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High Standards

Big Big Wednesday's Quality Debut

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THIS SATURDAY, Liza Birnbaum, Molly Schaeffer, and Paul Cavanagh will host a reading to debut their new literary journal, Big Big Wednesday. Using a Kickstarter campaign and the Independent Publishing Resource Center, these three Bard College graduates have set high standards with their debut issue, which boasts more than 100 pages of quality content including several short works from Booker Prize winner Lydia Davis.

Big Big Wednesday came about from the trio's desire to connect with their literary community by building a journal from idea to actuality; but its title and dedication lies with their deceased friend, Bill Cranshaw, who passed away two years ago while biking across country. The journal closes with Cranshaw's work, a conversational piece called "Failure to Communicate," in which a lonely school janitor tries, and fails, to tell his story.

The janitor's painful, rambling explanations for his behavior, at once intimate and distorted, reverberate throughout Big Big Wednesday. The issue's theme is "Correspondence," interpreted as the act of communicating to create closeness even over vast distances. Many of the stories address loss. Not just the loss of a friend, but of time and memories, of connections. The works resonate with the joyful comfort of intimacy, but also with reflections of missing confidants, lovers, and relatives.

One highlight is Daniel Terna's "My First Wife Stella." Constructed as a photo essay, Terna takes his father's road trip pictures from the mid-20th century, and puts them alongside his own from the same routes, nearly 40 years later. Framing these lovely and modest images is a question-and-answer series in which the author's father explains the photographs. In halting, stark language, his father reveals the story of his relationship, the struggles and tragedies faced after surviving the Holocaust and immigrating to America.

The reading at the Waypost will feature live music by Hazel-Rah, and readings from contributors Thomas Mowe and Andrew Palmer. The excerpt from Palmer's novel, The Bachelor, is a delightful and neurotic tale: The story follows a lonely young man who, while obsessively deconstructing sports casts and public broadcasting documentaries, stumbles upon the reality show The Bachelor. He is instantly transfixed, and begins following it, responding to its emotional cues with hilarious empathy and insight.

Big Big Wednesday is currently soliciting material for their next issue—in the meantime, they're a welcome addition to Portland's literary community.

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