Some journals change over time pretty drastically when new editors roll into place. This is not something likely to happen to Unsaid, a fantastic literary journal that has seen seven great issues to date, all published and edited by David McLendon. Every story, and every poem, published within the many (and I mean many--these are bricks of literary journals) pages of Unsaid have been selected by David, edited by David, and I believe laid out by David so that the words not only read well, don't also sound well when read aloud, but look the way on the page that he believes they should. If there is a modern day journal following and advancing the ideas of The Quarterly, it is Unsaid. With this in mind, I had a project in mind for issue 7 that just didn't come around and so will be doing this instead.
The first story in the issue is "Tell, Don't Tell," by Ottessa Moshfegh. I realize that Moshfegh's novel got tons of publicity last year and her story collection published this month and includes works from The Paris Review but I'm always going to think of her as an Unsaid writer as that is where I first read her work with a note from David at the time she first appeared in the journal to me to make sure I read her story.
"Tell, Don't Tell" is a story that runs full circle and does so slowly, and nowhere near obviously due to the way that Moshfegh crafts her sentences. Each seems made to specifically nudge the story along. No jumps, no big moves, but just enough movement to keep the reader's attention and interest. The unnamed (unless you want to consider Sparkle, a name she gives herself for a potential house-cleaning business) protagonist is a married women, seemingly Muslim based on choice of clothing and a note about prayers, with one lost pregnancy, no children, whose husband expects her to keep the house clean and dinner ready for him upon his return from driving a taxi all day. She states that she has an easy life--she lies to her husband about how hard everything is when it's not which allows her much free time. Through the story she continues to be very straightforward in her commentary--no matter how overly blunt and/or rude her comments might be. And some of the comments are quite blunt.
As the story, nine pages of single-spaced progresses, it takes just long enough of Moshfegh's nudging sentence by sentence for the reader to figure some necessary things out about this maybe more unreliable narrator than she seemed, especially based on how forward she seems to be from sentence number one. Reading it a second and a third time through, I was more impressed each time as I realize how impressively the story has been put together.