The University of Missouri-St. Louis' biannual literary magazine, Natural Bridge, is quietly maturing into a source of great prose, poetry and essays. Doubters need only attend the journal's alumni reading event Saturday night to be slammed by a salvo from talented writers reading excerpts from pieces published in past issues.
The poets include Donald Finkel, who has riffed on a penetrating description of a woman's face as described by Kafka; and Jon Marshall, who describes a yardful of marigolds he planted that cannot completely hide the traces of a dead man's overgrown garden.
The short-story writers include Robert Earleywine, whose humorous tale deconstructs the experience of a boy listening to The Lone Ranger radio serial ("Silver and Tonto, they can't understand," explains the masked hero. "The horse never questions, the Indian never doubts. But you understand, son. You, staring into the black face of the radio as if you could see pictures in it."); Ryan Stone, whose excellent story "Hotel Carnival" delves into the pathos shared by a group of circus freaks staying in a hotel; and John Dalton, who tells the tale of an American traveling through remote China who meets a man obsessed with the TV show MacGyver.
Featured essayists include Robert H. Kneib, a former carnie whose "My Last Great Reading Binge" is a true account of living in the woods with a dog, lots of vodka and a box of paperback books; running out of money and booze; getting the DTs; hallucinating demons; and falling off a cliff.
Luminaries journeying to the Lou for the free event include Iowa Writers' Workshopper Jennifer Haigh, who will read from a story about a man who hates his sister-in-law's emotional hold on his wife and vandalizes his in-laws' empty house, with wildly successful results; and accomplished novelist William J. Cobb.
It's a rich cache of talent, and Natural Bridge co-editor David Carkeet predicts that the new outpost of Marty's Baking will be packed to the walls with good writers and serious readers.