When I pulled the latest Gulf Coast from my mailbox, I was struck by its deeply unsettling cover, which features a still from Mary Reid Kelley‘s short film, The Syphilis of Sisyphus, which she made with Patrick Kelley. Another image from the film appears on the back cover, with others in an art insert. The New York Times has referred to Kelley as an “artist, poet, actor, filmmaker, set and costume designer and intellectual mischief maker,” while calling The Syphilis of Sisyphus “a thinly veiled satire on today’s culture of vanity and waste, and on the unrealized promises of progress.” That summary makes the film sound quite intriguing, and while the brief clip of the film available on Kelley’s website is certainly clever, I am continuously offput by the stylized makeup that the characters bear. While that unsettling feeling is, likely, what Kelley intended I feel, I will admit that my skin crawls a bit each time I catch a glimpse of the Gulf Coast cover sitting on my bureau.
That said, the textual content of the new issue includes such enticing offerings as a series of poems about Friday Night Lights‘s Tim Riggins by Nico Alvarado and a roundtable about “the present and future of the graphic novel.” Alongside such features, the issue also presents work by several past Meridian contributors. Ilya Kaminsky, whose translations of Guy Jean appeared in Meridian 26, has an essay on Osip Mandelstam; you can read the opening of the essay on the GC website, though you’ll need a physical copy for the entire piece. A story called “How to Be Chinese” by Celeste Ng, whose “We Are Not Strangers” appeared in Meridian 22, is also available in teaser form only online, while Meridian 31 superstar Anne Barngrover has one poem you can read for free and another to reward you for getting your hands on the paper issue.
Whether it’s original content or a vaguely terrifying cover image, Gulf Coast consistently interests and surprises.