Slim Pickings and Thin Skin

Iron Horse Literary Review, Open Issue 2012


Before I go any further, let me say I admire anyone, or any group, that manages a literary magazine. It’s hard work, often thankless, and under-appreciated. Having said that, there are a good many litmags that seem to underachieve, and I’m not the one to say why or under what conditions. Perhaps the problem with some is the quality of submissions, with others the editorial abilities of the magazines’ staffs – their abilities to see good writing among the chaff.

Whatever the underlying reasons, IHLR isn’t a favorite of mine. Still, decent writing does seem to surface in even the least enthralling of such magazines, as it does in this issue of IHLR. One such piece is  a story by Mary Jo Melone, The Girl Who Lives Here. Another is a poem by Charles Hughes, The Settlement, 2001. The stories in this issue are otherwise written in decent prose, but the story arcs seem rather flat to this reader, as if they were, to paraphrase Seinfeld, stories about nothing. The poetry is a bit better, but most of it strikes me as rather trite and less than inspired.

One interesting tidbit that may put my comments here in perspective, is found in an editorial piece called Bits and Pieces, in which the editor takes Duotrope to task for calling IHLR a “slothful journal,” meaning they’re slack time-wise in reading manuscripts and replying back to writers. There are always naysayers about almost everything these days, and you’d think IHLR management would know that, that such comments, correct or not, should be blown off, corrections made to their process, if needed, and the whole thing forgotten. That IHLR chose to spend a whole column on this says something rather revealing about the litmag along the lines of thin skin – and literary insecurity – revealed.


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