>Review: Electric Literature

When I first read that Amazon offered many magazines in digital form straight to your Kindle, I snorted. Kindles are for bibliophiles, and when I think of magazines I think of things like Time, Newsweek, and The New York Times. Those aren’t things that real book readers read, right?
But while those titles are available and are very popular on the Kindle, there are also many literary magazines in digital format. Some of these include The New Yorker, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.
What do all these magazines have in common? They all contain short stories. Yes, for as little as $2.99 a month, you can have multiple short stories sent to your Kindle for you to enjoy, in addition to articles and columns to keep you up-to-date on your particular genre, from politics to science fiction.
Ironically enough, none of the magazines I just listed is the one I chose to read for this review. Instead, I picked something less popular and mainstream. This independently-published magazine is called Electric Literature, and while it is a bit more costly than some popular serials ($4.95 on your Kindle for one issue), it is also quite a bit more substantial. Around a hundred and twenty pages thick in physical form, each issue contains five short stories or excerpts from soon-to-be-released novels.
The contents of Electric Literature #2 include Colson Whitehead’s “The Comedian,” Stephen O’Connor’s “Love,” Pasha Malla’s “The Slough,” Marisa Silver’s “Three Sisters,” and Lydia Davis’s “The Cows.” The stories got more interesting as they went along; that is to say, “The Cows” was my favorite, followed closely by “Three Sisters.”
Davis chronicles the life of the three cows that live in the field next to her house. Basically, they eat, they sit, they stand in a line, they eat some more. Pretty boring, right? But her writing is poetic, and she evokes the thought that our own lives can be just as meaningless if we don’t watch out. “They come from behind the barn as though something is going to happen, and then nothing happens,” she says.
Instead of taking this as a sad description of a pastoral scene, I take it as a warning to seize the moment, to take each day and make it something exciting and new. That’s not to mention that I actually enjoyed reading about the three cows, all of them trying to make their day interesting (and failing miserably).
Silver’s story gives insight into three sisters’ lives through the event of a snow day. Connie, the middle sister, trying to be responsible, fixes her siblings breakfast and ensures that they wear their jackets and snow boots to school. The storm gets worse as the day progresses, until finally a family with three daughters is trapped in the snow outside Connie’s house. While the family waits in her living room for the tow truck to arrive, Connie begins to realize just how important sisters are, especially when your parents aren’t as responsible or caring as they should be. She’s glad that these sisters would have had each other if something terrible had happened and they had not been able to get out of their freezing car.
I would recommend short stories like those in Electric Literature if you like content without involving yourself in a novel, or if you want to analyze something with a cryptic ending. If you need something a little more defined and character-based, I think you could probably pass this up.
And if you’re not sure you want to invest your money on a digital magazine, there’s more good news. Electric Literature, like all Kindle books, allows for a free sample, but also, all of the magazines offer a free two weeks’ trial subscription.

(You can also read my review at The Consortium’s website.)

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