Monthly Archives: November 2014

In the Winter Issue

Issue No. 102 offers for your enjoyment more of the country’s finest stories, poetry, essays, and visual art: Michael Jaime-Becerra’s “Omer, March 1987”: A boy out skateboarding stumbles upon his mother’s affair. Melissa Yancy’s “Dog Years”: A scientist must make time for her family, her career, and, somewhere in there, cure one son of his devastating disease. Laura Esther Wolfson’s “Infelicities of Style”: In the hinterlands, a young dance critic experiences the complications of art. Octavio Solis’s “Retablos”: How may times has El Paso lamed him? Yet how many times has he walked back to his past walked away? Plus, …Continue reading

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Finding Communion with Characters Half a World Away: Q&A with Jack Livings

Back in late July, Michiko Kakutani gave a first book of fiction the sort of review authors rarely receive. It was an unqualified rave of Jack Livings’ story collection, The Dog (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux; 240 pages). “With ‘The Dog’,” Kakutani concluded, “Mr. Livings has made an incisive—and highly impressive—debut.” One could go even further. With The Dog, and its eight brilliantly told stories set in contemporary China, Jack Livings has delivered one of the best books of 2014—if not the best debut work of fiction by an American writer this year. Much as Ken Kalfus did with Russian society …Continue reading

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The Persistent Strangeness of the Ordinary: ‘See You in Paradise’ by J. Robert Lennon

Compiled from fifteen years of work, the stories in J. Robert Lennon’s new book, See You in Paradise (Graywolf Press; 256 pages) dwell on quotidian fears and dissatisfaction and on the strange nature of contemporary American life in modern suburbia, which can be found here in run-down mountain communities, lakeside cabins, and college towns. In this collection, ordinary people find themselves straddling mundane reality and its bizarre or magical undercurrents. Drawing elements from science fiction, horror, and the surreal, several of Lennon’s stories manifest these undercurrents in more literal ways than others. But the disaffection of their characters, the often …Continue reading

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Racism Transformed into a Given: ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ by Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric (160 pages; Graywolf) explores the subtleties of racism and prejudice that seem all too prevalent in an oft-claimed post-racial United States. Rankine delves into the macrosociology of racism by examining prejudice in sports, economics, and pop-culture, and melds her pinpoint analysis with individual experiences of alienation and otherness at restaurant tables, front porches, and boardrooms. Citizen observes racism from a myriad of angles, employing a clever and effective combination of second person perspective with the speaker’s internal monologue, and fusing various lyric and reportorial forms with classic painting and contemporary multimedia art. In constructing …Continue reading

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The Philosophical Novel Couched in a Tale of Marriage: Q&A with Jenny Offill

In Jenny Offill’s most recent novel, Dept. of Speculation (now out in paperback), a writer’s marital life and motherhood are traced through a series of short, brilliant segments, creating a narrative collage of moments marked by references to outer space, scientific facts, or Buddhist teachings. The unnamed narrator’s Brooklyn life consists of bed bugs and trips to Rite Aid, philosopher and almost-astronaut friends, and preschool supplies. In this domestic setting, we piece together the book’s fragments of prose to emotionally engage with the protagonist as she navigates her personal chaos, all while she wishes to find the time and solace …Continue reading

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Teaching Poetry Means ‘Make It Human’: Q&A with Juan Felipe Herrera

This month, West Coast writers are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of California Poets in the Schools, a collective of professional poets who facilitate poetry and performance workshops in schools around the state. Each year, CPITS introduces more than 26,000 students to poetry and performance; each year, these students generate more than 100,000 poems through the program. By exposing children to poetry at a young age, CPITS teachers encourage a conception of poetry as a humane, practical, and social endeavor. They coach students in a skill they will likely use all their lives: that of studying and expressing their experiences and …Continue reading

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