Josh Bell’s Meditation on Epigraphs

Prompted by a kind rejection from Diagram Magazine,  I wandered over to their page to poke around through their new issue. Josh Bell’s essay, “What Do You Think About My Epigraph?” caught my eye.

Bell’s piece opens with the following epigraph by Lucretius: “It is pleasant, when the sea is high and the wind is dashing the waves about, to sit on shore and watch the struggles of another.” The line sucked me in with juicy expectations of drama and violence and voyeurism, but Bell dashed all my hopes and rebuilt them anew. The essay is an incredible and playful meditation on epigraphs and their history, and it is provocative and thoughtful from beginning to end. I highly recommend it!

Jamie Allen’s Essay in Oxford American

I’m writing a personal essay about visiting houses and castles that have been turned into museums, and one of the buildings I discuss is Hemingway’s old house in Key West. The place is surrounded by Florida greenery; the air is humid; six-toed cats walk the property; and a urinal sits in the back yard, cleverly disguised as a fountain. Basically, it’s one of my favorite places in the world. It’s right up there with the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. And so I was delighted to come across Jamie Allen’s essay, “Incident at the Hemingway House,” in Oxford American. It’s hilarious and detail-packed, and it reaches beyond itself in asking how one’s life should be led in relation to rules and regulations. Below’s the opening, but you can read the rest on the Oxford American website:

Last summer, I took my two teenage kids down to Florida, to the Keys. When we checked in at the airport in Atlanta, an airline employee made an embarrassing breach of etiquette: eyeing the three of us, our broken little unit, she said, “Are we missing someone?” … As we walked to the gate, we came up with a plan in case anyone ever asked that stupid question again. First, I’d do my best to appear as though I’m about to cry. My daughter would say, “Momma got taken in the Rapture.” (She didn’t. We’re still good friends.) And my son would then explain our religious affiliations.

My Personal Essay in Hobart!

I’ve admired Hobart Literary Journal for years now — they always publish such interesting and quirky pieces — and I’m thrilled to say that my personal essay, “Soul Retrieval in the Southwest,” is on their website today. It describes my encounter with a shaman at a party, as well as the hypnosis session that follows. You can read the whole essay on their page, but here’s an excerpt:

People stood and sat around us, sipping cold beer and chatting. Singing Humyn and I began to discuss interpersonal relationships, and I divulged that I was sensitive to the emotional states of others. She told me that I could be a healer then as well. If only I channeled my energies in the right way. The thinker in me flinched at the idea of “energies,” but deep down I was pleased to no end. I imagined myself as a sturdy woman in skirts and silver earrings, pounding the earth with my bare feet in dance. In the fantasy, dark skies churned above my head.

Dan Chaon Story at Burrow Press Review

Today I came across Dan Chaon’s story “I Wake Up” at Burrow Press Review. The story’s narrator, a 25-year-old man who grew up in foster care, reconnects with his biological sister over the phone. The two experienced a traumatic childhood together, and the narrator struggles to remember the details.

I took a master class in fiction with Chaon while I was in the M.F.A. program at Indiana University. I hadn’t read his work before meeting him, but once I did, I was captivated by the clarity of his prose, as well as his fascination with the grotesque. The grotesque in Chaon’s fiction is presented in passing. One seldom looks at it head on. And this technique creates an eeriness that stays with the reader after the story is over. Here’s an excerpt from “I Wake Up,” but you can read the whole story on the Burrow Press Review page:

The day I lost my finger was something like that. One minute I was on the ladder, three stories up, painting along the frame of an old round window near the peak of the house; the next minute a swimmy feeling trickled up my spine and into my brain. The window was empty and then the face of a woman floated up like a transparent reflection on the surface of water, moving toward me, pressing up against the glass, a face like someone who had loved me once, leaning over my bed at night to kiss my hair. I don’t even remember falling, though I recall the feeling as my ring caught against a nail, the finger separating from my body, not so much pain as a kind of gasp. I hit the ground and the wind knocked out of me.

“Snake Fight” Portion of Your Thesis Defense, on McSweeney’s

I’m not going to lie: my interest in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency runs deep. (They are often just so right about so many things!) Today, on their Facebook page, they re-posted a link to an old story by Luke Burns called “FAQ: The ‘Snake Fight’ Portion of Your Thesis Defense.” I’m posting the first Q&A from the story below, but you can read the whole piece on their page.

Q: Do I have to kill the snake?
A: University guidelines state that you have to “defeat” the snake. There are many ways to accomplish this. Lots of students choose to wrestle the snake. Some construct decoys and elaborate traps to confuse and then ensnare the snake. One student brought a flute and played a song to lull the snake to sleep. Then he threw the snake out a window.