serendipitously, we arrived at ‘lynx-eyed,’ which means ‘sharp-sighted,’ and the light bulb flashed over both
Pam McCully, co-editor, Lynx Eye
The name of this independent California-based literary journal is not only serendipitous but is proving to be prophetic, too. In the great tradition of the classic “little” magazines that have determinedly kept the short story form alive and well in post-O. Henry America, Lynx Eye offers quality fiction filtered through the keenly discerning eyes of diverse writers. What readers will find within the pages of this unimposing-looking quarterly may well surprise and delight them. There is a wild and unpredictable quality to the magazine, which co-editors Pam McCully and Kathryn Morrison launched in 1994 because, as avid readers, “We were not finding stories and poetry we enjoyed or magazines with an eclectic mix,” as McCully explained in a recent interview with PopMatters
Lynx Eye definitely reflects the diverse tastes of its creators. You never know where you’ll discover yourself next as you journey into its idiosyncratic world. You might be living in a 1986 Volvo station wagon, the home of a struggling Shakespearean actor with a talent for picking flaky girlfriends. Or visiting a surrealistic Dayton, Ohio, where the Wright Brothers, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, and Mata Hari saunter its streets. Or on a motorcycle trip from the Ozarks to the Black Hills with a biker-philosopher whose musings take you all over the map and all over the historical time line as well, from his own rustic boyhood back to the Paleo-Indian civilization of 14,000 years ago. Or watching a cranky old pensioner’s ruined life transformed by a twist of contemporary fate.
Because of its remarkable eclecticism, Lynx Eye virtually defies categorization. But in Chris Henry’s amazing and powerful story “Diamond Days” serendipitously appears the perfect description for what Lynx Eye offers its readers. A young panhandler describes the nature of the fortuitous:
His buddy called days like that with impossible finds ‘diamond days’ . . . those rare and precious days when being on the street was different than you might expect, when the hard shell of monotony cracked in places and something unexpected . . . came shining through.
And that is exactly what one can expect from Lynx Eye. Expect the unexpected a new perspective, a fresh insight, a shining find to emerge in a literary scene marked in recent years by a mind-dulling sameness of style and subject.
“Literature is news that stays news.”
So how does an editor escape the pitfall of predictability into which so many others have fallen? McCully told PopMatters that the single most important quality she seeks in fiction is finely-drawn characters:
Characterization is paramount to a good read, I believe. Who wants to spend time with a stereotype or a half-formed personality? Without characters who are so well-crafted that they are living, breathing people, even the most exciting plot becomes like reading the phone book.
This dedication to featuring stories inhabited by individuals who have the ring of authenticity and a compelling credibility is evident throughout Lynx Eye. With an enviable artlessness, the authors in this journal seemingly ignore the plot devices taught in writing classes and simply allow circumstances good, bad or mixed to happen to their characters, then faithfully transcribe the results. For the reader, the effect is one of being plunged headlong into fully fleshed-out lives where anything can and does happen just as it does in our own.
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
A deep sense of déja’ vu permeates Katherine Taylor’s outstanding piece of flash fiction, “Sunday, 4:45 p.m.” A father and daughter, driving in his “midlife-crisis sports car,” trade the one-liners and thinly veiled barbs that so often pass as generation gap conversation. The exchange between parent and offspring sounds so familiar that you can almost supply the next line for either party. But there’s something more going on here. In the midst of their rapid-fire repartee, a portrait of an entire family suffering from a massive communications breakdown and irremediable misunderstandings takes shape. Most remarkably, Taylor accomplishes this feat in a scant two and a half pages comprised almost entirely of dialogue.
In “Wedding of Paper Roses,” Penny Perry takes on two problematic families as they come together at the misbegotten marriage ceremony of an Anglo alcoholic widower and a flamboyant oft-wed Mexican divorcee. The groom’s adolescent daughter acts out her resentment as she waits for her father to show up at the bride’s house for the wedding:
“I don’t want to know any of you,” I say . . . to all of them . . . Everyone here is related, I’m the only Anglo. Me and my father. I wish he would drive up and take me away. He won’t. Today he marries Angela. Walking fast across the garden that lines the path, I squash tomatoes with each step. It feels good.”
During the festivities, she discovers that her father was having an affair with Angela before her mother died, finds herself attracted to Angela’s handsome son, and quarrels with her new stepsister. Perry remains true to reality, offering no feel-good ending or easy answers for blending families and cultures. However, the reader is left with the sense that these characters, whose shortcomings and insensitivities are eclipsed by sudden flashes of kindness and compassion, will somehow manage to muddle through just fine.
Family at its most familiar also takes precedence in “Timid.” Author Bobby Giles offers us “The Odd Couple” of mothers and daughters, trying to find common ground between them after years of conflict. The mother wryly describes herself as “quaint and useless,” a woman who can’t fix a leaky faucet or confront anyone. The daughter is a tough jock who “isn’t ladylike enough” to please her refined mother. This homespun tale takes a wild twist, though, when the mother suddenly decides to arm herself with a baseball bat and take on a drunken neighbor who is beating his wife.
Crazy? Yes. Implausible? No, not in 21st century America, where we reinvent ourselves and our lives as necessary.
“No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently.”
The decision to recreate oneself always brings with it the promise of unforeseen consequences. The mother in “Timid” has changed her image from chump to champion in one grand gesture, but may have further complicated her reconciliation with her daughter in the process.
This theme is brilliantly echoed in Terri Scullen’s marvelously ironic “Novelty and Notions,” which begins with this evocative passage:
He wasn’t the mayor’s ace in the hole back then. Back then, Latin men who wore Flano cologne, silk black shirts, and designer slacks . . . scoffed at the government ‘opportunities’ paraded in the evening paper and doubted their ale-faced leaders’ Old Spice abilities.
Romero, who has no higher aspirations than to work for the electric company, turns himself into a local political mover-and-shaker for the love of Darla Davis, the quintessential activist who lobbies for “new rules to monitor the town’s booming nightlife” and “investigations into wild things that mysteriously run off.” He captures the hearts of the City Council, but loses the girl when she reinvents herself as a conservationist and heads off to count turtles in the wilderness—a life that no longer includes him, as “the past’s future began to fade.” But in the process, we are the winners as we get a wry insight into the perverseness of circumstance, romance and human nature.
The work published in Lynx Eye has a genuine humanity, palpable and open-handed and unpretentious, a rare thing to encounter in an era of artistic contrivances and rigid political correctness. The journal is refreshingly disinterested in being a showcase for current literary fads and trends, instead focusing on prose and poetry with broad appeal and a timeless honesty of perception. A major aspect of Lynx Eye’s mission is the support of unknown or newer writers, insuring a constant source of fresh vision and unique perspectives. In the editors’ own words:
Creativity is not stopping too soon. On arriving at any idea you really believe in, determination becomes necessary to follow through with it and to be not be discouraged by others.”
Much to their credit, McCully and Morrison allow their authors to go where their muse leads them. The result is a journal of quirky integrity, full of voices that resonate with truth and characters who are not literary creations fashioned for effect or to further an agenda. These are people we recognize, our neighbors. The people in our community, wherever it may be. Our families. Ourselves. Us.