On The Constraint Issue of the Ilanot Review


Yesterday, the Constraint issue of the Ilanot Review went live. I was the guest fiction editor and also did an interview with Jenny Boully in which the only questions I asked her were ones I could find in her books. This is the first time I've been an editor for any portion of any journal; I don't think I really understood what that meant until today.

It's been a long time since the submissions were being read through, and argued over, and now that it's all over, I'm kind of amazed at what I was just a part of. Seeing Constraint published now reminds me just how good all of these stories were. With fiction it's never easy to write with a constraint, let alone expect people to submit their work with one to you. Poets have had form to help shape their themes for most of literary history. Fiction writers who put restrictions on their abilities to tell stories are working twice as hard. Unlike a poetic form, a sonnet let's say, a constraint in fiction doesn't really have any effect on the way the story is read, and so it does not translate into a skill to use in writing. Most constraints in ficiton are created by the writers themselves and are not part of a tradition (though Oulipo has done a great deal to change that).

Because of the unpredictability of ficitonal writing contstraints, the selection in the Constraint issue is so varied, so weirdly out-of-sync with itself, that it can only be seen as one organic whole, tied together with the veins and fleshy-colored imagination. There are flash pieces, a nonsense piece with alphabetical restrictions, stories told in a list of common traits, in the form of a book's index, one that uses the Golden Ratio to shape it, and other pieces that just use thematic constraints to hem in the characters in their plots. It was a real experiment in experimental writing, and one that I am so happy that I was a part of.

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