Reviewed by Jim Steel

The latest themed issue from Sein Und Werden is called Artifice, which on one level could be a description of all art, excepting possibly some work that is most obviously postmodernist in intent. Certainly the plain, dignified cover doesn't hint at some of the more extreme creations contained therein. It lists the contents in order, which is important for the reader since there are no page numbers given for them.

As for the contents themselves, the opening few pieces are deliberately challenging. Mark Howard Jones' The Condition deals with a confused man who awakes covered in bandages and is, although competently produced, a weak start to the magazine. J.A. Tyler's Pause Pause Pause On and On is more challenging (and more rewarding), and deals with a sexual predator's search for oblivion. Paul Kavanaugh's Everybody Is Interested In Pigeons is a cascade of sexual abandon with narrative playing second string to the admittedly incandescent prose. At times it was reminiscent of a jam between Captain Beefheart and William Burroughs.

Davin Ireland turns in the most conventional story in the issue, which comes as a bit of a relief after some of the pyrotechnics that have gone before. That's not to say there is anything mediocre about Resting Place: it's a hard-edged thriller that has gangsters mixing with a scientist-engineer who seemingly has the ability to create impossible things. It's an addictive story for the magic alone, but the way Ireland shapes and uses the personalities is also commendable.

Another mind-blowing story is Truth Be Told by Ralph Robert Moore, and it is probably the story that most fits the 'artifice' remit. A couple--Franklin and Sarah--are talking. He questions her about her encounter at work with another woman, and his questions gradually lead her on to more and more pornographic descriptions of the encounter. It is obvious from her changing stories that much of what she is saying cannot be true. Is she taking her cues from Franklin's (leading) questions? Is this some sort of a game that they play regularly? But there is a narrative outside of Sarah's, and it is moving on and taking the reader somewhere disturbing. A quite remarkable story.

D. Richard Scannell gives us an attempted mugging from the victim's point of view. Knifepoint Philosophy is a non-judgemental exploration of control, and is potent despite its brevity. The final story is even shorter and has a modern fairytale feel to it. Christopher Morris' farmer is unable to make love to his crippled wife and he resorts to using The Pomegranate Girl in the barn instead.

Other fiction comes from Mike Llewellyn, Wayne H. W. Wolfson, Mark Lowe (a reworked story from Mad Hatter's Review), Benjamin Robinson (a novel extract) and the fourth and final part of Cameron Pierce's serialised novella Keeping Angels. There is also a selection of poems from Martin Jervis, David McLean and others.

Artifice is a challenging and invigorating collection from a magazine that is rapidly becoming essential. The next issue is Rejectamenta. The mind boggles.

NB: The magazine is currently running a special offer for subscribers, details of which can be found on the website--ED.

Sein Und Werden edited by Rachel Kendall and Spyros Heniadis. A5, 64pp, £3.50/$6.50 or £14/$26 for 4 issues (for postal addresses in UK and US, and for payment options see website).

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