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Occasionally, we get the opportunity to share our thoughts on the outside work of our past contributors, as well as other projects that we think would interest readers of A cappella Zoo. To send something for possible review, especially new work relevant to magic realism and slipstream, email us at



Poems and flash fiction by Ken Cormier. Dead Academic Press, 2010.

While we generally stick to reviewing the work of our own past contributors, an editor from Dead Academics Press insisted that Ken Cormier’s The Tragedy in My Neighborhood would be of interest to the A cappella Zoo community.

From the collection of stories and poems, the editor recommended two works in particular: the title story and “Cat Soup.” It's difficult to describe what, on the surface, these stories are about without killing their effect or giving away too much. But while brief, they are not underdeveloped. Both are peculiar, juggling playfully disjointed language and scenes but coming full circle with consistent themes. The strangeness, the air of mystery in Cormier’s storytelling, is not in any blatant sort of magic, but emanating from the odd perspectives of his characters. The characters seem aloof to the mundane reality that most of us submit to; their whimsical voices flow so naturally that their mystery does not come across as obscurity. I would certainly recommend these to fans of A cappella Zoo.

I decided to read the rest of the collection. While Cormier’s attention to creative technique and the sound of language stand out as admirable throughout, I found the middle of the collection to be the real gem: sandwiched between “The Tragedy in My Neighborhood” and “Cat Soup” are a half dozen other poems and stories that will certainly intrigue fans of smart, subtle strangeness. And don’t miss the story “Stiff” near the end, which was my favorite of Cormier’s works. Here is the very brief first chapter:

I figured out what bothers me about Cleveland. It’s the way he walks. He doesn’t move his arms. It’s disconcerting to watch a man stroll about with his arms held rigid at his sides.

This is just a taste of Cormier’s mastery of quirk. While his stories bear a heavy undertone that threatens to force the reader to wade through a dark, though familiar, side to reality, they lift instead above into a bubbly, frolicking confusion, somehow retaining the warmer side of familiarity and yet liberating through unbound oddness; this seems to be a consistent—and consistently positive—observation among the reviewers quoted on the back cover. Cormier—a teacher, musician, and family man—definitely has something worthwhile to share about language, emotion, and perspective.

- Colin Meldrum, editor, A cappella Zoo