Folk Tales: Lucie Elven on the inspiration behind ‘The Weak Spot’

by Lucie Elven

Photo Credit: Sophie Davidson

It’s a cliché that bi-nationals never feel they really truly belong anywhere, that they always have another, unlived life ticking away in reserve in the back of their minds—mine’s in an emptying village in the most rural region of France. The Auvergne is a poor part of the country, wilder than the image of France abroad. As a child it seemed to me a place heavy with tradition and significance, the kinds you couldn’t determine for yourself but were imposed by others. Many generations of my family are buried in the graveyard up the road, and many neighbours are cousins. […]

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Silver Lake Letter

by Glen David Gold

I live in Silver Lake, a part of Los Angeles that has been adjacent to working movie studios since Hollywood began. My house is on a parcel that was originally a farm that was failing until the owner learned he could rent his sway-back horse to Mack Sennett as a day player. The 1920s Spanish-style houses and the 1960s Neutra specimens were built for contract players, middle-class actors. What I mean to say is that the people here have always been hot. It’s sort of what we’re known for. I use that “we” as a recent immigrant, and to be […]

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L.A. Letter #2

by Various

I hear footfalls pounding outside and turn to look out my office window and see a young man in a reflective yellow vest, carrying a sizable box, running down the sidewalk in front of my house. He’s masked and disappears from my view and seconds later I hear him knocking on the front door. Three quick raps. Then he’s sprinting in the opposite direction, at a speed that tells me he’s behind his quota—or wants to get ahead of it—although it’s early morning, the sky is still overcast, the sun has yet to burn off the haze. It’s not even […]

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L.A. Letter #1

by Various

My father who had a stroke about twelve years ago, lives in a facility right near the beach on PCH (the Pacific Coast Highway), although I’m not sure he knows he lives so close to the beach. I think that if he knew, he would be very excited because he loves the ocean. This facility, like many of the senior facilities across the nation, has been struggling all year to battle COVID. Interestingly, it’s served as a kind of barometer, a proxy of sorts for the COVID spread in the area. With each new surge in the area, I receive […]

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Pen Pals of the Pandemic, Unite!

by May-lee Chai

My father at nearly 90 years of age can no longer safely live on his own so he has moved in with me, into my apartment in San Francisco. We’ve sold his home, auctioned off the lifetime accumulation of his possessions, boxed his books, stacked the remnants in storage. Then the pandemic hits and we can’t go to movies or museums or anything to break the tedium of being confined together in my small, studio apartment. Sartre thought he was being clever but not literal when he wrote No Exit, putting three narcissists in Hell made up of a single

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The Intimacy of Breath

by Tess Taylor

Here is the strange thing: I was already writing poems about the precariousness of California. I’d been writing them for ten years, since I moved back from New York and came back to the East Bay after two decades away. That was 2011. I had just had a baby. At first, it seemed like I was only trying to make sense of the difference between the California I’d grown up in and the California I came back to, but as I wrote, it seemed like I was also trying to make sense of the world, how it had abruptly shifted under […]

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Jonathon Keats and the Pioneers for the Greater Holocene: Pessimism is Not a Scientific Way of Thinking

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Unbeknown to many in San Francisco, we are in the presence of several brave species helping to terra-form the city and stave off a future defined by man’s carbon footprint. These “volunteers,” as experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats calls them, represent the first members of his new organization, The Pioneers for the Greater Holocene, and they’re closer than you might think—they might even be under your feet. These ambassadors are the plants that sprout from the sidewalk in even the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city. Though acknowledging that they are commonly dismissed as unsightly, Keats—previously known for creating Alien Instruments and […]

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Some Notes on Salinger

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“If you really want to hear about it…” 1. He’s not really talking to you, it’s a ruse. Nor is he someone you want to chat with on the phone. Trust me on this. But don’t let it hurt your feelings. Like most of us, he’s talking to himself. It’s performance art, a term that contains its own contradiction. He (or his characters, whichever you prefer) is trying very hard not to go crazy. Holden Caulfield: “I kept walking and walking up Fifth Avenue, without any tie on or anything. Then all of a sudden, something very spooky started happening. […]

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Ted Chiang’s Impersonal Universe

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I close my eyes and see a flock of birds. The vision lasts a second or perhaps less; I don’t know how many birds I saw. Were they a definite or an indefinite number? This problem involves the question of the existence of God. If God exists, the number is definite, because how many birds I saw is known to God. If God does not exist, the number is indefinite, because nobody was able to take count. In this case, I saw fewer than ten birds (let’s say) and more than one; but I did not see nine, eight, seven, […]

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Coda, or a Ninth Case: Trump v. Hawaii

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Three years ago, my essay “Shiftiness: The Border in Eight Cases” approached the border from eight different routes. The years since have only increased the urgency of dealing with the border in a humane and just way. “The law constitutes a ‘we’ through an official story,” scholar Priscilla Wald wrote in her 1994 book, Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form. But: “An official story of ‘a people’ invariably lags behind the seismic demographic changes and corresponding untold stories that ultimately compel each revision.” These days, we’re immersed in the conflict that churns beneath the changing text. When Donald Trump […]

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Notes on the First 30 Days

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On the morning of Inauguration Day, I met up with a friend in midtown Manhattan, where we rented a car and set out for Washington, D.C. Our plan was to make the drive before nightfall, have a quick dinner, finish making our signs, and get a good night’s rest before the Women’s March. Not only was it less expensive to rent a car than to fly or take a train, but our road-trip had the added benefit of keeping us away from TV all day—a serendipitous media blackout for which we were both grateful. We didn’t turn on the radio, […]

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How Reading to My Kids Helped Me Give Better Author Readings

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Publishing a book can mean a lot of things. You might, for example, find yourself at a book club meeting where an elderly gentleman confesses that he didn’t think he’d be able to finish your novel but he nonetheless managed to “struggle through it” (true story). You might, on the other hand, achieve a staggering level of success that allows you to quit your day job (unfortunately not a true story). Or, more likely, you’ll probably have to give a reading. This was the part of being a published author that I was dreading the most. Like many writers, I’m […]

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