Alissa Hattman on Creating the Post-Apocalyptic World of “Sift”

Alissa Hattman

Near the beginning of Alissa Hattman’s novel Sift, Tortula reflects on Death, which to her is both miraculous and everyday. (Literally: Sift is about two women, traveling through a choked and smoky post-apocalyptic landscape in search of food and rest.) In the next paragraph, Tortula says, “I know, in that moment, we are going to die.” The next chapter is just one sentence: “Then, a horrible accident—we survive.” I love these moves, which feel beautiful and true to me—one, that a character can die and not (because you do go on, even when you can’t, not because you learn to suck it up, but because the world continues), and two, fragments that mean differently, depending on the light. Did we survive despite the horrible accident? Or is the accident our survival? Does it matter? Not, I think, as much as the question.

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“Dark Park” and the end of the end of the world

"Dark Park" tour banner

Apocalypse! There are lots of possible scenarios—the “Don’t Look Up” one, where a massive comet strikes the earth like a fist; Ragnarök, where the gods die too (sorry, Loki); the slow iron decadence of Kali Yuga; the Christian Rapture, with its “See you in hell, from heaven!” schadenfreude—but they all pretty much agree that A Big Thing is going to happen, and then you’ll see: we’ll all see. And our own unsettled moment of climate catastrophe and virus and political convulsion invites the constant rolling question, Is this it? is this it? Is this the end of the world?

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Double-Entendres, Secret Histories, and Marilyn Monroe: Helene Stapinski on “The American Way”

Helene Stapinski

On a rainy morning in New York’s Greenwich Village I meet up with journalist and memoirist Helene Stapinski to talk about her new book, The American Way. We’re sitting at a small window table in Caffé Reggio and together we imagine how its old-world atmosphere would have reminded Jules Schulback – her story’s hero – of the coffee houses he frequented as a young man in his native Berlin, the city he loved and didn’t want to leave. Stapinski muses that it’s quite possible Schulback had been to Caffé Reggio after having fled the Nazis to settle in New York City. Stapinski is her usual voluble self, eager to expound on her protagonist’s inspiring life, while recalling anecdotes about her research and collaboration with his grand-daughter, graphic artist Bonnie Siegler, with whom she wrote the book. 

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Notes On Big Joanie’s “Back Home”

Big Joanie

All photos by Edwina Hay

“We’re a Black, feminist punk band. That means we’re trans revolutionaries. That means we’re Black revolutionaries. That means we’re feminist revolutionaries. And, this is the real test,” drummer Chardine Taylor-Stone pauses for effect, “we’re working class revolutionaries.” 

Big Joanie are everything they claim to be and more. Their lyrics are reflective and probing, digging deep and pulling us into the ups and downs of relationships and self-identity. On stage they maintain that sense of intimacy while building a big, welcoming tent. People lost their minds when the British trio performed at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn. The club buzzed with anticipation long before Big Joanie played. Even as the opening band, Frida Kill, ripped through their own sizzling set, they made it clear they were just as excited as the rest of us to see Big Joanie. Early in Frida Kill’s set guitarist Lily Gist declared, “We’re from here. Big Joanie is from across the pond. I’m going to hype them up the whole set!”

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Helen Schulman Humanizes a #metoo Villain in “Lucky Dogs”

"Lucky Dogs" cover


Helen Schulman’s Lucky Dogs beguiles readers with its profane bluntness and spellbinding cast as it explores and exposes the misogyny of the Harvey Weinstein trials. Meredith (a fictionalized Rose McGowan) and the victim of Weinstein (“The Rug,”) writes that during the assault, The Rug’s “pubes got in my mouth. I felt that hair on my tongue for like the next six weeks.” Schulman’s instinct to revel in irreverence is part of what makes Lucky Dogs an electrifying read.

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