Letter from the Editor
Stagger Lee keeps sauntering into my life as a song, as the subject of a letter, as the Black Keys’ variant, “Stack.” The eponymous star of a popular American folk song, Stagger Lee’s story centers on a dice game gone wrong. After losing his new Stetson hat to Billy D, Stagger Lee goes home, gets his .44 (or .45, depending who you ask), and shoots poor Billy down.
The richest characters in literature are so often the darkest and most irredeemable. Think of Cormac McCarthy’s relentless Chigurh, O’Connor’s Misfit (“She would have been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life”), or the immensely charming pedophile Humbert Humbert. These figures pull us in despite the horror of their thoughts and actions. We secretly adore them, steer them into our private worlds.
The protagonist of Stephanie Rael’s “The Playing Field” is one such creature, eliciting pity though the tables have only just turned, though the captive has so recently been the captor. As humans, we learn that the greatest villain, the most difficult circumstance, is not always external. This issue features work that is self-examining, that tests faith, history, past loyalties. It is also fantastical, funny, and filled with kindness. The featured artwork runs this same gamut, taking us to entirely new landscapes and reminding us of a world beyond the written word.
I would like to say thank you to all the contributors, to everyone who submitted this cycle, and to the editors—especially Sarah—who keep this project going. Many thanks to JoKa, whose work graces our cover, and to Dereck Seltzer, who is the subject of our first Contributor interview, which you can read here.
Seek out your Stagger Lees, but don’t forget the small folk like Billy who “Can’t win for losin’,” as my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors would say. It’s raining heavily here, but summer’s upon us. Find your beach, your swimming hole, your busted fire hydrant, and enjoy yourselves, but be careful rolling the dice.
Editor in Chief