Foreword



When I read the slush pile of submissions to the Bellevue Literary Review, one of the things that most catches my eye is the set-up: where the characters find themselves, what personality quirks undercut them, how they are pressed up against each other by circumstance, and what sort of challenges from left field will wreak havoc. The Spring 2015 issue of the BLR offers a literary jaunt through unusual locales and intriguing set-ups.

Carly Nugent’s story, “The Last of Its Kind,” is what we might see from Carl Hiaasen if he lived in Australia. An unassuming Mr. Nevus is fed up with the dietary restrictions forced upon him by his diabetes and decides to go down happy in a blaze of cheeseburgers. Just then…an unidentifiable mammal wanders into town from the outback.

In “Lost and Found” by Jon Mozes, a Brooklynite visits his curmudgeonly great-uncle Bolek in Tel Aviv to tentatively introduce his former therapist, now his gay lover. All are crammed into the living room of a crumbling Bauhaus apartment along with Bolek’s oxygen tank, his Filipina caregiver, and his elderly wife who unleashes expletives at her online bridge partner in Belgium.

In Michael O’Connor’s story “Dissolution,” a woman exits the subway, struggling with her Parkinson’s and her iPod earphones. At the far end of platform stands a man clad in a bright-blue superhero cape and nothing else. He has evidently made the clinical diagnosis and confidently shouts to her: “I can cure you!”

In this issue we proudly bring you the winners of the annual BLR literary prizes, all of which offer curious and compelling set-ups. The winner of Goldenberg Prize for Fiction, judged by Chang-rae Lee, is Carla Hartenberger. Her story “Autobiography” follows a set of Canadian conjoined twins who must wrestle with the physiology and psychology that both keep them together and wrench them apart. Honorable Mention goes to Jen Bergmark for her story “Bystander,” in which a Vietnam veteran photographer on a hike accidentally witnesses a murder.

The Felice Buckvar Prize for Nonfiction, judged by Anne Fadiman, is awarded to Adina Talve-Goodman for her essay “I Must Have Been That Man.” Talve-Goodman navigates college-age independence, her recent heart transplant, and the challenges of compassion when she comes upon a man lying on the side of the road on a rain-drenched night. Leslie Absher’s honorable mention essay, “Torso,” recounts her trip to Greece to figure out the CIA’s—and possibly her father’s—role in the 1967 coup.

Major Jackson judged this year’s Marica and Jan Vilcek Prize for Poetry and selected Hannah Baggott’s vivid poem “Dysesthesia” as the winner: “I want to know why I am always wanting,” Baggott writes, “why my body is never quiet—” And then we are brought into the sensory mayhem of dysesthesia. Honorable Mention is awarded to “Damaged” by Colby Cedar Smith: “It is possible/ to not remember/ until your body/ reveals it one photograph/at a time.” The images revealed are taut, harrowing, and memorable.

The Bellevue Literary Review is delighted to announce our newest literary prize, the Daniel Liebowitz Prize for Student Writing. Generously endowed by BLR board member Dr. Ruth Oratz and Dr. Albert B. Knapp, the annual Liebowitz prize will recognize one outstanding literary submission from the Medicine Clerkship at the NYU School of Medicine. Reflective writing has been part of the Department of Medicine’s focus on medical humanities and medical professionalism for more than a decade now. We are pleased that the Liebowitz Prize will formally recognize the literary talents of our future doctors. This year’s prize is awarded to Philip Cawkwell for his haunting poem “The Dinosaur Exhibit.”

We are deeply grateful to the Goldenberg, Buckvar, Vilcek, and Oratz-Knapp families for their steadfast support of this nexus of literary and medical arts. Their generosity and commitment send a powerful signal about the critical importance of literature as we grapple with illness, health, and healing at all levels. We hope you find the offerings in this issue stimulating, thought-provoking, and satisfying. This constitutes the best literary set-up.


Danielle Ofri
Editor-in-Chief