Year in Reading alumna Porochista Khakpour has a stunning new story in Bennington Review. She writes, “I had made a point of trying to learn the names of everyone in my department, after my previous department chair at my last VAP job advised ‘best way to make a best impression is know every name of professor and student alike.’” For more of her writing, check out her Millions piece on George Saunders.
Recommended Reading: On lyric essays and trauma at Ploughshares. “I didn’t start writing lyric essays until I found out I had cancer. The melanoma buried in my right cheek was at first missed, and then misdiagnosed in its severity. Clark’s stage IV, they told me. Likely in my lymph nodes, but they wouldn’t know until my third surgery, the excision and biopsy.”
The book club has turned into a form of protest. Inspired by “The Standing Man,” the Turkish demonstrator who stood for six hours in a silent vigil, protesters are silently standing while reading books. The Al Jazeera photo-essay shows Nietzsche, Camus, and Orwell as popular picks.
Writing a novel is an all-consuming project, so can you imagine not telling anyone? At The New York Times, Alice Mattison discusses keeping her novels secrets until at least the third draft. "If I talk about the book, I believe — I cannot help believing — my characters will be angry, and will no longer confide in me about their embarrassing, troubled lives." On another side of the secrecy spectrum, Emma Straub writes about what it's like to keep a personal secret even as her literary life was booming.
"'I just want to be normal,' she said, even though she had amazing powers and a super-family and was mega-gorgeous and better than normal in every way and the entire book would be terrible if she were normal and she had no conception of what normal was to begin with." At The Toast, Mallory Ortberg lists flaws only a protagonist could have.
Over at The New Inquiry, Alison Kinney writes on narrative opportunity, the true function of the literary orphan, and the rage of the real orphan. This moving piece by Matthew Salesses for The Millions on adoption and searching for oneself in a strange place is a nice complement.