Category Archives: Literature

What is America Anyway?: An Interview With Eula Biss

By Cypress Marrs

In 1979, Joan Didion proclaimed, “we tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Eula Biss brings this certainty back from the brink of truism by asking: what are these stories? Where do they come from? And what do they mean for the way we live? Dissecting the myths that determine the way news is covered and the world is conceived, Biss employs the personal, the philosophical, the linguistic, and the historical to reframe moral and political dilemmas. Continue reading

A Beacon of Sanity in Our Age of Polarity: On Contemporary Sufism and the Works of Idries Shah

By John Zada

With the Internet and social media offering everyone an instant voice and platform, it sometimes feels as if we’ve all become standard bearers of a cause, or a medley of them. The ease with which we can publicly air our viewpoints everyday, even many times a day, has created a ruckus of opposing perspectives that is staggering in its intensity and breadth. We are exposed to many different ideas and points of view, which is a good thing. But what we fail to see in all the exciting rabble-rousing is that we’re also engendering a toxic culture of disputation that is seeping into all areas of life. Continue reading

The Language Behind a (Short) Brutal Affair: An Interview with Translator Stefan Tobler

By Stephanie LaCava

One of two published long-form works by Brazilian writer Raduan Nassar, A Cup of Rage is a tiny book clocking in at a carefully wrought 65 pages that tackles the dynamic between two sparring lovers, fraught with competitive ire and dueling politic. The couple is comprised of a reclusive older man and a younger woman, who works as a journalist. The man narrates all but the final passage, expressing disdain for his lovers privilege and simultaneous claim of hard-won moral integrity. You shitty little intellectual, he says, it never occurred to you that everything you say and everything you vomit up is all stuff that youve heard from other people, that you havent done any of the stuff you talk about, that you only screwed like a virgin and that without my crowbar you arent any-fucking thing. Having lived through more years, he thinks her posture of higher ground claimed humanism is neither sustainable nor truthful. He feels superior; or rather, knows the power he wields in seeming so. He reflects: above all [] the more indifferent I seemed to be, the more attractive she found me. Continue reading

What Happens When Young Adult Protagonists Grow Up?

By Jane Mendle

Anne of Green Gables makes a terrible adult.

Whimsical, imaginative, and open-hearted as a young girl, the 30-something mother of six has given up her writing and set aside her ambitions. As she bluntly explains, “I had wonderful dreams once” but “a busy mother hasn’t much time for that.” Instead, she frets about her marriage, agonizes about whether she is still attractive, and takes a vindictive pleasure that her husband’s glamorous college girlfriend has become “considerably stouter.” Continue reading

Unlocking Arabic: the Art and Poetry of Etel Adnan

By Mona Kareem

If you type Etel Adnan’s name into Google — in Arabic or English or French — you won’t find a single picture of the poet in her youth. Even if you type “Etel Adnan young,” you will only see results from her later years. Among these is a black and white picture of an elder Etel, her face partially covered with a flower, like an Ottoman girl preparing to transcend time. Continue reading

Looking and Acting: On Ali Smith’s Autumn

By Milo Hicks

Reading a new Ali Smith novel always feels like returning to a familiar place. There is the usual smattering of quotes that mark the opening of each work, laid out like a welcome mat at the door. She always uses a single word — “past,” “beginning,” “I,” “there,” “one,” “1” — to open the first section of every one of her novels, a gentle reminder that every story is the bringing together of disparate parts. And then there is her undeniable voice that agitates and soothes in the same stroke, unbearably light and effortlessly heavy. Autumn, her most recent novel, is no exception, and it’s homier than ever. Underneath the new window coverings and re-arranged furniture are the same authorial concerns: time, art, and storytelling. Yet the familiar places of her novels never come across as worn or tired because they welcome such a diversity of characters. Smith knows that “whoever makes up the story makes up the world,” and advises us to “always try to welcome people into the home of your story.” This advice, which is one of Autumn’s foremost concerns, is lived out in every home she builds. Continue reading

I Cut and Cut and Cut Away: An Interview with Kate Zambreno

By Meghan Lamb

Kate Zambreno’s first book, O Fallen Angel, was released in 2009 by Chiasmus Press as the winner of its aptly titled “Undoing the Novel” contest. This was also the year I moved to Chicago, the city where Kate then lived. There, O Fallen Angel was insinuatingly suggested to me by a bookseller at Quimby’s, offered as a kind of (anti)social talisman: “Have you heard of Kate Zambreno?” Continue reading

Haruki Murakami Has More Books Out in Korean than He Ever Will in English

By Colin Marshall

Whenever someone has made progress studying a foreign language and asks which author they should try reading in that language, I always recommend the same one: Haruki Murakami. Though perhaps an obvious choice for students of Japanese, his mother tongue and the language in which he writes, his work has now made it into about fifty different languages in total. His stories’ globally appealing style, their abundance of non-Japanese cultural references, and their translation-ready prose style (legend has it he overcame an early bout of writer’s block by writing his first novel in what English he knew, then converting it back to Japanese) make them work just about as well in French, Polish, Turkish, Hebrew, or Mandarin as they do in the original. Continue reading

The Fourth Estate Needs a Superhero

By Benjamin Reeves

On January 20th, America inaugurated a new president. He is a plutocrat who made a mint plastering his name on buildings and shellacking everything in gold like some sort of cut-rate Midas. He is a creature of the media — a whore for attention and a brazen liar. It was theoretically amusing, in years past, when he was simply taking turns on reality TV and pretending to gossip columnists that he was his own PR agent. During the early days of the campaign, the nation was all too content to suffer this particular fool so long as he kept the campaign interesting. Never forget CBS chairman Les Moonves’ words that Trump’s campaign “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” When we all started living in his personal reality TV show — when he won — he became terrifying. Continue reading