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Excerpt Archive

The Marriage of Tragedy and Comedy

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I’m drawn to humor, especially those fragments that might spring from the darkest cracks. What is happening might not be funny, but the dialogue or description is.

“Positive Comments” by Owen King

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The previous day, Jon Kearns had emailed for an extra day to turn in his assignment, swore that he was out of town and couldn’t get a ride back until the next day.

The Importance of Reading and Writing in this Moment

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What is the importance of reading and writing in this moment? Those who come from overtly troubled communities and countries have long known that literature holds enormous power: the veracity that can bring about humility, death, growth, and change.

“Two Essays” by Georgi Markov, Translated and Introduced by Dimiter Kenarov

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When Georgi Markov moved to London in the summer of 1970, after a brief stint in Italy, he had no money and no connections. He rented two rooms of a house in a dingy part of southwest London and had to rely on the generosity of a few acquaintances.

“The Man on the Beach” by Josie Sigler Sibara

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I have often paid the price of sleeplessness for my father’s crimes, the crimes of all of Germany, though I had never set foot in that country when I again encountered the idea that became so compelling to me in the summer of my thirteenth year.

“Fort Wilderness” by Andrew Bienen

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By this time next week—and possibly sooner—I’ll be just another man who abandoned June. I’ve outlasted most of the others and in some twisted way I’m proud of that fact.

Weike Wang’s Chemistry

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Chemistry began as the short story “Conversations with My Father,” published in the Summer 2016 issue of Ploughshares, guest-edited by Claire Messud and James Wood. Wang began thinking about what that protagonist might be like when she grew up and whether she might have an existential crisis in adulthood.

“Old School” by Allen Gee

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In the fall of 1987 after driving across the country to study at the University of Iowa, I found myself enrolled in James Alan McPherson’s fiction workshop, not knowing how I’d ended up there.

Reading in a Time of Disruption

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Writer and literary critic Sergio Pitol makes the claim that “[w]orks of art express . . . the best energy humans are capable of producing.” For Flannery O’Connor, literature is a particular human achievement.

Ploughshares Spring 2015: An Extended Introduction by Guest Editor Neil Astley

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Why is it that most American poets know very little about contemporary poetry from Britain and Ireland? A good number of them are published in Britain; they give readings at festivals in the UK and Ireland where they’re able to meet and hear the work of their British and