The poetry of Light into Bodies begins and ends with a theme of identity while its pages flutter with the imagery of egrets, pigeons, swans, and starlings. Nancy Chen Long presents the complexity of exploring identity from multiple perspectives—from the viewpoint of a mathematician, from a child whose mother repeatedly becomes the property of other men by the “generosity” of her own father, to a daughter’s experiences growing up in a multi-cultural home and discovering the nuances of relationships in adulthood. The poems stitch together an intricate lace of childhood memories, family stories, myth, and Asian-American experience with a thread of women’s issues intertwined throughout, each conflict woven within the next to create the speaker’s complicated identity.chop! chop! read more!
Reading Harding’s new book Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, published in mid-November by Vintage Books, gives the sense that we are living in a John Le Carre novel where we are not certain that the West won the Cold War or that the Cold War ever ended. Collusion is a deep dive into the coverage of the administration and the crisscrossing lines of Russian money and influence.chop! chop! read more!
Is it okay not to date a guy because he’s a Trump supporter? By the way, this guy is wealthy and really good-looking, although I can’t say his looks really turn me on.
—Turned Off in Turnersvillechop! chop! read more!
Completely mundane happenings take on significant meaning in Chloe N. Clark’s The Science of Unvanishing Objects. Everyday things like butterflies, telephones, and mirrors assume a role beyond their normal functions. Likewise, ordinary events such as conversations between strangers and seeing a lover naked for the first time become catalysts for a deeper understanding of the universe. Through her explorations, Clark repeatedly returns to loss, a major motif in this collection, which is amplified by recurring narratives centered on missing women.chop! chop! read more!
“She wanted […] the location of her madness to be now the location of her art.”
This is how the narrator of The Working Woman analyzes her roommate, but the same can be said of the narrator herself, and perhaps as well of the only figure in this postmodernist novel who actually “speaks:” the author, Elvira Navarro. The text becomes the conjunction of madness and art, which share one abstract and yet delineated “location,” madness needing expression through art, or art uniquely poised to express madness.chop! chop! read more!
Tatiana is supposed to spend the summer before her junior year in high school in Vermont with her only friend while her mother summers in Rome. Instead, she hitches a ride from her boarding school’s Connecticut campus to Brooklyn. It’s 1980, and Tatiana renames herself Pluta, an alter ego she has long cultivated to meet the demands of this adventure. So begins Anca L. Szilágyi’s debut novel Daughters of the Air.chop! chop! read more!
Anyone who picks up And Other Stories’ edition of Malacqua, the first English translation of Nicola Pugliese’s Italian novel from 1977, will be immediately alerted to the strange weather which serves as the novel’s catalyst. Emblazoned across the book’s cover is Malacqua’s unofficial subtitle: Four Days of Rain in the City of Naples, Waiting for the Occurrence of an Extraordinary Event. Before even opening the book, the reader is clued into Pugliese’s supreme fascinations: water and Naples. And of course, the collision of the two.chop! chop! read more!
Iosi Havilio’s Petite Fleur is a great book because it is a work of surprises intimately knotted around each other. The plot twists and writhes. Murders and magic lead to diatribes about jazz fusion that leads to rebirth and love and examinations of the anxiety of parenthood and marriage. The unexpected is constant, the satisfaction complete.chop! chop! read more!
I would like people to feel their own strength and resilience. I hope that people can tap into the possibility of facing suffering and pain honestly, not pushing it away or denying its existence or impact or effect. But also, that each and every one of us is strong and gifted with a right to fight back and say NO to malevolence, wherever it comes from. This is a delicate message I’m trying so hard to communicate. The hurt is real, the pain is real, suffering is right here all around us and don’t turn away from it. Your trauma is important and real. So is your power. You may not win or overcome, but just in standing firm you have done an incredibly powerful thing. I think I want them to feel that power of resistance.chop! chop! read more!
Mallory is furious. She says that she will have to put Luther in a kennel because of me, that it will cost a fortune, and that she would never have taken this vacation if she knew she would have to board her dog. Then she said that even though she hoped I would reconsider and walk Luther, she was willing to compromise by sharing the cost of the kennel with me —but that she hoped I appreciated that doing so would practically break her financially.chop! chop! read more!
Was there a noticeable difference in the way I structured my writing? Did I have a particularly feminine way of tapping the keys of my ancient word processor? When my very loud printer zig-zagged along could it tell the prose churning out was written by a woman? The stacks of perforated pages, waiting to be carefully separated and submitted, did they have the indelible pinkish watermark of ‘girl’ stamped upon them?chop! chop! read more!
In the small town of Clemency, Texas Sunday morning worship is even more important than Friday night football. With a population of 1,236 and only two churches in town, everyone looks forward to putting on their Sunday best and lifting the Lord’s name on high.chop! chop! read more!
Reading Andrea Jarrell’s memoir felt like I was squatting in the bushes outside of her house, fingers perched on the windowsill, watching and listening as her life unfolded, taking comfort in her family’s dysfunctions which mirrored my own in asymmetric ways. Being from a dysfunctional family myself, I take some sick comfort from seeing crying children in grocery stores, their mothers looking like they’ve reached their wits’ end. I thrive on overhearing family fights in restaurants, because for so long, it was my family who were making heads turn. Once, at a rest stop in Delaware, my younger brother pelted my mother and I with chicken nuggets from the booth across the aisle while my father yelled at him, and ultimately, dragged him from the McDonald’s. I suspect most of our families are dysfunctional, and it’s the job of our adult selves to use all of that dysfunctional material we’re sitting on to become something good. That, or we allow the cycle to repeat. But how does one heal from childhood? How does one become better than our parents? These are central questions in Andrea Jarrell’s haunting memoir I’m the One Who Got Away.chop! chop! read more!
THE MINORS by Chris Ludovici Unsolicited Press, 376 pages reviewed by Ryan K. Strader Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in professional sports. A fastball travels at 90 miles per hour, moving from the pitcher’s mitt to the catcher’s glove in approximately .44 seconds. If the batter blinks, he’ll miss. For the last few feet that the ball travels, it is essentially invisible to the hitter. He has to have made his decision by then, whether to swing, how he’ll swing. I did not know anything about baseball when I picked up Chris Ludovici’s The Minors. Nick Rogers, one of the protagonists, reflects on the difficulty of hitting a baseball, and I ended up spending too much time engrossed in an ESPN Sport Science episode checking Nick’s information. It turns out that, football fanatic though I am, the fastball is a formidable opponent: 90 mph is a … chop! chop! read more!
Nathan Elias’ first novella, A Myriad of Roads that Lead to Here, tells a story that is simultaneously frustrating and accessible. This bildungsroman provides a snapshot into the emotional journey of a naive and sometimes selfish narrator, Weston, as he grapples with the untimely death of his mother, which had occurred a few months before.chop! chop! read more!
The superhero is a staple of pop culture, but poets can use elements of superhero identity to craft poems and explore their own mythology. Lynn Levin offers a writing prompt designed to allow poets to reach beyond the real in search of other truths.chop! chop! read more!
With the centenary of Franz Kafka’s first three major publications having passed just a few years ago, a plethora of new translations of Kafka’s stories have recently been released. Among them is Konundrum: Selected Prose of Franz Kafka, with works chosen and translated by Peter Wortsman, a writer known for his own micro fiction. Wortsman’s selection of what he considers to be the very best of Kafka’s short prose, whether it’s a story, a letter, a journal entry, a parable, or an aphorism distinguishes Konundrum from the other new translations. This approach contrasts with the single book-length work of Susan Bernofsky’s new translation of “The Metamorphosis” and Michael Hofmann’s new translation of all of Kafka’s unpublished stories in Investigations of a Dog.chop! chop! read more!
Almost ten years ago, when I was in college, I was raped by a stranger. They never found out who did it. It took me several years and some poor choices before I got over the experience, but I believe that I am now fully recovered not especially afraid or angry, and no more flashbacks. In fact, I rarely think about it. And even if—despite all the evidence, including my terrific marriage—I am not fully recovered, it is not something I choose to discuss unless I have a good reason, such as helping another person.chop! chop! read more!
Christopher David Rosales, on the dedication page, describes Gods on the Lam as “an homage to Roger Zelazny, without whose books I may never have been inspired to write.” Zelazny’s influence is evident. Famous for his direct execution and his penchant for genre-mixing, the lifeblood of the late speculative fiction author rushes through the twisty veins of this strange novel—Rosales’ second.chop! chop! read more!
Jericho Brown, author of the prize-winning poetry collections Please and The New Testament, visited Bucks County Community College in September to give a reading. This interview was conducted at a picnic table outside the school’s auditorium building prior to the reading.chop! chop! read more!
Benjamin Percy has a fascinating and wide-ranging career as a writer. His short story “Refresh, Refresh” was selected as one of the Best American Short Stories 2006 and was further anthologized as one of only 40 stories included in 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories. He has written four novels, a book of craft essays on writing, and has contributed works to such publications as Esquire, GQ, and Men’s Journal. In addition, Percy currently writes for DC Comics’ Green Arrow and Teen Titans, and for Dynamite Entertainment’s James Bond. He newest novel, The Dark Net, released in August 2017, explores many of the dangers of our current digital age.chop! chop! read more!
Muriel Leung’s Bone Confetti is an open door into a house of mourning; an exceptional look into the aftermath of loss, and in turn, an examination of what it is to love someone. A challenging collection of lyric and prose poems, the poet manipulates the space where words are carefully placed and the space where there is nothing. The theme of the book is grief, and it is palpable. It is disorienting and enveloping, but manages to avoid being overly sentimental, allowing it to be both intimate and universal. The poet stated in an interview that “applying the role of politics to the personal grief of loss was very important work to do . . . It became a way of understanding this loss as tied to a history that’s larger than me.”chop! chop! read more!
Dog people and cat people often like to stake their identities on the idea that they are starkly different from one another, but are they really so different? Regardless of species, a pet’s companion is a certain type of person who probably prefers their dog or cat to other people. In two recent books, by Eileen Myles and Caroline Picard, a dog person and a cat person, respectively, confess the closeness they feel to their pets while also marveling at the strangeness of intimacy with another kind of being. Reading both of these books together becomes a chance to deeply explore the intimate otherness of animal companionship. They live amongst us, but are they with us?chop! chop! read more!
The protagonist of Jacob Appel’s 2017 novel, The Mask of Sanity, is a doctor, a family man, and a murderer. Appel offers a rare insight into the life of this high functioning sociopath, Dr. Jeremy Balint. With a staggering seven master’s degrees, medical degree, law degree, and experience in clinical psychiatry, Appel is certainly authority enough to paint a convincing psychological profile of such a troubling protagonist. The close third person narration allows the reader to hear Balint’s twisted thoughts, while also observing and nearly falling victim to the carefully constructed facade of “the most ethican human being on the planet.”chop! chop! read more!
Reviewing Elizabeth Hardwick’s new collection of essays is a task to strike fear into the heart of even the most headstrong literary critic. Biographer of Melville, co-founder of the New York Review of Books, and noted sharp tongue, Elizabeth Hardwick cast a long shadow in the literary world of the twentieth century. Darryl Pinckney introduces Hardwick in this volume as a New York intellectual firebrand, an avant-garde thinker with an acerbic writing style, and a cutting, devastatingly smart critic who employed a withering gaze. Would-be reviewers, if not scared off by Hardwick’s biography, will encounter an essay in the book’s first hundred pages, “The Decline of Book Reviewing,” which is destined to have some effect on their confidence. If reading that piece is not sufficient, the reviewer will then bump into a piece on a Hemingway biography that begins, “Carlos Baker’s biography of Ernest Hemingway is bad news.” To be blunt, Hardwick, a writer of fiction herself in addition to criticism and biography, does not go easy on writers.chop! chop! read more!
In the summer of 2011, novelist and scholar Jordan A. Rothacker discovered a box containing the journals of a being known as Maawaam. Thus begins My Shadow Book—part literary manifesto, part metafictional frame narrative. The novel itself is credited to Maawaam, while Rothacker gives himself the title of editor. This framing device, the found manuscript, is used throughout literature as a way of creating verisimilitude in the reading experience. By claiming to have found and compiled Maawaam’s papers, Rothacker gives the novel legitimacy as a real, authentic document, while also absolving himself of any blame for the contents: he simply discovered these writings, and so is not responsible for their creation.chop! chop! read more!
My father, who is 83 years old, is a good man but a bad tipper. I do not know if the world has changed since he was a young man just starting to take people out, or if it is some peculiarity of my dad’s, but he only leaves 15% (of the pre-tax amount!) if he thinks the service is outstanding. If the service is good or average, he leaves ten. If the service or the food is bad, he leaves somewhere between ten and zero. I have tried to talk to him about this, and I have let him know that most servers do not get paid very much at all and that the tips are what make them end up with a living wage, if they even do, but he does not accept this idea. He says that the point of tips is to give a little something extra to somebody who does good work—that that is why they are called tips, and that they are an incentive, yadda yadda yadda.chop! chop! read more!
The Best We Could Do begins with birth. Thi Bui is a first-time mother in California, and her own mother–despite having flown across the country to be there–has quietly excused herself from the delivery room.chop! chop! read more!
In an interview with NPR, David Szalay pointed out that the title of his novel, All that Man Is, can be read two different ways: “either as a sort of slightly disparaging, sort of all that man is, and this is it. Or it can be read as a sort of almost celebratory—everything, all the kind of great variety of experience that life contains.” Szalay seems to see his work as falling somewhere in between, not entirely “disparaging” nor precisely “celebratory,” since it is a study of men dealing with situations of personal crisis. While many reviewers have described All that Man Is as bleak and depressing, Szalay confesses that he might have a “lower expectation of life than the average.”chop! chop! read more!
I met a smart, handsome man at an art opening last week. “Theo” and I ended up talking for the whole two-hour reception, then went out for coffee and closed down the place. He asked me out to dinner on Saturday and it was lovely. We like the same music and art and movies, have a similar sense of humor, care about the same issues, and vote the same way on them. Icing on the cake: he does fascinating work and makes a ton of money doing it. The problem—which begs the question, since I am about to ask you whether it actually is a problem—is that Theo turns out to be deeply religious. I am an atheist.
Now I am not sure he is even third-date material. Do you think we have a chance?
—Skeptic in Schenectady (I’m not really in Schenectady, but I like the way that sounds.)chop! chop! read more!
On the terrace, huddled
the ticking air
and hissing in the grass—
at the palazzo belfry suddenly
Just let me finish my story. Listen. I was at this party at a house on Vanderveer Street off of Hillside Ave in Queens. I was having a great time with my friends, then near the end of the party, I had to leave because I wanted to help my mom. She had called me, you know, she’s older and needed my help, I don’t know, can’t remember, something about her house, maybe the garbage disposal or something, so anyway, I said I’d be there after the party. Well after a while, I thought I had hung around long enough, mingled enough, so I went to the front of the house to look for my shoes, and I couldn’t find them.chop! chop! read more!
Meanwhile, in the airy labyrinth,
in a bathtub full of corn liquor,
in the red barn on a hillside.
While you were squinting in tomorrow’s sun.
When the lion purred deeply.
While you were paring your nails
and twiddling with the radio,
incident brushing against incident,
willpower crooking a finger,
intention taking a short vacation,
‘in the meantime’ on your breath,
time an old fire in an older world,
time a sniper, a deer in its crosshairs,
an arrow coursing from one moment to the next.
My mother told me nothing is safe. I’d grown up fenced in playpens, leashed like a dog, harnessed in strollers. I was buckled and belted, handheld and sandwiched, life-vested, sunblocked, helmeted, braced, and warned. My vaccines were up to date. My laces double-knotted. She told me never go out alone, my friends weren’t friends but “buddies.” Each time I built up the courage to timidly test the limits of her invisible fence, things went wrong. I’d think maybe she was right. Or this was a bad idea.chop! chop! read more!
The coyotes are judging me.
The coyotes are excellent judges of character
attuned to minute oscillations of will
opportunistic in their insight. they are misanthropes at heart, the coyotes,
also canids, and therefore cynics
and proceed from the assumption of not the best or the worst
as the essence of the human condition but inertia
the failure to bestir ourselves to invention
so it begins [spring] leopards from a crowd of moss hills bloom
I don’t live there; I built my ship sailed jungle bound
to procreate among the mongoose sifting through sand ponds
this is where
I wait, sunburnt
Speed-free for two days now and stuck waiting on the 116th Street A train southbound platform with a hard two-train hour down to my job at the Gansevoort Meatpacking District, I have this packet I got at the bodega at 113th and Broadway, this over the counter Ephedrine bullshit in its bright blue waterproof packaging, and this is what I’m reduced to, trying to pound two little pills to dust without splitting the plastic, using my fist against the greasy wooden subway bench, and though there are five or six other people waiting, no one is going to say anything to me, not at 3 a.m. at 116th Street—maybe not anytime—and finally I have it powdered but with nothing to snort with, not even a single dollar bill; just a pocketful of tokens supplied by my girlfriend Kiley the way a parent might pin a child’s lunch money to his coat along with a note, I have to lean my head back and pour half down each nostril, snorting as hard as I can and it’s worse than speed, the burning and the small sharp shards that didn’t pound cutting into my nose and soon I have another nosebleed going and the train still hasn’t come and after this there’s another switch at Columbus and another wait, then ten hours of hard work and the whole thing in reverse and it has got to be the worse but given all this, it’s still better than staying home, waking up to her and all that goes with her.chop! chop! read more!
The palm trees outside the window are waiting to wed.
But the officiate is late.
They stare at each other, touching fronds, tasting of perpetual summer. At night
we hear them imagining themselves elsewhere. Unrooting. We smell the yearning.
Annie on Mulberry lane doesn’t believe us.
Well, they aren’t outside the window, exactly.
a simple star-crack unwinding
in ropes of flat out
shaking silver. The white bird
is not raveled in thought
when it breaks open the brow
of the river with its
flung down flight. How
do I say it? I am there
for you. I am
never there for you. Not much
belief would walk your hand
straight through to my spine—
The wind hesitates, the sky like to sing, so blue. Tiny Boy writes his name in dirt, slow and careful. The Lockett’s hound jitters in dream and the same old flies circle and circle. The day is Thursday and Tiny Boy will eat his dinner with Gran, pork chops he hopes, and applesauce. She don’t make pies anymore which is a loss to all concerned, meaning Tiny Boy and her church-friend, Marla. Down the street, shirts hang on a line in the backyard of a house gone empty months ago. Bleached now, in sun streaks. Tiny Boy tries to whistle. Carter tried to teach him 3 or 4 times but he still can’t get out but a huff. Carter’s gone now, too, like the people in the house.chop! chop! read more!
What is this fat hen squawking about? Michael tries to open his right eyelid, so he can see the nurse better, but it is sealed shut. His left is barely a slit. Through the haze of milky sleep scumming over his pupil, he makes out a whitish blob topped with frizzy orange lint.
“Fat? You’re already in enough trouble, mister.” This nurse he has never met before heard him. She walks to the wall beside the door. He fights the urge to think in case another insult slips out. What if he has hurt her feelings before having a chance to prove the opposite, and she thinks him an ogre? His head feels like it weighs thirty pounds, fifty, as he rotates it to better set his good eye on her. He senses the unmade hospital bed beside him, the television plopped onto a cart in front, and the wheelchair in which his large body rests. This room, this ward, is unfamiliar, but he tries to stay calm. The nurse rips off a length of brown paper towel from a leaden dispenser triggering an artery centered in his brain to pulsate and deliver short punches to the surface of his face and into the boggy fluid of his stomach. His gut quivers as he tenses the muscles above his left eye to raise his brow and lower his cheek, which is like trying to prop up a fallen roof with a toothpick.chop! chop! read more!
I could be a constellation,
I have a cryptic, enticing tale
it has lions and swords
and those things,
blood and love
and choices of kings.
in Afrika there is a way you beg forgiveness
for future sins
today in a broken language
the same way you beg blessings and blessings
for memories to be left behind
for gods soon to be forced to answer and answer
prayers yet to be said
in Afrika you beg forgiveness and forgiveness
for only future sins
The slow snow first and then the hard snow with left and right men shoveling, cars swerving, stalling, spinning out, and drip by drip the icicle daggers sharpening, waiting to descend as we women lug logs up the porch steps and the dogs slink off, shivering, tails between their legs.chop! chop! read more!
Begin by skinning
an animal. This plastic woman
has, like, 200 acres,
and she has so many couches,
and she isn’t even going to share.
She’s rich, rich, rich.
I never knew you were Baptist.
Nor, I suspect, did you.
Perhaps it was the funeral director
or your most recent ex
that finally got you into church.
Your waterless baptism, surprise testimony
to the suddenness of your saving.
It is a relief to pass beyond
the flesh and become instead
a column of information.
Puerile, we watch pulp
mills break down the big
coastal forests with sulfite.
Tender mushrooms from
distant pastures, we grind
them into dust, a magic.
Telepathy inside the car.
Before Del opened his eyes he knew the kid was gone. That panic feeling. That guilt. That screen door slamming in the wind. It had broken into Del’s dream, and as soon as he realized what it was he gripped the arms of the threadbare recliner and launched himself upward. His feet hit the carpet and he was down the hall with his head spinning and vision blurry. By the light in the house, it was hard to tell whether it was morning or evening.chop! chop! read more!
Am I sweating? Goddamn Jack Kennedy, may he rest. I never cared about the faults in my face before that SOB. Thank God for Pat. Smile, shake hands, remember key points: differences, future, enemies. Smile. “Hello, hello.” Smile. Breathe. Do not bob your head. Clasp hands behind. Clear throat. “Ready?” Yes. OK. Breathe. “Mr. Vice President…” Shit, my nose itches. “As we look to the future.” Forget the fucking nose, Dick. “We must realize that the Government of the People’s Republic of China…” You are announcing history. “We will have differences in the future…” This, this will be my legacy.chop! chop! read more!
There must be more of them than you suspect, here in the Midwest—maybe every tenth, every fifteenth woman you pass. Those who used to ride clinging to some guy’s leathery back, bruised and battered and passed from one biker to the next, and then re-applying makeup in the fender’s reflection. Like the one who dropped by my office last week, her second skin peeled back to reveal her trinity: Harley, Triumph, BMW. Her name was Lorca, after Garcia Lorca, I hoped, imagining one of his dark Gypsy ballads recited at her conception.chop! chop! read more!