Thursday Jan 27

Robert Clark Young When I first began editing literary magazines 27 years ago—and Connotation Press is the third one I’ve had the privilege of working on—I never suspected that I would one day go nuts over a true story called “The Autopsy.” But its author, Betty J. Cotter, had me persuaded of its excellence from the first paragraph. She will persuade you, as well, throughout her tale. It’s a kind of family mystery. I won’t say anything more than that—I know that you will enjoy discovering it for yourself.

Nor would I have ever imagined that I would one day choose to praise and publish a story titled “How MTV Brought My Family Together.” But Amanda Felice’s writing has convinced me to do so. I will tell you why in a moment.

But first I have to say this: Throughout the three decades prior to reading Ms. Felice’s account, I have had a pleasurably negative view of MTV. The first time I ever saw MTV, it was brand-new. It was playing on a little TV in my favorite bar in Tijuana, right next to a row of Cuervo bottles. MTV was showing something truly ghastly, Duran Duran doing handstands on a sailboat or catamaran or some-such insipid shit. Worse, the small TV had replaced the excellent rock’n’roll jukebox that had previously stood in the bar. My friends and I were unanimous: This was the end of Tijuana, and, no doubt, the world. The next thing I knew about MTV was that they were banning Neil Young. This meant that it was time to kill MTV. But then they turned around and not only let Neil show his video—“This Note’s for You”   —but they actually gave him an award for it. Clearly, MTV was as mercurial as your old high-school girlfriend. I ignored it for a few more decades. Then, the other day, somebody told me that MTV doesn’t even play music videos anymore. What’s on MTV today? Who the hell knows. Who the hell cares!

However, Amanda Felice’s take on the virtues of MTV as a family experience are more than persuasive to me. And I don’t have to watch MTV in order to appreciate the truth of her experience. I have no doubt that you will appreciate it as well, whether or not you have ever been an MTV fan. You’ll read this piece and become something more important—an Amanda Felice fan.

I must also confess that never in my literary life, or even in my healthy and normal life, did I ever imagine that I would be enthusiastically choosing for publication a story titled My Trip to the Holy Land.” I last crawled out of a bar in Tijuana in 1986, but never once in all of these subsequent years of sobriety has it ever occurred to me to rate a trip to the Holy Land any higher than an evening watching MTV. If you had told me that this particular Holy Land story would be written by a chaplain, I would have told you to take your Watchtower magazines the hell away from my front door.

However, the author of this particular story, Michael Eselun, is no snake-handling backwoods evangelist. He describes himself in his bio as “a certified inter-faith chaplain . . . somewhat unusual in that he is neither an ordained minister, nor particularly religious in any conventional way.” He is also the “co-founder and chair of a non-profit, volunteer anti-homophobia speakers bureau called GLIDE, Gays and Lesbians Initiating Dialogue for Equality.”

So, as you can guess, this is not going to be any ordinary trip to the Holy Land. So you need to read this piece right away.

Nor have I ever had any reason to suspect that I would ever be encouraging people to read a true story called “Brace Beemer, Please Come Home.” It is by the always interesting Walter Giersbach, and it is ostensibly about a radio. But it’s about much, much more than that. I know that you will both enjoy it and receive much from the experience of reading it.

That’s it for this month. Except for my solicitation—Do you happen to write creative nonfiction? Memoir? Narrative non-fiction? Send me your best work, up to 10,000 words, at  [email protected]. Do so right away.

I look forward to reading your work. And I especially look forward to publishing more true stories with titles that I would never have suspected would propel my full-on enthusiasm.