Review stylish outside but bland inside

Larissa Calancie’s “Untitled” adds colour to the Undergraduate Review.
Larissa Calancie’s “Untitled” adds colour to the Undergraduate Review.
Photo courtesy of the Undergraduate Review

Literary Review: The Undergraduate Review

In this year’s issue of the Undergraduate Review the editors in chief, Tom Carter and Meiqi Guo write: “The decision to offer a piece of writing or visual art for publication requires a certain amount of courage.” The masses of creativity, which grace the 72 glossy pages of the volume, are more than an act of courage—they represent a combination of time, effort and passion.

The gleaming orange cover and compact rectangular shape of this year’s Review is an exciting twist from past issues. Not only is it attention grabbing, but it also urges people to pick one up, open the cover and explore the inside.

Unfortunately the pages inside are not as exciting as the sleek cover—it is a constant blur of black, white and grey, which continues for 36 pages. However, on page 37, the bold, azure colour of Sherman Li’s painting, “Once upon a time,” provides a stark contrast to the previous pages.

Most of the visual art is clumped together in the middle of the issue and provides a colourful change from the blandness. The photography includes many striking scenes from nature, such as “Black and White River” by Joy Ogden, which captures a peaceful view of a natural landscape. Marni van Dyk’s photograph, “Mornings when I miss the city,” offers an honest snapshot of the sun peeking into a New York City apartment. “Vegetable Vendor,” a photograph by Carlos Paz-Soldan, captures a woman selling peppers and stacks of wicker baskets at a foreign market. The photography, in its ability to capture different aspects of human life, is honest and beautiful.

Writing takes up the majority of the Undergraduate Review and incorporates both poetry and prose, all of which vary stylistically. Matt Aikins’ “2:30am” is reminiscent of an inebriated rap—complete with irregular stylistic elements, such like words running into each other—which are used to emphasize the speaker’s drunken state. He also includes familiar Queen’s lingo: “Just fill the space with Bubba’s poutine, and greasy sliceschoked back on lonely walk scenes.” “Untitled,” a short poem by Scott Dermody, experiments with language and is linguistically and stylistically reminiscent of Queen’s graduate and poet, Stephen Cain.

Prose writing was given major emphasis in the publication, with works by authors Mary Katherine Carr, Denise Leung, Ryan Quinn Flanagan and Raki Singh.

Singh’s piece, “An Expository Essay on Charles Dickens’s Elocutionary Excremental Prose Style,” emulated a scholarly essay and sought to examine one of Dickens’ “most heinous literary crimes:” verbal diarrhea. It stood out from the rest of the prose—in a bad way. Not only was it six pages of black and white blur—it was like reading something a professor puts on a Victorian literature syllabus and forces you to read. Flanagan’s piece, “After Godot,” opens with: “... Did you know that farting is a gateway mannerism?” The script-like format was a refreshing change to the majority of prose.

Liane Fong’s poem “The Cartographer I” draws on the history of English explorer John Franklin who died during his expedition to the Northwest Passage and fuses elements of nature and discovery with the human body.

The last piece in the issue, “The Cartographer II,” also by Fong, is meant to accompany his first entry and is a shorter, more personal continuation. The descriptive style that Fong employs paints an accurate visual image of the Arctic and its serenity. Furthermore, both pieces provide a compelling finale to the publication.

Despite some minor shortcomings with the layout, and the ordinary appearance of the inside pages, the 18th volume of the Undergraduate Review is well worth picking up. The creativity and effort glows from the vibrant cover.

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