Pandemic literature has been around for centuries, with one of the most popular being Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron. At Electric Literature, Elyse Martin examines how this collection of “medieval Italian sex stories” shows that storytelling is integral to our survival. “The rigid structure of the work—ten characters tell ten stories for ten days—seems at odds both with the chaotic setting of the plague and with the content of the tales,” Martin writes, “where characters tumble from fortune to misfortune to fortune again, with each spin of Fortune’s wheel. But this strict structure is intentional. Just as Boccaccio most likely wrote these tales as a way to understand and also escape the plague, so do his ten storytellers embrace this structure as an escape from the now ordinary chaos of their lives.”
The Asian American Literary Review is releasing their Special Issue Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of September 11 with a launch party this Friday at 7pm in downtown New York at Alwan for the Arts. The 350-page(!) issue has interviews, essays, and first person testimony on 9/11 by South/Asian and Arab American contributors — including Kazim Ali, Amitava Kumar, and Khin Mai Aung from AALDEF (the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund) — several of whom should be at the launch.
“The joy of reading about the meals of others shows that, in many ways, we are simple creatures: by merely looking upon someone else eating we can feel better fed.” In the New Yorker, Bee Wilson considers the “Pleasures of the Literary Meal,” something Seth Sawyers wrote about for the Millions last year.