The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa is a speculative fiction novel that tackles a world in which memory is controlled by an outside force and is able to make things disappear. Ogawa intricately weaves moments of fragility with those of resistance as the island begins to unravel into a void of being forgotten. The narrator, a novelist, has lost her mother and begins to find meaning in keeping secret her editor who is able to remember events/things. As the Memory Police continue to crack down on what exists and what is forgotten, the narrator loses her best friend, her job, and eventually her own body. I was impressed with the way the story the narrator is writing parallels what she is experiencing up until the last moments. Both characters lose themselves, but one keeps her voice. Though, in the end, both characters disappear all the same.
Ogawa works to question authority, namely, who has the authority to determine what disappears and what doesn’t, who is affected by the disappearances (the Memory Police isn’t), and why those in position are able to create such a culture of loss. Ogawa seems to be challenging current forms of policing and seems to elicit scenes of those hiding Jews during World War II. I enjoyed the way she describes the disappearances, and that cliff of disconnection with the editor. And the overall effect is this eeriness that blankets every action and description.
Final Rating: 4/5
The Iowa Review Spring 2021 is a collection of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction published by the University of Iowa. This issue heavily focused on the voices of veterans within its fiction portion. There were some bright spots in the issue, namely ‘Coelacanth’ by Ellis Scott, ‘The Lantern’ by Greg Wrenn, and ‘Routes’ by David Lombardi. These stories, at least, felt authentic with unique voices and twinges of queerness that I felt like I could relate to.
However, I was deeply disappointed with the rest of the pieces featured. Many of the stories written by and about veterans carried with them a staleness like in ‘Where’s Charlie?’ by Erik Cederblom. The story relied too deeply on the narrative of the prideful and just America, that all nuance was lost. No new ground felt like it was trod since many of the stories featured white male protagonists and didn’t critically view America’s actions as it related to war. The enemy was generally vilified and the only story to critically think about the military, ‘He Said, She Said’ by Jerri Bell, eventually fell in line with that narrative at the end. I was also not impressed at the poem ‘Dire Offense’ by Mark Levine as it seemed to become incoherent with a nonsensical stanza listing random nouns. It dragged on far too long and also relied too heavily on an unconventional rhyming scheme. Overall, I expected a more critical issue.
Final Rating: 2.5/5
The Song of Achilles is a novel by Madeline Miller that focuses on the relationship between Achilles and his gay lover Patroclus before and during the siege of Troy. Miller takes from the source material of the Iliad and works in a deeply powerful mortal relationship not often written about in Greek mythology. The relationship been Achilles and Patroclus is written naturally and fluidly to offer a look into their budding understanding of each other. It’s a heartfelt, and at times, moving piece that works in Greek legend, the human condition, and a history that has been long overlooked. It was crafted in a way that let me ease into the work of Ancient Greece without being shocked. I also appreciated the relationship cultured between Patroclus and his father and Achilles and Thetis.
Final Rating: 4.5/5
Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.