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Granta 114: Aliens

Aliens. Thematic issue of Granta: The Magazine of New Writing. 114 (Spring 2011)  

Granta is a quarterly magazine of new writing from both established and emerging writers; although aimed primarily at adult audiences, it could easily be considered as a journal with appeal to young adults particularly due to its diverse content and style, offering readers a greater scope of choice. Granta could often, I suspect, serve to pique the interest of older adolescents  due in part to the periodical's contemporary approach to cover design, and its integration of visual art and poetry with prose, along with the obvious diversity and strength of the writing in general.

An issue organized around the theme of 'Aliens' seems tailor-made to easily cross over from an adult to an adolescent audience. The black and silver cover with the hovering planet suggests science fiction; however, on closer look, the figures walking towards the planet wear suits and head coverings, and suggest displacement in earthly realms rather than within the final frontier. Indeed, most of the writings in this issue speak to feelings of alienation and alien environments. While stories are united by the emotional impacts of the characters’ strangeness in new environments, the works cover a broad scope; compare, for example, Chris Dennis’ fiction piece on a young drug addict facing life in prison, with Ann Patchett’s observations of a nun who taught her in childhood, who is now facing life outside the convent.  The writing in this issue is strong, and at times, explicit in its sexuality and violence, although not gratuitously so. Librarians and teachers may feel some hesitation in subscribing to Granta for their students due to restrictions around students’ reading materials; this would be unfortunate, as such a publication provides students exposure to such important contemporary writers as Roberto Bolaño, Madeleine Thien, and Paul Theroux.

Recommended: 2 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Allison Sivak

Allison Sivak is the Assessment Librarian at the University of Alberta Libraries. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Library and Information Studies and Elementary Education, focusing on how the aesthetics of information design influence young people’s trust in the credibility of information content.