On January 26th, Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell stole the stage at the Grammy awards collecting a total of 5 Grammys, including the most prestigious award of ‘Album of the Year’ for their 2019 album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Billie and Finneas entirely produced and wrote the album (with mixing and mastering by Rob Kinelski and John Greenham). Apart from all of the wonderful accolades, awards, and personal stories behind this masterful album, there’s something completely missing from mainstream praise and reviews of this record: its dense narrative and compelling themes.
A caveat: Foreign Bodies is Kimiko Hahn’s tenth collection of poetry, but it’s the first and only one that I’ve read. By my own standards as a critic, this lack of familiarity with a writer’s work usually disqualifies me as a reviewer of one of their books. The only exception I make for this is when I read a book that is so fantastic and exhilarating and rich that I’m compelled to write less of a review and more of a celebration, a fan’s note, a paean to a particular book’s achievements. This is one of those cases.
At what point does fiction become horror fiction? Is there some immutable border, some checklist of elements to be tallied, that propels a particular story or novel out of the realm of the disconcerting and into that of the outright horrific? Certain notable collections, including Jac Jemc’s False Bingo and Amelia Gray’s Gutshot find a balance between deft narrative construction and something both ineffable and unspeakable. That’s the space in which Natanya Ann Pulley’s new collection With Teeth occupies as well: meticulously written, while all the while abounding with glimpses of the bizarre and brutal.
To be a part of the literary community over the last few weeks has involved seeing months’ worth of events rescheduled, canceled, or shifted online. In some cases, this has been due to precautions taken to prevent coronavirus infection; in others, it’s due to writers canceling book tours. The Loft’s Wordplay Festival is shifting from an in-person event to one that will take place in a host of online spaces, for instance. As writers, publishers, and event planners look out at this shifting landscape, a host of questions come to mind. If events aren’t feasible right now, are there alternatives? Are live-streamed readings and discussions the new normal when it comes to literary events? Is there a way to capture that same sense of community that the best literary events held in a physical space can accomplish?
Dear friends of my mother live in francophone Europe, where the currents of post-war diaspora deposited them. They have one child, and he died in his 20s. He was a non-blood cousin, distantly perfect—in musical ability, marks, temperament. Through Notes from an Apocalypse, I thought about catastrophe and bereavement and him. I thought about tragedy and scale, about the circumstances of my U.S. citizenship and my parents as Vietnamese youth in the 1970s, and about how cruelly cases I’ve read for law school teem with injury and death, the phrase “could not recover for loss of companionship.” I remembered my cousin having been mourned and gone before I was even a teenager, and I was going to write something neatly connected, revoltingly so, to having watched personal apocalypse in one’s family, in periphery. I remembered my feet dangling during the announcement. Abject smallness. Upon resurrecting the whole memory for inspection, though, I found that I’d been in college, the summer after my first year. 17, the body in that memory gradually became—I’d had a first drink, many; a first kiss. I remember now a hotel bedspread in central California, dry-heaving at the revelation that my parents hadn’t told me when he died, for fear of burdening me.
The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.
In rural India, Doctor Saheb and his loyal pharmacist struggle to keep a small practice afloat. They face the impossible task of keeping their office sterile with only limited resources, barely enough to service the community, let alone keep the natural world at bay. The operating theater needs to be regularly fumigated to keep the roaches out. Doctor Saheb has begun to grow weary of the constant pendulum swing between being the only surgeon serving an entire village and the lack of support from the bureaucrats in the government. His hair is graying and his patience is thinning. It is after a long day of administering the few polio drops he’s been given to the village children that he receives visitors that have arrived just before closing: a man who claims to be a teacher, his pregnant wife, and their young son. Despite Doctor Saheb’s dismissal of them, they claim to have an emergency that cannot wait, and one that can’t be spoken of in public. It isn’t until they display their wounds to him that he understands that this situation is not a garden-variety malady that can wait until morning. With the wounds this family has, they should not be alive. The teacher explains, as best he can, that they are the living dead, and unless Saheb repairs their wounds by morning, they will die all over again.
We’re pleased to publish Joseph Di Prisco’s introduction to the new anthology Simpsonistas: Tales from the Simpson Literary Project (Vol. 2). Di Prisco edited the volume; he’s also the Founding Chair of The Simpson Literary Project. The Simpson Literary Project has two objectives: “lasting educational outreach into schools, universities, and libraries, as well as celebrating and supporting authors across a great spectrum: from fledging young writers to mid-career writers of distinction to internationally celebrated authors.” In this essay, Di Prisco explores the recent state of literature and the work this nonprofit is doing.