One of the most challenging tasks for any writer is evoking the physicality of life using only words on a page. With his new book The Archeology of a Good Ragù: Discovering Naples, My Father and Myself, John Domini does exactly that. Simultaneously a concise history of Domini’s family, a portrait of contemporary Naples, and an exploration of the region’s food and art, the book seamlessly moves from one topic to the next, memorably evoking a holistic sense of the minutiae of life. Domini and I chatted via email about the long process of writing this book and how it connects to his other works.
Few essayists blend the cerebral and the visceral the way that Melissa Wiley does in her work. Her latest collection, Skull Cathedral: A Vestigial Anatomy brings together a host of works inspired in various ways by vestigial organs. It builds on the work in her previous collection, Antlers in Space and Other Common Phenomena, which wrestles with mortality and humanity, along with the complexities of both. I spoke with Wiley to learn more about the genesis of both books and what’s next for her.
CHASE GRIFFIN is an author from Florida whose debut novel, What’s on the Menu?, was published by Long Day Press. You can find his writing in Oyez Review, Fugitives and Futurists, Funny Looking Dog Quarterly, Sobotka Literary Magazine, Maudlin House, Breadcrumbs Magazine, and elsewhere. The Rocco Atleby Foundation, the podcast he produces with his partner, Christina Quay, can be streamed on Spotify and Apple.
Have you ever seen a ghost? Or heard one? Maybe not. But perhaps you’ve had some experience or other you couldn’t easily explain, some weird occurrence which you mull on even now. Did it happen the way you remember? Or did you imagine it? That ambiguity, unfocused and inconclusive, is the essence of what we think of as the supernatural.
Early in John Brandon’s fourth novel, Ivory Shoals—a spirited remaking of the prodigal-son parable set in the American South during the final days of the Civil War—twelve-year-old Gussie Dwyer has come to collect the savings his recently deceased mother, Lavina, entrusted with her long-time employer, Rye. Rye delays this encounter, leaving the boy to wait awkwardly in the barroom, a foreign space reserved for hardened men and the working women looking to entertain them. Out of economic desperation, Lavina had turned to prostitution to support her family.
Class and privilege; morality and identity. These are all themes that have fueled novelists and storytellers over the years. But it’s difficult to think of a novel that’s used them in quite the same combination as Virtue, Hermione Hoby‘s new novel. At its center is a young man named Luca, who works as an intern at a prestigious literary magazine and falls into the orbit of two successful artists, Paula and Jason, who are several years his senior. Hoby’s novel offers a stunning take on recent history and a haunting look at interpersonal connections. I spoke with Hoby via email to learn more about how Virtue came to be.
Kai Carlson-Wee’s poetry and filmmaking explore a kind of restlessness that manifests itself in many forms. Robert Bly called his book Rail ” strong and inspired,” and his short documentary film Riding the Highline has won several awards since its release in 2015. What’s behind these different artistic impulses, and where do they converge? Chaya Bhuvaneswar spoke with Carlson-Wee to learn more about these forays into multiple artistic disciplines.
In our afternoon reading: thoughts on Jeffrey Ford’s new collection, an interview with Kiese Laymon, and more.