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Dec 12, 2017 11:44 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

'The Southampton Review' Drops A New Edition And Picks Up A Coveted Award

Gardiners Island, January 24, 2011. RUSSELL MUNSON
Dec 12, 2017 12:05 PM

Stony Brook Southampton literary and fine art journal TSR: The Southampton Review dropped its latest issue last month—and picked up a coveted prize.

For the first time in the publication’s 11-year history, a work that originally appeared in TSR was selected for the nationally renowned Pushcart Prize, edited by Pushcart Press founder Bill Henderson, who happens to live part-time in East Hampton.

The work was not a poem, short story or novel excerpt, which are the types of works TSR mostly features. Rather, it was a eulogy for someone who had been special to Stony Brook Southampton’s annual Southampton Writers Conference: the late author James Salter of Bridgehampton.

And the man who delivered the eulogy during a memorial service celebrating Mr. Salter’s life and work at All Souls Unitarian Church in Manhattan in 2015 was George Saunders, an acclaimed writer and 2017 winner of the Man Booker Prize for his experimental novel, “Lincoln in the Bardo.”

“We’ve gotten so many awards lately, but this Pushcart Prize for George Saunders is just tremendous,” Lou Ann Walker, TSR founder and editor-in-chief, said this week.

She recalled that, for an issue of TSR that would honor Mr. Salter and fellow writer E.L. Doctorow, both of whom died in 2015, she listened to a tape of Mr. Salter’s memorial service in search of something TSR could use.

“We were just so taken by the beauty of what George Saunders was saying. He was really talking about craft, and the craft of writing, and how much he learned from James Salter,” Ms. Walker said. “We approached him and asked him if we could run the transcript, and he was delighted.”

The transcript was titled “Taut, Rhythmic Surfaces,” published in the Winter/Spring issue of 2016—TSR publishes twice a year—and later submitted to The Pushcart Prize.

“We’ve had a number of honorable mentions in The Pushcart Prize, but this is the first time one of our works actually won the prize,” Ms. Walker said. “George Saunders is such a beautiful writer. The sentences are just incredibly well constructed. Because a lot of his essay is about the craft of writing, it really spoke to the people who were choosing the works, I believe.”

In addition to the 2016 Winter/Spring TSR, “Taut, Rhythmic Surfaces” can now be found in “The Pushcart Prize XLII: Best of the Small Presses 2018 Edition,” which was just published on November 7.

While The Pushcart Prize has given TSR staff occasion to look back, they also have their new issue to celebrate: Winter/Spring 2018, the first issue of TSR’s 12th volume.

This issue had no specific theme, as issues in the past have had, but it does feature the winners of TSR’s Short Short Fiction Prize, for works up to 350 words. The winners were Will Finlayson for “The Strip Club,” Elizabeth Stix for “Tsunami,” and Yoram Naslavsky for “On the Street Corner.”

It was also the first issue that TSR’s new fiction editor, Amy Hempel, worked on.

Ms. Hempel joined the Stony Brook Southampton faculty this fall in the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Literature program. She taught short fiction this fall and will teach poetry in the spring. Her most famous work is “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried,” which was first published in 1983 in TriQuarterly magazine and became one of the most frequently anthologized short stories.

Another new faculty member this fall, Cornelius Eady, contributed a poem to the issue, “Billie Holiday, Handcuffed to Her Death Bed,” and veteran faculty member Billy Collins, the U.S. poet laureate from 2001 to 2003 and winner of the 2014 Norman Mailer Prize in poetry, contributed two works.

Not to be overshadowed by the written work that TSR is known for, is the visual art. “Fine art illustrations are very important to the look of the issue,” Ms. Walker said.

Aerial photographer Russell Munson, who splits his time between Southampton and Manhattan, is one of the artists whose portfolios are published in the new issue. His portfolio, named “Solid Water,” is excerpted from a book proposal he prepared that showcases his black-and-white photographs of ice formations on East End waters.

His images don’t always look like photographs at first glance: As snow, broken ice and water bubbling to the surface meet, the mix can resemble brush strokes.

“I’ve been shooting ice out here for more than 30 years,” Mr. Munson said on Monday. “My commercial career was in aviation photography and paid for my fine art photography, which I could never earn a living on in itself.”

But, even though it was not a full-time career, he did make splashes as an art photographer. In 1970, his photographs illustrated “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” a novella by Richard D. Bach that topped the New York Times Best Seller List for fiction for 38 weeks in 1972 and 1973.

Shooting ice formations is something he started doing just for his own pleasure, he said. “I exhibit some and I sell some prints, but I mainly do it just because I love to do it.”

He’s kept a single-engine airplane at the East Hampton Airport since the 1960s—first a Piper Super Cub, then an Aviat Husky—and flies at an altitude between 500 and 1,000 feet at a slow airspeed.

“In that area, there is kind of a sheer zone between abstraction and reality,” Mr. Munson said of the altitude. “Those ice formations and shapes just put me in a different world. It’s hard to tell on some of them whether you’re looking though a microscope or a satellite.”

Not every year has good ice, but when there is, there are new sights to behold.

“I thought, several years back, ‘Well, I’ve seen pretty much all the variations,’ but each year there’s something else, something new,” Mr. Munson said. “So it’s just continually fascinating. I think a lot of the variations that I see is because of the characteristics of the waters out here on Eastern Long Island, from the ponds to the bays, and degrees of salinity, which affects the freezing rate … and the continual thawing and refreezing just makes fascinating shapes.”

He said he prefers black-and-white film to color, because it distills the imagery and makes it more abstract. “I do color photography,” he noted, “but there has to be a purpose for the color, rather than, ‘the camera takes color.’”

TSR is also celebrating its web presence, TSR Online, which is new this year.

“We update that every week with new works—fiction, non fiction and poetry—and something we call a TSR Classic, something we find that needs to be seen again by a new audience,” Ms. Walker said.

For TSR Online and information on the latest print edition, visit thesouthamptonreview.com.

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