While I’m excited that nerdiness has finally become a badge of honor of sorts, I’m more concerned that the term “nerd” has been watered-down to something so easily achievable that anyone with a few spare hours to devout to his latest interest can proudly proclaim himself one. Somehow people are confusing “liking something” with “being a nerd about it.”
thekenyonreview
Writing is a compulsion for me, although as compulsions go, it’s a pretty healthy one. Even though it’s a challenging process, writing tends to be a source of pleasure and peace of mind. I am powerful and in control as a writer in ways that I never feel in the rest of my life (at my day job, in my relationships, etc). So it’s a very important part of my life.
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I think one of the greatest gifts writers can give each other is the act of simple witness. To say to each other: I believe you and I believe in you and I want you to keep on keeping on because that’s the only way. Write that story or poem or essay or novel or play or advice column that you feel compelled to write, no matter what the market says.
Perhaps it is our longing
to see the part that sees
coaxed out from its place
of hiding, like the shadow
page you soon will turn
to lay upon another.
Perhaps there is a bone
to mend, a heart we hardened
when we were far away.
The past is always out there—
we know that—and never is.
Forgiveness is difficult
for this reason. And sweet.
You see it everywhere,
the dead hand that brought you
into the world, the birth
cry you cannot remember.
Somewhere a wasp unzips
the air and we pass through.
No, you have never passed
this way before. And yet
this particular spoon,
with the ceiling fan
spinning in its eye,
is on the verge of something,
confessing its attachment,
taking you, like some
drunk exaggeration, back.
Try, it says, to feed
yourself in both worlds,
to give to both, fit in,
and so move about more
freely. As if we might
forget when we are
thinking of forgetting.
Or look a little closer
by looking at the act
of looking. We might, you know.
Try, say all the fathers
with their dying and ours,
to blaze without burning,
the way one sun blazes
with many suns, and none
so blinding as today.
Our poem of the week is Bruce Bond’s “Déjà Vu.”
Americans love talking about happiness. When you think about it, especially as a writer, having language such as “the pursuit of happiness” put into a government document is curious. My old mentor, Lee K. Abbott, would call that a “stout stake” that makes a narrative promise that you, as writer, better deliver. I’ll keep the cultural commentary to a minimum here, but when a nebulous and temporary state called “happiness” is part of your national heritage for nearly three hundred years, the tendency to avoid sadness, fear, embarrassment, pain, disquiet, vulnerability, and restlessness becomes normal. It’s why so many books by American writers are interior and focused on the individual. It’s why so many books by American writers (and the writing workshops where the foundation of these books are birthed) feel like therapy.

So, you’re picking up author Colson Whitehead from the airport for a a reading before taking him to dinner and conducting an interview. You’re a huge fan and you’re super excited about the opportunity, but also a bit nervous. Relax. You need not worry. You’re going to ace the assignment. The main thing you need to be concerned with is having a kickass playlist going on the tape deck when you rolled up to the terminal and I’m here to help. I offer no guarantees, but with some deductive reasoning, intuition, and internet sleuthing I think we can manage something that leaves everyone comfortable.”

So You’re Picking Up Colson Whitehead From the Airport by Wes Hazard

I am cautiously thrilled about this: partially, I am wary of labeling anything the token group that we’re going to pay attention to this season because they won’t shut up if we don’t, goodness!, and because it risks falling into stereotypes of what we think a woman is – Vice with their candid assurance that women like clothing so much they’ll be willing to buy and gawk at the stocking of a famous suicide – while entirely ignoring her lived and written reality.

#readwomen2014 by Alison Balaskovits

Where is the military genius to grasp this terrible engine?
Winchester wrote. This gun that can be loaded
on Sunday and fired all week. This gun that makes a man


the equal of a company each minute, a regiment in ten,
a full brigade in thirty. This daylight full of lead—
where is the genius to grasp it? This terrible engine


that can sink in a river, fire like it’s never been
wet? A resolute man on horseback can travel West
for a month of Sundays: this gun makes a man


always ready. So He Cannot Be Captured. No weapon
more effective in the world, its aim more deft.
Where is the military genius to grasp this terrible engine—


to look past its sometime misfires, its uneven
first trials? To see like history it repeats itself (and yes,
sometimes stutters). To fire the gun makes a man


almost certain of safety. Against grizzly or Injun,
unequaled. Loaded safe as a church nave. And yet
where is the military genius to grasp this terrible engine?
Load it on Sunday; fire all week. This gun makes a man.

Our poem of the week is Alexandra Teague’s “Repeater

I’m not sure where all these misconceptions of literary writing comes from, but it certainly isn’t reflected in what good literary magazines actually publish. Strong, memorable stories break all sorts of rules and conventions. Sure, any of the items from the previous paragraph can be in good stories. But in the stories that struggle to be literary (and you can think of other tropes, too; it would be a long list), those characteristics are the entire story. There’s nothing else there. The stories that end up getting published are the ones that transcend those conventions, and explore the narrative and emotional depths of a story in a way the imitators cannot.
Death’s unfixedness online suggests we don’t quite yet live in an Internet culture, though we say we do. The Internet Age won’t truly have arrived until social media accommodates the whole of human life, of which death is a fundamental part. But the small and strange ways in which death does appear online permit us a glimpse of what a real Internet culture may look like when it comes. What follows is an unfamiliar history of the Internet, one that tracks death’s so-far limited influence on online culture. Through this history, we can glimpse the future of social media, a future in which death makes room for itself in a culture that failed to make room for it

Alexander Landfair: “Facebook of the Dead

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A writer I very much admire is Don DeLillo. At an awards ceremony for him at the Folger Library several years ago, I said that he was like a great shark moving hidden in our midst, beneath the din and wreck of the moment, at apocalyptic ease in the very elements of our psyche and times that are most troublesome to us, that we most fear. Why do I write? Because I wanna be a great shark too. Another shark. A different shark, in a different part of the ocean. The ocean is vast.
Joy Williams, “Uncanny Singing That Comes from Certain Husks” (via mttbll)
What I didn’t learn until after was just how special The Review was, and how lucky I was to be a part of it. How the editors entrusted both undergraduates and graduate students with autonomy and responsibility and how all of us were encouraged to run with our ideas with confidence that we had the complete support of the letterhead staff to make The Review better.