Asking for a Friend: When Can I Forget a Friend?

Dear Olive, 

A colleague I work with, someone I have considered a friend for years, has become almost unbearable to be around. He’s persistently negative about most aspects of our job, bitter about some personal failures, and almost entirely disinterested in other people. I don’t get much satisfaction from our relationship and often feel quite used by my colleague, who often summons me to long conversations about his professional life or to perform tasks for him. I’ve gently and repeatedly suggested that he give some thought to visiting with a counselor because I think his attitude is doing damage to his relationships with other people, including his family, to no avail. So that leaves a series of questions. Is it okay, after these repeated efforts, to extricate myself from a friendship like this? If so, how? A clear statement of my frustration, or is this a moment when “ghosting” is the right choice? Help! Continue reading

Meet the LARB China Channel Team, Part 4: A Double Q&A with Advising Editors Mengfei Chen and Maura Elizabeth Cunningham

This is the fourth in a series of interviews BLARB has been running to introduce some people with key roles in the soon-to-launch LARB China Channel. The interview with Eileen Cheng-yin Chow promised last week will come soon, but first we wanted to share some views on books by two China Channel advising editors, one of whom used to co-edit LARB’s China Blog with me (Maura Elizabeth Cunningham) and the other of whom currently does so (Mengfei Chen). This Q&A will involve fewer questions to make room for two sets of answers. Continue reading

An Offering to Mind and Body: A Review of Lois P. Jones’s Night Ladder

By Kate Kingston

Federico García Lorca may be standing over her shoulder, but he is not the only creative force on which Lois P. Jones draws in her new prize-winning collection, Night Ladder. Other influences include Picasso, Borges, Rumi, Sappho, Rilke, and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as other historical figures from Moses to Anne Frank. These figures contribute epigraphs to the poems, or appear through ekphrasis, making up the ladder of the book’s title. But Jones’s voice is singular, engaging both the intellect and passion while appealing strongly to the ear, to the sense of music related to duende, which Lorca defines in part as “a momentary burst of inspiration, the blush of all that is truly alive […]. It manifests itself among musicians and poets of the spoken word […] for it needs the trembling of the moment and then a long silence.” Continue reading

Three Questions for Sarah Rafael García Regarding Her Short-Story Collection, SanTana’s Fairy Tales

By Daniel A. Olivas

As a college classmate of mine, Bruce Handy, notes in his new book, Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, fairy tales, “in their original, unadulterated, 120-proof versions, are so gruesome and bleak, even barbarous, as to raise the question whether they should be thought of as children’s literature at all.” Continue reading

The Explorer’s Guide to Korean Fiction in Translation: The Fractured Postmodern Adventures of Jung Young Moon, Park Min-Gyu, and Other Contemporary Writers

By Charles Montgomery

The LARB Korea Blog is currently featuring selections from The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation, Charles Montgomery’s book-in-progress that attempts to provide a concise history, and understanding, of Korean literature as represented in translation. You can find links to previous selections at the end of the post. Continue reading

Name Dropping: An Interview with Chris Campanioni

By Kristina Marie Darling

Chris Campanioni’s new book is Death of Art (C&R Press). His recent work appears in Ambit, Gorse, Hotel, Whitehot, and RHINO. He is a Provost Fellow and MAGNET Mentor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he is conducting his doctoral studies in English. He edits PANK, At Large, and Tupelo Quarterly and teaches literature and creative writing at Pace University and Baruch College. Continue reading

The New “New Negro”

By Marina Magloire

The Harlem Renaissance, Remixed

Once upon a time, blackness was in vogue. It was a period where the New Negro, adorned in furs, sequins, and pinstripes, walked the streets of urban America. It was a period when Langston Hughes was a young poet-busboy, when Zora Neale Hurston studied at Barnard, when W.E.B. DuBois ran the NAACP. It was a period when white revelers flocked to see black entertainers wail, shimmy, and shout at segregated venues like the Cotton Club, in the hopes of catching a little of whatever it was that made black people dance like that.  It was a period when Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born orator, could draw a crowd of thousands by shouting the siren call of “Africa for the Africans!” It a period when it was so cool, so joyful to be black that you could charge a cover for your own house party, so long as the music was good and you provided refreshments. It was the 1920s, and blackness was visible on every street corner in America, and it was as though black America had collectively decided that white America may not like us, but they were sure as hell going to see us. And we were visible with such grace and style that history saw fit to memorialize it in the name: the Harlem Renaissance. Continue reading

You Can Relax Into Chiara Barzini’s Things that Happened Before the Earthquake

By Art Edwards

In Things that Happened Before the Earthquake, you won’t find pages-long excursions about the texture of the carpet under the main character Eugenia’s feet, or details on the exact grain of the wood paneling in a Topanga Canyon cabin, or whatever thread a lesser writer might get stuck on her tongue and drag the reader along in her attempts to spit it out. Chiara Barzini’s prose feels like conversation. You also shouldn’t assume from this that the author is one of those social networking denizens who managed to turn her penchant for frank online talk into a book-length manuscript, because that’s even further from the truth. The effect of Barzini’s prose hearkens back to a more open era — maybe the 1990s, the novel’s setting — when books felt more like long exchanges between friends (magically, since the exchange was one-sided), and the reader’s only job was to sit back and empathize. I won’t bludgeon you with my approach or waste your time, the prose implies. You can relax. Continue reading