By J.Ed. Marston, Peauxdunque Review Features Editor


I’m nine years old, sprawled out on the floor of the backroom of my grandfather’s hobby shop in a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee. There’s a carton of ragged comic books lying oblong next to me. This is the third week of a month-long visit with my grandparents.

At this point, I’ve memorized the inventory of my grandfather’s store, gazed longingly and for hours at the model airplanes, read the backs of all the roleplaying games until I can recite them, and straightened the boxed-up Madam Alexander Dolls at least twice daily. I’ve also swept the floors down to their embedded linoleum grit. A hobby shop isn’t the worst place to spend a summer, but after so many ten-hour days in the same shopping strip store, I’m worn down to boredom.

This is when I resort to the castaway comics in the back of the store. It’s not that I don’t like comics. I do. I just don’t love them. And, these are the comics no one bothered to buy. Even the decent ones leave me dangling in cliff-hangers with no resolution since the next number in the series is inevitably missing.

That’s why I focus on the letters to the publisher at the beginning of each issue. Though brief and singularly obsessed with ridiculous characters doing things I only know by references in the letters themselves, each one is a window into someone’s world. I realize the letters aren’t about the things they seem to be written about. They’re a cry for connection to a big city like New York, a place where heroes have adventures, a place with purpose, a place where good and evil aren’t greyed off into indistinguishable increments.

When members of the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance traveled to Texas and called in from all over the Southeast to make the final selections for the first issue of Peauxdunque Review, we spent hours reading the top picks aloud to each other and arguing our final selections. We did this for friendship and for our shared love of well-chosen words strung exquisitely together.

Writing is a solitary vocation, but it’s when we connect with readers and each other as readers and writers that the magic happens.

I suggested this column because I thought it was important to have a place where that reader-writer connection becomes reciprocal and explicit. I imagined that I would get things started by fabricating jokey questions like, “Why are there so many silent letters in Peauxdunque?” My hilariously witty responses would convey the flavor and voice of Peauxdunque. In the end, making up reader questions seemed too inauthentic even for someone who makes a practice of the imaginary.

In the end, the questions that matter most are three ways of asking the same thing:

  • Where did we come from?
  • Who are we?
  • What should we do?

I don’t have those answers for you, but I do know that whether you lean toward discovering your answers or inventing them, the substance of our fleeting understanding resides in relation to each other. If the words in these pages resonate for you, I invite you to join us in conversation.

Please email your questions and comments to [email protected] with the subject line “Ask Peauxdunque” to help me distinguish them from the spam. Thank you.