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100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Hustlers

100 WORD FILM REVIEWS / Hustlers

Of all of the recent deluge of “Scorsese-as-genre” films in the past few years (a genre that is even sub-linked to the comic book genre now, with the upcoming Joker), Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers stands above the crowd not only by offering a gender-twist on the Goodfellas formula, but in using those now well-worn techniques as ways of linking us not just to the flashy subculture of her characters, but to their interior lives, in a resonant way that not even Scorsese managed. Jennifer Lopez is at a career best, and having more fun than any actor on screen in 2019. 

100 WORD BOOK REVIEWS / Knock-Off Monarch by Crystal Stone

100 WORD BOOK REVIEWS / Knock-Off Monarch by Crystal Stone

Crystal Stone covers substantial ground—a mother’s death, poverty, addiction, Christianity, coming of age—with a surprisingly light hand and impressive formal range; included are prose poems, found poems, concrete poems, list poems, among others. Stone handles both form and subject matter with careful attention. Her poems are observant, descriptive, and evocative: “I’ll teach ‘em how to cook daddy’s squirrel potpie,/ rub pork ribs the right way,/mash potatoes like a man and baconwrap their vegetables tight.” The wry, frank voice is what pulls all of these poems together, what the person watching you on the train must sound like.

FICTION / Drunken Spoils / Stella B James

The bartender hands Jenny a fresh drink, and I stretch her hand out, taking it as I make her teeth sink into her lower lip in silent promise. Ah, sweet Gail, the side of her she never seems to remember. She wishes to have my charm and bravado. Only copious amounts of alcohol bring me out to play, but when I do come, she freely gives over the wheel.

FICTION / We Are Us and Then There Are Other People / Tai Farnsworth / Writer of the Month

It was a Friday. They invited me over to play games and I didn’t leave till Saturday morning. Their roommates, swimming in the pool or lounging on the couch, nodded their ‘hello.’ Where did you meet them? they asked. At a dog groomer’s, at the grocery store, on a hike, I said.

FICTION / The Big Bambu / Robert Libbey

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Midnight and Mom hits up my cell: Munchie’s run? 31, off the hamster wheel and comfortably lodged back in my old room: I’m all in, a thumbs-up emoji my reply.

 

She’s hooked on Bugles. The tatted cashier nods approval. “Let’s face it, Mom’s a pothead,” I text my brother. Beside himself, a coast away: “She’s out of control with the messages, you know, the kids have homework.”

 

“Look, I love your brother, but he’s a tight-ass: I’ve already had two fathers,” she says, meaning hers and mine, “I’m over that.” Still stinging from a strict upbringing (+ marriage) she’s a late bloomer: a middle-aged, rebellious teen.

 

Why should I complain? “One day, all this will be yours,” she gestures at the carnage of the living room. Stripped of all the vestiges of wifely (and motherly) duty she lets it all hang out, sinking into a cushion. The table’s littered with paraphernalia: empty chip bags, packs of rolling papers…

 

The afternoon routine begins. She runs her tongue to seal a spliff. The turntable spins Dad’s remaindered Cheech & Chong. “Sister Mary Elephant” is her favorite: a deranged substitute teacher who’s lost all order in the classroom. The tracks meld one into the other. LOL: two feet away, she texts me; the cell: her new life-line.

 

“She’s posting weird selfies to Instagram,” my brother bothers. Ah, dog face filters: the button nose, the close-cropped hair now frosted pink. Nice. This medicinal weed’s some dope shit. I see she’s crying; then laughing. The couch tilts sideways; imperceptibly, day clicks to night.

The record skip wakes me. How long has she been staring at me? Glassy-eyed, she says, “You’re my favorite pupil.” “I thought I’d disappointed you.” Smiling she shakes her head no, gets up, unsteadily.

The room’s dark, but I’m seeing her in a new light. Desperate, my brother has sent me a fresh text, “she’s signing her messages with a strange signature. Who is this woman?

I remain mum.

Mom opens the album cover as I restart it. “Let’s Make a Dope Deal,” drops. She pulls out the actual, gigantic rolling paper (a marketing gimmick) that came with the record. “Bucket list,” she says, only half joking. 

Wired, she won’t sit. The skit is tight but it’s hard to concentrate. Her restlessness is contagious; driven by the mother of necessity (the will to live) she’s become a force of nature. Our cells hum. The message: let’s rock n’ roll kids; let’s get our nightly fill.

One foot out the door, one foot in I shoot back my brother: this woman?!


Robert Libbey lives in East Northport, NY. His work has appeared previously, or is forthcoming, in The New York Quarterly, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and Blue Lake Review.

FICTION / The Judgment of Helen / Linda McMullen

This event remains something of a Troy College legend.  Many called the event anti-feminist (when not calling it something worse), and I supposed that was fair. But I would have also noted that the feminist crowd had less on offer. If they had given me a crack at free tuition, room, and board, I’d have participated in their Elizabeth Warren Forensics Competition or RBG Debate Forum or their Inner Beauty Pageant too. Until then, there I was.

100 WORD BOOK REVIEWS / Sometimes Things (Don't) Work Out by Estefania Munoz

100 WORD BOOK REVIEWS / Sometimes Things (Don't) Work Out by Estefania Munoz

You don’t want to be trite, and simply say Sometimes Things (Don’t) Work Out by Estefania Munoz is an act of tremendous courage. Yet that is the most straightforward and accurate takeaway I have from this overwhelming, achingly beautiful collection of poems. The occasional stunning illustration highlights Munoz’s words, which often immerse us thousands of vivid miles beneath her depictions of grief, terror, and what motivates us to become who we want to be. With both of these elements in a single volume, depicted as they are by an essential creative mind, Sometimes Things (Don’t) Work Out is poetry that must be read and appreciated in 2019.