Magical Monstrosity and Everyday Oppression Collide in Her Body and Other Parties

By Bradley Babendir

Carmen Maria Machado begins her debut by asserting control. The first story in Her Body and Other Parties, “The Husband Stitch,” starts with a parenthetical guide to reading the story aloud. There are five instructions, but two stand out; the first is for the narrator’s father: “kind, booming; like your father; or the man you wish was your father.” The second is for “all other women,” for whom the reader is instructed to use a voice “interchangeable” with the one they use for the narrator. This dynamic largely shapes the book, as Machado and her narrators recognize and battle against the heteropatriarchal structures that have tried to shape their lives. Continue reading

The Favorite Thing I Read This Week

By Judith E. Vida

A NOTICE TO MEMBERS at the end of the LARB newsletter on February 12, 2017, inviting emails about “the favorite thing read this week,” reached me on my iPhone in Seattle, where I had traveled to join my writing group. Just two days earlier, I had written in my notebook:

Somehow, beyond all reckoning, I have found myself reading and absorbing what seems to me the most important voice at this very moment: Sara Paretsky’s. Continue reading

Already Intertwined: Talking to Daniel Borzutzky and Brenda Lozano About Lit & Luz

By Andy Fitch

This conversation focuses on Nightboat author Daniel Borzutzky’s work with novelist Brenda Lozano on organizing the 2017 Lit & Luz Festival of Language, Literature, and Art. Held each fall in the U.S. and each winter in Mexico, Lit & Luz offers a unique series of readings, conversations, performances, and multimedia presentations featuring renowned authors and visual artists from Chicago and Mexico City. From October 17th to 21st, more than a dozen Lit & Luz events will take place in Chicago galleries, college auditoriums, classrooms, bookstores, and museums. The festival will conclude with its “Live Magazine Extravaganza Show” finale at Co-Prosperity Sphere, featuring debut multimedia collaborations between the Mexico City-based and Chicago-based participants. This year’s festival theme of “Belonging” celebrates the richly diverse sustained interconnections of custom, community, and culture between Chicago and Mexico City. At the same time, “Belonging” poses questions about what it means to be excluded from a community, a city, and a nation.  Continue reading

Ghosts of Our Past: An Interview with Jesmyn Ward

By Louise McCune 

When Jojo and his family go to pick up his father Michael from Parchman Prison, they return home with an unlikely additional passenger. Richie — who can be seen only by Jojo and his toddler sister Kayla — is a ghost who has kept residence at Parchman for decades, haunting the site of his untimely death in an attempt to understand it. Richie was only a boy when he was incarcerated for spurious reasons, and he was only a boy when he was killed for trying to escape. Sing, Unburied, Sing, a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award, is a novel populated by living characters who contend daily with the consequences of state-sanctioned racial violence. Richie’s story intervenes in an otherwise 21st-century narrative to indicate that, when it comes to American racism, the past remains very much alive. Continue reading

E.M. Wolfman Bookstore

By Cody Sisco

“The purpose was to bring people together,” Justin Carder, founder of E.M. Wolfman general interest small bookstore, told me.

E.M. Wolfman could have been a tool lending library or a do-it-yourself fix-it shop. Instead, Justin created a bookstore, using skills honed while managing Dave Eggers’s famed Pirate Supply Store in San Francisco and during his lifelong apprenticeship to his father, building and fixing things in the Carder family home. Continue reading

Jewess in Wool Clothing

By Susan Golomb 

When I was married and my then-husband and I visited Ireland, where half of his ancestors are from, everyone we met thought that I was the one who was looking for her roots. This thrilled me for reasons I’m not sure of. Was the actress in me proud of how well I could lose myself in another identity? Was it that I believed the Irish are the lost tribe of Israel — Leopold Bloom, Abie’s Irish Rose? Was it some latent Jewish self-hatred? Or was it simply the relief of knowing I could pass as Gentile? Continue reading

Comic Relief? The Puzzling Function of Political Humor Online

By Marta Zarzycka

The most terrifying movie I have ever seen, no doubt, was Funny Games, written and directed by Michael Haneke. In the movie, a sheltered bourgeois family’s reality transforms into a nightmare at the hands of two sadistic captors in immaculate golf whites and gloves. There is nothing “funny” about the situation, which, in hindsight, renders the title misleading and cruel.

A similarly ominous congruity between the “funny” and the violent is glaringly present in the right-wing register of the internet. The mix of satire and political ideology drives platforms such as Breitbart, AltRight, or Daily Stormer (which recently resurfaced on the dark web). Continue reading

Remembering Lynn Moe Swe (1976-2017)

By Ko Ko Thett 

“Until the end of the wake” by Lynn Moe Swe (1976-2017):

The funeral I wrote down happens today. 
Or, does it?

The opening lines of “Until the end of the wake” by Lynn Moe Swe anticipate afterlife. Lynn Moe Swe, who died of Dylan-Thomas Syndrome aka alcohol poisoning in the wee hours of Monday, September 18, in his hometown Monywa, was one of Myanmar’s most outstanding poets of his generation. He was 41. Continue reading

Weil Waiting: On the 75th Anniversary of Simone Weil’s Visit to New York

By Robert Zaretsky

Seventy-five years ago, the French philosopher and religious mystic Simone Weil was a prisoner of New York. As she wrote (in English) to an American officer whose radio address she had heard (but had never met), her parents forced her to leave Vichy France: they “had wanted to escape anti-Semitism [and] put great pressure upon me to make me go with them.” Ever since her arrival in early July, though, an implacable sense of suffering overpowered her: France’s suffering under German occupation, but her own suffering as well. If her separation from France “was to last a long time, it seems to me that it would break my heart.” Continue reading