See also: Another Perspective
on Ron Carlson's "The Ordinary Son"
Henderson opens this 25th Anniversary Edition of The Pushcart
Prize with the Prizes intriguing history, the obstacles
the Prize has faced and overcome, proving its worth. Without federal
grants and profitable funding, but with the assistance of those
who believe in its value, the Pushcart has survived an undersized
budget, competing and battling with the commercial industry. Mr.
Henderson says that this it not only a problem of the past; the
press is usually near bankruptcy: "In short, those times
were very much like these times. Money attempting to stomp out
value, and value popping up again here and there. Eliot Freemont-Smith,
reviewer for the Village Voice, quoted in Pushcart Prize
III (1978), complained the treatment of writers does,
I believe, get more callous every dayin newspapers, magazines
and books as well. More and more accountants are taking over publishing.
Numbers, leading to the holy bottom line, have always counted,
but never to such an exclusionary degree."
But this does not stop
Mr. Henderson, nor does it stop supporters of the prize, who Mr.
Henderson calls humble followers: "Keeping us humble have
been the unceasing and opinionated contributions of over 200 contributing
editors who annually nominate writers and their particular works
that they have loved from the past years small press publications,
For 25 years, their letters have arrived, a generous outpouring
of support that has kept me at my desk with a conviction that
Pushcart must be doing at least something right to deserve such
And Mr. Henderson,
like before, still works from a small hut in his backyard, heated
with a space heater, a testament to his astounding dedication.
This 25th Anniversary
Edition is consistent with past Pushcart anthologies, demonstrating
the fine work that writers are producing today. The many contributing
editors selecting stories, essays and poems for this edition certainly
did their jobs, and they did them well. Fiction Editors Jack Driscoll
and Bill Henderson selected a variety of work from magazines such
as Chelsea, The Southern Review, Witness,
Zoetrope: All Story, The Boston Review, and the
list goes on. Variety is a key element of this collection, as
is the compelling and intriguing nature of each story included.
"When She Is Old and I Am Famous," by Julie Orringer,
selected from The Paris Review, tells the story of Miras
jealousy of her cousin, Aida, and their attempt to understand
each other, despite their differences. Glimmer Trains
"Nogales and the Bomb," by Alberto Rios is a convincing
first-person narrative involving a five-year-olds notion
of a bomb, and how the reality of war affects him for life. "The
Ordinary Son," by Ron Carlson, which was published in The
Oxford American, compares Reeds ordinary life with his
genius family members, his complications spilling out onto the
page. In "When Its You," from The Threepenny
Review, Fred Leebon tells a stunning second-person
narrative, a mans perspective of his wifes terminal
illness and her approaching death. And work from the late Eudora
Welty finds a place in this edition; "The Doll" from
The Georgia Review (which first appeared in The Tanager
in June of 1936) shows Maries apprehension in her relationship
with fiancˇ Charles, and it reveals a charming resolution in which
Marie and Charles face their fears. And, from DoubleTake,
"The Anointed", by Kathleen Hill, is a first-person
account of a girls admiration of her music teacher, Miss
Hughes, the girls discovery of Normans secret, and
how they break their "silence."
A dazzling collection
of essays fills this edition, as well, selected by Essays Editor,
Anthony Brandt. Bret Lotts memoir, "Toward Humility"
from Fourth Genre is a heartwarming account of Mr. Lotts
struggle with his work, a friends death, and the circumstances
enveloping around his novel as book-of-the-month. With humor and
sincerity, Jeffrey Hammond describes his frustrations and arguments
as a teacher of Milton in his essay, "Milton at the Bat"
from The Antioch Review. And Nancy McCabes striking
memoir from Prairie Schooner, "The End of the Tunnel,"
tells of Ms. McCabes tragic encounter with Flashlight Man,
and how she overcomes her fear, and her sense of powerlessness.
Last, but of
course not least, poetry, selected by Billy Collins and Joan Murray,
is also perplexing and alluring. From The Temple, Gu
Si, El Templo, "How to Make Love to a Man"
by Sharon Doubiago, the provocative imagery and language fulfills
its title well. "Seven Roses" by Frank X. Gaspar, from
The Georgia Review, is a heartwarming poem of a gardeners
ambivalent love for his roses. And Greg Rappleyes "From
the Vegas Cantos" from Mississippi Review is an
astounding narrative poem, which resembles a short story, fixated
as it is with action and plot and striking vivid images.
The work in this
collection exceeds the limits of ordinary poetry and prose. The
Pushcart Prize XXV consistently proves its worth, exceeding
boundaries, delving into exciting territories and endless possibilities,
and there will be more to come, as Mr. Henderson states: Talent
abounds. Grace abounds. In evidence: the 74 stunning works from
54 presses that follow. Take it from this Content Provider.
We are not going away. Quite the opposite. God willing, I intend
to write my next quarter century update in 2025. But first I have
to learn to count that high in roman numerals.
Ron Carlson's 'The Ordinary Son'
Reviewed by Elizabeth
"The Ordinary Son", Ron Carlson has created one of the
blandest characters ever put on paper, and therein lies the storys
is the son of a NASA scientist and a grassroots poet. In a family
of geniuses, he is alone in his commonness. Nothing particularly
meritorious underlies his conduct; his intelligence is average,
his needs superficial. Reeds siblings blossom under a strict
moral diet of work and unheralded sacrifice. They
eat sardines and crackers for dinner, refuse to mow their yard,
and do without a refrigerator. Meanwhile, Reed, meticulously normal,
rebels by choosing materialism. He aspires to average friendships,
to owning a car, to physical labor.
Though Reed narrates
the story, he offers little in the way of self-examination. Instead,
he is defined by a succession of small encounters with minor charactershis
family, a few slight friends, his boss. They drift in and out
of the story, pausing in their orbits only long enough to refine
Reeds sharp points by radiating their unequivocal realities
on his unpolished manhood.
Son" is an anti-story. Mr. Carlson offers a photo negative
of the everyday issues: teenage rebellion, sex, sibling rivalry,
and coming of age. He looks at the spectacular with black-and
white eyes that are neither awed nor mystified by what they see.
He chooses shadow over detail and narrative over explanation.
Placing Reed, a non-entity, among super-humans who exist in an
ethereal realm of abstractions forces the reader to draw her own
realities on a clean grey slate remarkable only for its flawless
mediocrity. Ron Carlson, faced with brilliance, presents instead
the unlikeliest of heroes: an Everyman captured in the twilight
of youth, unable to escape the genius that surrounds him and painfully
aware that he watches with a mind that will never aspire, nor