Monday, January 16, 2012

Masked Mom's Media Monday: The Sun

I eagerly await The Pushcart Prize anthology every year. It's subtitled The Best of the Small Presses and showcases literary fiction, non-fiction and poetry from a variety of small magazines and other venues. It is a thick volume full of amazing work--the kind of stuff I would probably never otherwise have the opportunity to read, living as I do in a teeny, tiny town in a rural county with the nearest "newstand" likely to carry literary magazines of any sort hundreds of miles away.

Each year, I get a little crazy imagining all the work I'm missing by not being able to afford subscriptions to the magazines that originally published the work in the anthology's pages. One year, I did something about it and took $36 out of my tax refund money and splurged on a one-year subscription to The Sun.

That one-year splurge has turned into an every-year splurge (except the one year that Youngest Sister sprung for the renewal as my Christmas gift--thanks, again!). Occasionally, money has been too tight to renew on time and I have missed an issue or two, but I keep every issue I have received in a tub within arm's reach of my computer desk. More importantly, I carry photos, phrases, and revelations I've found in its pages with me everywhere I go.

It is difficult for me to speak of The Sun in terms rational and sensible enough to really capture its amazingness (see?). The Sun carries no advertising. The black-and-white photos sprinkled throughout each issue are simple and often breathtakingly evocative. Though Hubby doesn't read the magazine, I have often come upon him holding an issue, intently studying the cover photo. And when I got out a few old issues today for reference, I was repeatedly distracted by the amazing photography both inside the magazine and on its cover.

The writing within its pages is raw and gritty in its intimacy while often touching on strikingly universal themes. There is an interview at the beginning of each issue, usually with an activist of some sort or someone otherwise on the fringes of society--psychologists, physicists, artists, environmentalists, shamans and so on. January's interview was with Ina May Gaskin, "the midwife of modern midwifery." These interviews are always informative and often enlightening.

After the interview, there are fiction and non-fiction pieces, with poetry tucked in at the edges. And at the center of the magazine is several pages of a column called "Readers Write," which shares true stories readers have sent in response to prompts (this month's prompt was "Boxes."). The subjects are as limitless as the human imagination and the one thing the pieces all share is writing of the highest quality.

Here a few snippets from past issues:

                  is the the thing you
                  press your face against,
                  trying to figure out how

                   to get inside without breaking it."

              ~~from "Lost Keys," a poem by Tony Hoagland, The Sun, June 2011

"'Do you think we'll ever be friends?' I say. 'You and me?'
'We're sisters,' Eileen says.
We could be friends--if you would change every single thing about you, I don't say to her; she doesn't say to me."
~~from "Final Dispositions," a short story by Linda McCullough Moore, The Sun,  February 2009

"I am broken and my mother's old age is what's breaking me, I think, standing naked in my bathroom, one foot propped up on the sink, clipping my toenails. The bathroom is dirty: haris everywhere, beads of mold in the corners. Cleaning has become a luxury. Someday I will spend one afternoon a week scrubbing my bathroom, but for now I wipe the sink with a dry Noxema pad, scrape some loose hair from a corner, and hurry out.

My next thought is: It is not a bad thing to be broken. When something's broken you get to see what's inside."
~~from "At Her Feet," non-fiction by Pat MacEnulty, The Sun, May 2008

"Raising three children is like fording a swift, waist-high stream whose stones are covered with moss: it's possible, but move heron-slow and measure each step, or you'll topple and end up who knows how far downstream."
~~from "My Anti-Zen Zen," non-fiction by Chris Dombrowski, The Sun, August 2011

Some of the things I read speak mostly to my mind, others mostly to my soul. The Sun is one of those things that consistently speaks to both.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Priceless.


  1. My next thought is: It is not a bad thing to be broken. When something's broken you get to see what's inside."
    ~~from "At Her Feet," non-fiction by Pat MacEnulty, The Sun, May 2008

    Just wow.

    I think you did quite well in capturing its amazingness! I feel I need to read it.

  2. I relate especially to the non-spoken conversation between the sisters. I'm in the same boat; there are several periodicals I want to read. Some years I can subscribe, others I can't, but I hoard the ones I love and keep them close by at all times- they speak to me.

  3. I have been a faithful reader of the Sun for maybe 8 or 10 years. I have given it as a gift as well and find it to be thought provoking. I always turn first to the Readers Write section and marvel at the stories people have to tell. I imagine that someday I will submit something but it never happens..... :(

  4. I'd never heard of it. Guess who is going to splurge for a subscription for her 40th birthday?

  5. Oh to have time to read, read, read. One day soon I will have that luxury. Thanks for the post

  6. I am still marveling at the part about "living as I do in a teeny, tiny town in a rural county." Sounds vaguely familiar. Even people in rural areas have reading material and the Net to keep them informed. Thanks for the "Sun" re

  7. One of the best birthday presents I ever got was from a friend who saved every one of her Suns for a year and then mailed them all to me. I read them over and over and keep them with my cookbooks and other sacred items. I need to splurge for my own subscription. Also it is a secret desire of mine to see my own name among those hallowed black and white pages.