import_contacts Ducts, Issue 19

reviewed by Kristina Marie Darling

Published in Issue No. 126 ~ November, 2007

Having just announced a merger with the New York Writers Workshop, as well as a new novel forthcoming from its publishing counterpart, Greenpoint Press, Ducts is clearly making its mark on the literary scene. Featuring short fiction, essays, memoirs, artwork, and poems, this website is full of well-crafted writing that approaches personal experience with imagination and insight. Often using these experiences to examine larger questions, the work found in Ducts is consistently thought-provoking and stylistically striking.

The fiction in this webzine, for instance, is impressive in its linguistic economy, intricate structure, and novel treatment of everyday subjects. In his brief prose piece “Convenience,” featured in the latest issue of Ducts, Deepak Kapur tells the story of a man of “low caste,” who boards a train on a hot day and offers other passengers a drink of water. Describing another character’s struggle to accept an act of kindness from someone of lower caste than himself, Kapur writes: “Bhim Das hesitated but his thirst urged him to avail of the opportunity. `Such exceptional cases of forced misconduct must be forgiven by God,’ spoke Bhim Das to himself'”(1). Using this ordinary experience to examine larger themes, such as the influence of culture and religion on the decisions one makes, Kapur’s story asks the reader to consider the intersection of the everyday with the philosophical, albeit in a sly, inventive way. After reading other essays, memoirs, poems, and fiction found on this website, it became clear that “Convenience,” with its subtle presentation of challenging subjects, is characteristic of the work published by Ducts. Filled with carefully structured prose and image-rich poetry, this webzine is an inexhaustible resource for anyone who enjoys personal stories that approach familiar subject matter from an imaginative point of view.

While reading this rapidly expanding publication, I was also impressed with the “Essay” section, which includes many concise, focused narratives that often examine a pivotal moment in the narrator’s life or a change in his or her worldview. Mark Goldblatt’s “The Encounter,” for instance, describes a man’s realization that he’s “a city boy for life,” using a can of roach spray as an emblem for his transformation into a bona fide New Yorker. Goldblatt writes near the beginning of the essay: “This was not your run-of-the-mill can of insect spray, no cartoon roaches in derby hats playing poker. This was deep blue and serious, a silhouette of the Manhattan skyline below the logo…I scoffed at this. After all, I’d grown up in the boroughs…”(1). Like the other work found on this website, “The Encounter” is gracefully structured, depicting a great deal of the narrator’s personal history while focusing on a single incident or image. Adrienne Meloni’s “Treadmills,” too, focuses on a woman’s experience with a man she met at the gym, using this incident to examine other aspects of her life, such as the ways in which her definition of friendship changes. Although succinct, each of these essays is rife with both humor and insight, rounding out an intellectually and emotionally engaging set of narratives.

Ducts is an enjoyable and entertaining read. If you enjoy writing that approaches personal stories from a philosophical point of view, chances are you’ll love

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Kristina Marie Darling, an English major at Washington University in St. Louis, received a nomination for a Pushcart Prize in 2006. Her chapbooks include: Fevers and Clocks (March Street Press, 2006) and The Traffic in Women (Dancing Girl Press, 2006), among others.