I have it on good authority that there is no deep hidden meaning behind the name Monkeybiccyle. That’s a bit of a disappointment. I thought it might reflect some kind of inside joke or something. I subscribed to the journal as part of an ongoing quest to understand things. I was then informed that the name is just a name and my quest was abruptly cut short. The only thing left for me to do was to actually read my first issue (No. 6) of Monkeybicycle. You never forget your first.
The list of contributors is pretty ridiculous. Imagine all the great writers you’ve heard of recently and you’ll have a good idea of whose work appears in this issue, but fine, I’ll name a few (some of whom are PANK contributors present or future): Matt Bell, Shane Allison, Ryan Boudinot, Kim Chinquee, Michael Czyniejewski, Jason Jordan, Corey Mesler, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, Brandi Wells, and others.
I am always fascinated by what story or poem is chosen as the first story to a magazine issue or anthology. I’m sure that sometimes, this is a completely random thing, but I’m writing my dissertation. My life’s work is about looking for significance where perhaps there is none. Monkeybicycle 6 opens with a wonderful short story by Martha Clarkson, Gum Gutter, about a woman, stealing a few moments away from her family over Thanksgiving and getting the digits from a bicycle cop after she spits her gum out on the street and it rolls into a gutter. The television show Seinfeld made a lot of hay from the notion that it was a show about nothing while also being a show about everything, and this story works much in that same way. It’s a story about a random nothing of a moment, but it is so deftly written that it tells the story of so much more and you realize this in the very last line, with the narrator staring at the telephone with her ex-boyfriend downstairs with her family, thinking, “I could imagine the urgency of the dial tone, then the suspenseful cave of the ringing, and all the things that go through your mind.” With a first story like this, I knew that Monkeybicycle 6 might be pretty decent. I was not disappointed, unlike my quest to truly know the meaning of the term “monkeybicycle”. Win some, lose some.
There is a lot to appreciate in this issue, much of it humor, very sly. Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s The Mask Is What’s Holding My Face Up is a poem that tells the story of what happens when drunken fathers take their kids trick or treating one Halloween. There are consquences. The consequences are funny. There are strange stories like Drew Jackson’s After Spaulding, reminiscent of The Island of Dr. Moreau, but really a somewhat satirical look at what happens when someone is too smart for their own good. There are very emotional yet strange stories like Matt Bell’s The Girls of Channel 2112 about conjoined twins, one of whom works for a porn site, the other who is a graduate student in evolutionary biology. That Bell can take this absurdist context and write a story that is ultimately heartbreaking and sincere is quite laudable. Ryan Boudinot’s The Mine, a parable about the comforts of ignorance and enslavement is a contender for BASS recognition as is Sheila Ashdown’s Sedimentary.
The only thing I found odd, not bad, but odd, was the balance between poetry and fiction which I only noticed because I am a Libra. In most magazines, you’ll see 4 or 5 stories and the rest of the issue filled with poetry. In this issue, there were only a few poems, and the rest of the issue was filled with fiction. I found that interesting because normally, I kind of skip over the poems, but in this issue, I actually wished there was more poetry because the poetic selections were awesome. Nice work, Monkeybicycle!
A lot of times when you review a magazine issue, you end by saying there’s something for everyone. I’m not going to say that. There isn’t something for everyone. Monkeybicycle is a publication that knows its audience very well and does an excellent at job at assembling a range of writing that will appeal to that audience and still remain compelling to outliers. That, I think, is the hallmark of great editorial work. Â Do not dally now. Go buy yourself a copy of Monkeybicycle 6.