Karen Russell and the Art of Discomfort

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Without the draw of discomfort, horror wouldn’t be possible. Karen Russell uses different types of discomfort to shape her new short story, “Orange World,” in which Rae, an expectant mother with a high-risk pregnancy, makes a deal with the devil for the safety of her unborn child.

The Joys of a Journal

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Last April, I attended Alexander Chee’s talk on reporting the self. He said: “The thing that you remember is the thing that you live with.” I’d never heard this truth stated so clearly before. What else but memory could be at the root of so many personal conflicts and

The Secret Habit of Sorrow by Victoria Patterson

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Each story is short yet encompassing, and while the plots don't connect, the collection coheres thematically. Nearly all of the protagonists and those characters eddying around them feel this secret habit of sorrow.

Meaghan O’Connell’s Lessons in Parenthood

I’ve always thought of stories of new parenthood as a cross between how-to manuals and cautionary tales. It wasn’t until I read Meaghan O’Connell’s memoir that I realized mothers don’t write their stories for the benefit of those without children—whether their stories scare me or encourage me is irrelevant.

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.

The Risk and Reward of “We” in Poetry

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Poems, Eleanor Wilner has said, are vehicles meant to circumscribe the boundaries of the self, but our individual imaginations are situated within politics and history. Use of the first-person plural, then, can open up the poem’s historical vision.

Reading Herzog in 2018

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Saul Bellow’s novel is often characterized as a rich portrait of a mind in crisis. It’s also an exploration of the role of history—and memory—in personal life.

The Flâneuse: Walking in London and Paris

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We speak of things like ships, cities, and even the earth itself as female, yet men are so often the ones confidently plodding through these spaces, conquering them as they would a female body.

From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan

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Ryan’s fourth novel clocks in at just under two hundred pages, and for most writers, telling the story of multiple characters in such a small space would be a challenge. But this book contains worlds. The reader is always searching for those connections, the echoes and strands that insist

Family and the State in Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire

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Like Mohsin Hamid and Ayad Akhtar, Shamsie is concerned with the ways a post-9/11 West has disrupted the lives of Pakistani Muslim immigrants. But where Hamid and Akhtar limit their scope to the individual experiences of brown men, Shamsie maps out the ways the family reacts to and reflects