“What is magic but a story with solid engineering?”

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Coming from a culture where audience participation was an integral part of communal life, the novel does not offer my parents, Lao refugees, an easy entry point. So I wrote in a way where nothing would be lost if they added their own spin to the story.

Truth and Lies in Elena Ferrante’s Incidental Inventions

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Over the course of Ferrante’s new essay collection, her commentary on the contingencies of telling both truth and lies shines new light on the relationship between narrative and the frightening reality she has elsewhere called the "frantumaglia."

Mindy Aloff’s Dance in America: A Reader’s Anthology

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The challenge of Aloff’s project stands not only in relation to the mass of written material to potentially engage, but in how to remain in keeping with the Library’s undertaking “to celebrate the words that have shaped America” when dealing with an artform that creates a world “where there

Reading Kiese Laymon’s Heavy: An American Memoir

When I read Laymon’s recent memoir, I had a visceral reaction. It reminded me why I started writing. It made me wonder if my writing reaches my peoples and keeps us revising and growing in our stories. If writing protects us from the silence of memories lost.

Uncanny Masculinities

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If someone were asked to discuss contemporary British masculinity, it is unlikely that they would begin with superstition and folklore, yet that is precisely the framing this topic receives in novels by Sarah Moss and John Burnside.

The Hills Reply by Tarjei Vesaas

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Vesaas’s language is rich and thickening, replete with extended metaphors that are visionary, haunting, and half-mad, recalling the ebullient, runaway brushwork of Van Gogh.

“I am a wanderer”: An Interview with Susan Straight

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Straight’s new memoir is part family history, part memoir, part love letter to her daughters, part US history, part reading list, and partly a discussion of the amorphous concept of the heroine’s journey. Like its author, the book is never one thing; it rests on opposite ends of various

Reading Know My Name and Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl

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New memoirs by Chanel Miller and Jeannie Vanasco are about their rapes, but also about what it means to move through this world in a woman’s body. What has happened to Miller’s body and to Vanasco’s body connects them with millions of women globally and across time.

Tess Fragoulis on The Goodtime Girl

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Fragoulis roots her 2012 novel in the Greco-Turkish blues, including lyrics of well-known rebetiko songs that she has translated to transport the reader into the world of Kivelli—who, like many of her fellow refugees, pours herself into music to forget the trauma of losing everything she has known.

Vignettes of Miscommunication

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Works by Lydia Davis and Philip Larkin capture a disjoint between individual and community, or individual and environment. Both suggest that speech doesn’t disappear or break down entirely when there’s such a disconnect. Instead, it just becomes difficult to access positive, generous, and honest speech.