Series Archive



The Readers: Carmen Maria Machado and Following Your Idols

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Carmen Maria Machado’s critical work reflects wide-ranging interests, and some of her most exciting writing takes place in reviews of fiction that resembles her own—literature that is speculative, scary, and queer.

The Limits and Freedoms of Literary Regionalism: Silence and the Self in Joan Didion’s Southern California Memoir

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Joan Didion's 1979 book of essays The White Album is not only a road trip through the gridded streets and indecisive canyons of Los Angeles County, but also a meditation on Southern California as a setting for self-discovery.

Fiction Responding to Fiction: Ray Bradbury and Elton John

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Based on a Ray Bradbury short story, Elton John's “Rocket Man” was released the same week as the Apollo 16 launch, and echoes of the story can still be found on the surface of the moon.

Confronting Our Environmental Apocalypse: The Absurd

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In thinking about climate change, we can take a lesson from those masters of the absurd—Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, and Samuel Beckett—to conjure uncanny and grotesque situations that, more than a realistic or scientific view, may come closer to expressing the contradictions that make up our world.

Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”

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Alexie’s short story is first published in the New Yorker on April 21. The story’s protagonist is Jackson Jackson, a member of the Spokane tribe and a homeless alcoholic, who tracks his twenty-four-hour mission to redeem his grandmother’s stolen powwow regalia from a Seattle pawn shop.

Imagining the Anthropocene: Lorine Niedecker’s “Lake Superior”

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Lorine Niedecker’s poem “Lake Superior” cracks open the human history of its eponymous source. Its thirteen fragments splice together geologic details, explorers’ diaries, and firsthand observations to trace white settlers’ incursions into “America’s / Northwest.”

Stories Strangely Told: One Particular Stroller on the Road of Muslim Migration

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It starts with a stroller: pink beams, brown fabric; the whole architecture collapsed into branches and leaf-rot and gritty snow. Five of the six wheels—two dual rears and a single front one—point up like the legs of a submissive dog. The sixth is snug in the dirt.

Throwback Thursday: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid’s Tale is a look at the importance of the rules which we live by, at the frightening possibilities of a world in which fanatics decide our fate. And that warning remains timeless.

The Black Aesthetic: Death, Mourning, and Celebration in Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows in April” and “Let’s Go Crazy”

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When Prince Rogers Nelson died on April 21, 2016, his fans were shook by his untimely death. Many wondered if Prince himself foresaw the specter of death in his midst. The black and white movie Under the Cherry Moon (1986), directed by Prince, may have foreshadowed his April death.

The Readers: David Orr and Careers of Loneliness

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I stumbled upon David Orr’s work through his piece “Why Is a Poet’s First Collection So Important?” published in the New York Times at the beginning of February. The Facebook preview of the piece featured pictures of poets Donika Kelly and Max Ritvo below that earnest headline.