Birkensnake Two

Cover of Birkensnake Two

Last month I went to an author reading at Inner Chapters Bookstore in South Lake Union. It’s actually the closest bookstore to my condo, but I hadn’t been there before. Nice setup. The reading was for Birkensnake. I’m not exactly sure how to classify Birkensnake: a zine/e-zine combo, a chapbook series, or what? You can get the stories online. And they put out handmade bound copies. But it appears they only do one issue a year. Tina Connolly read a story from Birkensnake One, and Matt Briggs, Caren Gussoff and Evelyn Hampton read their stories from Birkensnake Two. I liked them well enough to buy a copy of Birkensnake Two for $4.

Alack! I mostly liked only the stories I heard. The rest were too esoteric for me. Here’s what the editors write on the Birkensnake submission page:

We’d like to see narrative taken apart and then reassembled into something almost, but not quite, what it was before. If the story gets sort of broken in the process, that’s okay with us.

If that’s your sort of thing, go for it. I don’t think that way, so it didn’t work for me. I knew it would be out of my normal reading when I picked it up, but didn’t realize how much outside.

All the stories are available online for free.

I should mention that the cover is beautiful. I’m not sure what material was used to give it the texture it has, but it’s more than the pretty picture you see in the thumbnail above. Kind of a fuzzy feel with rough hard lines. Also, each cover is unique; they’ve hand-singed them so they are all slightly different. Hand-singed, not hand-signed. As in, with a torch of some sort. I love that sort of thing.

The Children’s Factory by Michael Stewart
Okay flash fiction length piece. Very short and sorta interesting.
from A World Called the Blazing World by Danielle Dutton
Another children themed work following a maid in the Queen’s retinue. Hard to follow mostly.
From now on all I’ll talk about is light by Blake Butler
A third child themed piece. Another one I didn’t grok.
Five Simple Sentence Forms by Rhoads Stevens
Six paragraphs. Five sentences each. I wasn’t inspired.
Knot by Matt Briggs
Liked this one. Metaphor of coming unraveled made somewhat literal.
Strange Animal: Three Stories by Christopher Boucher
Three small stories. First where a girl keeps her brother in a cage, but he’s okay with that. The second has a man leave an argument because he thinks he sees an animal. And the third where a girl aspires to a career in staffing. Each of them where I thought, There’s something a little off with that person. The stories treat them as if they are normal everyday neuroses, like how I have to always put the sugar in my coffee mug before I pour in the coffee.
Correspondence by Caren Gussoff
My favorite in the collection. Two scenes of soldiers fallen from grace working in the bowels of Battlestar Galactica like ships, checking garbage for contaminants that, if passed along to the incinerator, would blow up the ship. Stuff happens. Excellent.
Someday on Planar Surface by Matthew Pendleton
At 30 pages or so, this is the longest piece in the collection. But I had to stop reading after 10 pages or so. I have no idea what the hell was going on.
Dogfight by Miles Klee
Uhm.
Sag: A Saga by Evelyn Hampton
Some beautiful word play, but if there’s a story there it went over my head. As non-sequiters, I loved them. As a story, I was lost.
Tumor Flats by Joyelle McSweeney
Another uhm.

One other blogged review:

  • Big Other (definitely more to his taste than mine)

Title: Birkensnake Two
Editors: Joanna Ruocco, Brian Conn
Cover: Chemlawn

Disclosure: Caren Gussoff is an acquaintance of mine. I’m not the kind of person who gushes about stuff just because it’s made by friends. But you can take that I liked her story with a grain of salt if you are so inclined.

Categories: Short Fiction Reviews.

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  1. [...] someone has taken the time to think about the whole thing. … Seattle’s great book blog, Rat’s Reading, also responds to the whole issue, and also notes the cover: “Kind of a fuzzy feel with rough [...]