A Second Free Ploughshares Solo for Your Summer Reading

Klopstock450To help you bulk up your reading list this summer, we’re offering you a selection of our Ploughshares Solos free your Kindle (or Kindle app) for the first five days of the month. Last month we offered you a free copy of Gina Ochsner’s story “Pleased to Be Otherwise,” and now that it’s July we have a new summer reading offering to bring you: Robert Cohen’s “Klopstock, or The Distant Sound.” In 1924, hoping to cure his illness, Franz Kafka traveled to a sanatorium in Kierling, Austria, run by a Dr. Hugo Hoffman. He would spend his last days there. In Robert Cohen’s story, we see the end of Kafka’s life through Dr. Hoffman’s eyes. The doctor attempts to decipher the dying man’s enigmatic communications, scribbled on scraps of paper, while being harried by Kafka’s friend, Klopstock, and a young woman who has fallen in love with the then-unknown writer. As the case progresses, the once practical and upstanding doctor gets pulled deeper and deeper into his strange patient’s world. Here’s an excerpt:

Oh, it was quite the party they had going up there in twelve. The beer, the wine, the sponge cakes, the chocolate tortes, the bowls of berries and bananas and cherries…sometimes Anna was forced to make two separate trips to the incinerator in the morning just to dispose of all the debris. And this wouldn’t do. Good hygiene was a fundamental precept at Kierling. Covering the mouth with a handkerchief, throwing one’s cigarette ends into the fire—such measures were essential for preventing contagion. We could not abide the presence of wine bottles, fruit peels or bakery wrappers, to say nothing of all those ragged slips of paper strewn about, crumpled and torn, on which the patient had jotted the newest in his series of baffling little notes…

A lake doesn’t flow into anything, you know.

And that is why one loves dragonflies.

Show me the columbine, too bright to stand with the others.

“I don’t understand, Doctor,” Anna said, when we examined these writings together in my office. “What do they even mean?”

I hesitated. Anna was a robust, green-eyed young woman from Sierndorf, a nurse of great competence, efficiency, and spirit. I knew she had troubles of her own, that she sometimes quarreled with the kitchen staff, or disappeared in the middle of her shift only to return an hour later, clothes rank with smoke, her fine blond hair flustered by wind. But she was very fond of the patient in twelve, and these cryptic little phrases of his perplexed her. Either they were too abstract and obscure to decode, or too simple—it came to the same thing. Like a puzzle she moved them around on the desk, seeking clarity in new combinations. And I was no help. I lacked the energy, the patience; ultimately I lacked the time. For me, the involutions of the human lung, the caprices of our financial situation, the whimsical truancies of my professional staff—these were puzzles enough.

“They mean,” I said, “that we have entered the final chapter.”

You can download your copy of “Klopstock, or The Distant Sound” here. Enjoy it for the month of July, and then come back for your next free Ploughshares Solo in August.

“Free Ploughshares” Review: Spring 1997

Issue: Spring 1997

This is a review of a back issue of Ploughshares. The author won our “Free Ploughshares” contest that we hosted earlier this year and agreed to review his/her free issue. This post was written by Mary Stone Dockery. Enjoy!

In the Spring 1997 issue of Ploughshares, guest editor Yusef Komunyakaa says, “Many of the stories and poems in this issue seem to exist in two or more places simultaneously, and a narrator or speaker is forced to negotiate multiple worlds.” I was humbled by this observation and soon realized that it was a thoughtful and fitting design for this particular issue. I found that each piece works diligently to thrust the reader into various colorful worlds, while each piece also creates its own world, reflecting a search for identity filtered through themes of mythology and place, history and war.Continue Reading

“Free Ploughshares” Review: Winter 2007

Review: Winter 2007

This is a review of a back issue of Ploughshares. The author won our “Free Ploughshares” contest that we hosted earlier this year and agreed to review his/her free issue. This post was written by Joel Ferdon. Enjoy!

In 2007 I watched my brother get married in a small Catholic church while I stood next to him as his best man. Before the wedding, Daniel gave the other two groomsmen and me a gift. “It’s a tradition,” Daniel said, and handed us each a Zippo. Even then, when I was seventeen, I knew the Zippo was a workingman’s flame, and Daniel emphasized that when he whispered to me, “You’ll be as blue-collar as us.”Continue Reading

“Free Ploughshares” Review: Winter 2000

Issue: Winter 2000

This is a review of a back issue of Ploughshares. The author won our “Free Ploughshares” contest that we hosted earlier this year and agreed to review his/her free issue. This post was written by Julie Nilson. Enjoy!

Like many, I discovered Sherman Alexie through the film Smoke Signals. Wanting more of Thomas Builds-the-Fire and Victor Joseph, I picked up Alexie’s Reservation Blues, and then I was hooked.Continue Reading

“Free Ploughshares” Review: Spring 1991

Issue: Spring 1991

This is a review of a back issue of Ploughshares. The author won our “Free Ploughshares” contest that we hosted earlier this year and agreed to review his/her free issue. This post was written by Anna Zink. Enjoy!

I’ve been picking up Ploughshares‘ Works-in-Progress issue on and off for weeks now, sneaking in pieces while commuting or before I go to bed. It contains a wide variety of genres—poems, journal entries, operas, short stories, and more. I loved the “Works-In-Progress” theme because it allows contributors to put forward more innovative pieces that they’re less comfortable with. Continue Reading

“Free Ploughshares” Review: Spring 1990

Issue: Spring 1990

This is a review of a back issue of Ploughshares. The author won our “Free Ploughshares” contest that we hosted earlier this year and agreed to review his/her free issue. This post was written by Andrew David King. Enjoy!

The Future Then, the Past Now: Considering the Spring/Summer 1990 Issue of Ploughshares

A certain vibration of energy resonates at the juncture where one era slides into the next: the sensation of progress, of moving toward something new. The clock resets, or so we allow ourselves to think for a bit, champagne is poured. The Spring 1990 issue of Ploughshares, edited by Rita Dove and Fred Viebahn, is no exception—it too seems to tug decidedly forward. And more than twenty years later, the collection of works still hums with a dark sort of hopefulness, one aware of the past but unwilling to mar the future with its imperfections.Continue Reading

“Free Ploughshares” Review: Winter 1995-1996

Issue: Winter 1995/1996

This is a review of a back issue of Ploughshares. The author won our “Free Ploughshares” contest that we hosted earlier this year and agreed to review his/her free issue. This post was written by A.J. Kandathil. Enjoy!

As a writer who recently finished an MFA program, I’ve listened to my fair share of discussions about why a word like chaos tends to be a “no-no word.” Along with other terms like depression, happiness, and love, we use these words so often that they’ve been drained of meaning. If that’s the case, then what is a writer to do when he or she truly feels sad? Or happy? A professor once gave my class some instrumental advice: “Make depression a room,” she said. “One we can sit in, something we can touch.”Continue Reading

“Free Ploughshares” Review: Winter 1983

Issue: Winter 1983

This is a review of a back issue of Ploughshares. The author won our “Free Ploughshares” contest that we hosted earlier this year and agreed to review his/her free issue. This post was written by Stephanie Rogers. Enjoy!

Time and Timelessness

In 1983, President Obama and I were twenty-two years old. Like the president, I have never considered myself a “Baby Boomer.” The title just never seemed to fit, I never seemed to get it—the selflessness of the ‘60s that gave way to the selfishness of the ‘80s that led to the self-righteousness of the ‘00s. I’ve always been just at little bit too young to be caught up in time the way it seems a Real Boomer should be. And I have never been more aware of that difference than I am now, as I review, at 50 years of age, a 1983 issue of Ploughshares, guest edited by Raymond Carver.Continue Reading

“Free Ploughshares” Review: Spring 1988

Issue: Spring 1988

This is a review of a back issue of Ploughshares. The author won our “Free Ploughshares” contest that we hosted earlier this year and agreed to review his/her free issue. This post was written by Bonnie B. Lee. Enjoy!

The Spring 1988 issue edited by Maxine Kumin is about mothers, fathers, sisters, and children—how we love them and how we love others as them—so Maxine Kumin tells us in her introduction. The stories and poems within are the gifts that Kumin wants for herself but has been told she must share with others. Unwrap the crimson paper and raffia bow, however, and inside is so much more than the mere outward shape suggests.Continue Reading

“Free Ploughshares” Review: Spring 1987

Issue: Spring 1987

This is a review of a back issue of Ploughshares. The author won our “Free Ploughshares” contest that we hosted earlier this year and agreed to review his/her free issue. This post was written by Angela Spires. Enjoy!

Derek Walcott’s guest edited issue of Ploughshares definitely matches his passion for poetry and precision for just the right word to grab the reader. Though it was published in 1987, it contains controversial and dynamic poetry that is still emotionally hard to read and feel even today. Like Marie Howe’s “How Many Times,” which touches on the subject of molestation, and though it had been written about many times before that time, it was still a bold subject to write about, and the poem draws in the reader to feel the helplessness and pain. The issue does not hold a set theme, but many of the selected poems are about place, then—secondly—about people. Continue Reading