Thursday, July 18, 2013


Review of CATHERINE REFRACTED, Pure Slush Vol. 7, edited by Matt Potter, June 2013,, 100 pages.

Review by Barbara Bialick

In “Catherine refracted”, the editor and his anthology of chosen authors have fashioned a charming and gregarious biography written as separate story vignettes about Catherine the Great, straight out of Russian history. Catherine, born in 1729 as Sophie, is known for her vast power, ribald party ideas and various love affairs with the men of her court.  Editor Matt Potter writes that “Catherine’s accomplishments are too too numerous and too too varied to mention here…suffice to say that if an accomplishment is mentioned in this book, it’s probably true.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t first quote Susan Tepper, a Boston small press and poetry scene author. Her first-person story is titled “Two Grigorys”, and begins “Onging it is an extremely bitter winter, though all our winters are dastardly cold. My bed is a fortress of misery. Both my
Grigorys have been absent past a fortnight, one off waging battle in the western regions, the other laced in the arms of my French cousin, Isabelle, a haughty princess capable of the worst treacheries…”

In her doldrums, says Tepper, the empress is tired of embroidering seat cushions and drinking Vodka. After her “dwarf minister” suggested she exile both Grigorys to the Isle of Elba, she “sentenced the dwarf minister Soleninkoff, to death by firing squad. As he was dragged away I felt a certain pleasure sensation, similar to the pleasure that I receive from my two Grigorys…”

A funny tale by Sarah Collie is called “Transvestite Balls” and actually describes the various sexy and hairy men in their ball gowns. “Stifling a giggle, she thought the lieutenant’s violet, off-the-shoulder gown was a brave choice, especially since he had so much dark chest hair…”

“The Kings and I” is a well-titled history by Kim Conklin Hutchinson, who writes “Yes, history does repeat itself. From up here, it’s a bit like watching oneself in a play…over and over. It’s fascinating how one little Prussian woman can become the source of so many passionately believed rumours, innuendoes, and outrageous legends…History isn’t fair. Neither is life. My real death was even more undignified, a form of passing that I share with another kind of later monarch, the king of rock-n-roll…” Unfortunately I had trouble deciphering what the death was…

Well, you get the idea. This Pure Slush volume is one of many such Slush literary magazines on intriguing themes such as “obit”, “versus”, “gorge: a novel in stories”, “real Pure Slush”, and “notausgang: emergency exit.”

Editor Matt Potter is an Australian-born writer who keeps a part of his psyche in Berlin, he says. Susan Tepper is the author of four published books. Her most recent title is “From the Umberplatzen”, a flash novel set in Germany. Her novel, “What May Have Been” (with Gary Percesepe), Cervena Barva Press, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2010.
Sarah Collie has lived in Scotland, Australia and now England.  And, Kim Conklin Hutchinson is an AmeriCanadian living on the border”, she says. Her stories and films have appeared widely.

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