Reading the North

"Alaska Quarterly Review: Fall and Winter" Editor: Ronald Spatz
"Geography of Southcentral Alaska" by David K. Snyder

Alaska Quarterly Review: Fall and Winter

Editor: Ronald Spatz (University of Alaska, $8.95)

The blurb: Alaska Quarterly Review is one of America's premier literary magazines and a source of powerful new voices. Works from AQR have appeared in Prize Stories, The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize, The Beacon Best, The Best American Mystery Stories and more.

Excerpt: "She Can Paint Too" by Jody Azzouni

Here's something left over from my childhood. A memory. Me and my sister fighting. I'm seven. She's nine. I'm almost always trailing behind her that way. But not at this moment. At this moment I'm sitting on her, and punching at her from above. It's not doing me any good. She's swinging wildly at me, and she clips me twice in the face.

I'm crying. Then, somehow, because of the way she's jerking her long legs all over the place, her foot goes through the fish tank. A world of guppies gushes out through the broken glass.

We'd been breeding them. Family project. Two tanks on tier shelving, the lower one with babies, and the upper one with their parents.

So the babies don't get eaten. It was the baby guppies whose home she'd kicked in.

Baby guppies dying on a rug. Sis screaming, Mom'll kill us. I'm getting towels, toilet paper rolls, throwing them down onto the floor, pushing them around on the rug, hoping they'll sop up the water.

Before it leaks down like the two other times. When the toilet bowl overflowed.

No luck. The lady downstairs is banging on our door, shouting that water is coming out of her kitchen ceiling. On her lunch. Again.

Geography of Southcentral Alaska

By David K. Snyder (Picea Geographics, $20)

The blurb: Southcentral Alaska is the most geographically diverse part of the state. It contains northern rainforest, post-glacial terrain, high plateaus, volcanos, boreal forest, massive rivers, dynamic coastlines and distinctive mountain ranges. All of these places have their own story to tell. By understanding the geographic forces that shape this immense region, we can begin to comprehend its ever-changing nature and gain deeper insight into its character.

Excerpt: Geologic time is one of the most mind-boggling aspects of geology. While we have a difficult time comprehending more than a few hundred years, geologists regularly toss around concepts that are millions or billions of years in scale.

The age of our planet is thought to be about 4.5 billion years. The oldest rocks that have been dated are from northern Canada. They solidified 4 billion years ago. The oldest known fossil, blue-green algae, is 3.5 billion years old. Complex life forms did not evolve until just 600 million years ago. The dinosaurs arose 250 million years ago and died off 65 million years ago. The earliest hominid primate did not stand up on the plains of Africa until between 3 and 4 million years ago, a mere 0.06 percent of the Earth's entire history. Biologically and geologically speaking, a lot happened on the planet before humans arrived on the scene to make sense of it all.

Compiled by Kathleen Macknicki, Anchorage Daily News