Applying Emerson to Post-Pandemic Friendships

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At The New Yorker, Jane Hu reflects on how the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson have allowed her to see post-pandemic friendships in a new light. “To be decent to one of your friends, Emerson suggests, is to be decent to all of them,” Hu writes. “This might sound obvious, but its logic lately has played out for me during quarantine, when anxious projections and ungenerous readings haunted too many interactions. Shit-talking can be a bonding mechanism; but let us do it with, not about, our friends. Emerson’s ecosystem of equitable friendships offers a cautionary tale for social distancing, when many of us felt increasingly at odds with another, our inequalities sharply revealed.”

Image credit: J. H. Wade Fund

In Search of the Impossible with Sabrina Orah Mark

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At the Creative Independent, Sabrina Orah Mark shares how her writing style evolved over the years, and how the blurring of poetry and prose gave her freedom to explore. “I think when I started writing prose poems,” Mark says, “that was when I felt like I could have the real and the unreal live inside of a little box together. Charles Simic talks about the prose poem as being this impossible form. It’s the coming together of prose and poetry and it shouldn’t exist, but it does. And finding that form allows for this marvel, for the impossible to live inside of a space. And that was really how I accessed that aesthetic or mindset or dream I was always after.”

Kristen Arnett Seeks the Unreliable Narrator in Every Family

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At Autostraddle, Kristen Arnett discusses the inspiration behind her latest novel, With Teeth, and her ongoing obsession with dysfunctional families. “I’m obsessed with writing about families and thinking about families because families are so fucked up,” Arnett says. “It’s the most fun thing to write about. Every family, even families that are doing okay, have some fucked up elements to them. So I wanted to write about lesbians who were obviously very fucked up in their family and what that looks like both from the outside and what that looks like from the inside. Think about it this way — everybody in a family is an unreliable narrator. Even families who share the same stories don’t tell those stories in the same way. I wanted it to be this claustrophobic, sometimes terrifying, feeling story of how motherhood and queerness in this specific space could feel weirdly oppressive. You don’t understand yourself and the dysfunction gets to a point where it turns into this cyclical bad way to behave.”

Sam Bett and David Boyd Translate New and Familiar Voices

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At Full Stop, Sam Bett and David Boyd discuss the process of translating the works of Kawakami Mieko and how they approach presenting her work to a spectrum of readers. “Translations are often talked about as offering a different voice from a different place,” Bett says, “but a book that feels like a new world to one reader might feel like home to another. I think we need to translate for readers who find the work to be familiar as much as for those who find it distinct from their lived experience.”

The Gift of Creativity from Eric Carle

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At the Los Angeles Times, artists reflect on the enduring legacy of children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle, whose spellbinding images and narratives captured readers’ imaginations for generations. “Carle’s ultimate gift was the idea of creation,” Daric Cottingham says, “the notion that every transformation in life is the invention of something new. When I grew older and became an uncle, I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to my niece and nephew, who will continue to pass it on — sparking new generations of creation and change, a gift that won’t stop giving.”

Amy Tan on the Importance of Imagined Listeners

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At Harpers Bazaar, Alexandra Chang interviews Amy Tan on a recently documentary made about her life, as well as the enduring legacy of her debut novel, The Joy Luck Club. “When I started writing The Joy Luck Club, for some of the stories, I imagined what my mother was trying to say to me,” Tan explains. “One of the stories, ‘Magpies,’ was about the girl who goes to live with her mother and this rich man her mother has married as his fourth wife, who later kills herself after her son was born. That is probably the most factually true story. That was the one where I tried to very much imagine my mother’s voice telling me this story and what it means. It’s been a constant learning experience about the importance of the imagined listener. It has to be somebody who knows what I’m capable of understanding and then helping me to understand.

T Kira Madden Revels in the Tedium of a Good Recipe

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At Catapult, T Kira Madden discusses her favorite foods, and why soup in particular plays a prominent role in her memoir, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls. “Soup is incredible because I love—as any of my friends will say—I love tedium,” Madden says. “Tell me anything in excruciating detail, all the steps, every step, and the many reasons why something interacts with something else. It’s how I’ve lulled myself out of anxiety or panic attacks. It’s how I’ve managed depression.[…] Soup, of all things—at least the soups I like to make—require careful thought and order. I love understanding that order of flavor development, understanding why something should be salted or roasted first, why something else could fall apart. It’s a step-by-step thing, with this gorgeous result at the end, and you can taste those many layers and flavors.

Randa Jarrar Confronts America’s Amnesia

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At Electric Literature, Randa Jarrar discusses her memoir, Love Is an Ex-Country, and the importance of confronting America’s history in order to grow from past mistakes. “A big part of my book is about the amnesia of America,” Jarrar says. “We are constantly at a time where we have to remind each other, ‘This has happened before. It didn’t work. Who is this benefiting?’ We can’t individually make change. We have to make it as a community.”

C Pam Zhang’s Emotional and Psychic Home

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Lithub has an excerpt from C Pam Zhang’s appearance on the Thresholds podcast with Jordan Kisner, where she discusses how her idea of home has shifted since the release of her novel, How Much of These Hills Is Gold. “I’ve come to terms with the fact that this idea of home is going to be more of an emotional and a psychic idea for me,” Zhang says. “I may never have the luxury of claiming an entire country or even an entire city as the place where I feel completely at home. I think that home is, as sappy as it sounds, it is people. It’s individual living rooms of friends. It’s communities, maybe internet communities; the people who just get what I get and have had similar lived experiences.”

Toasted Cheese, Just Like Jane Austen Liked

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Want to take your Jane Austen fandom to a new level? At the Guardian, Alison Flood dives into a “household book” that will be published as a color facsimile by the Bodleian Library. Written by a close family friend, Martha Lloyd’s Household Book includes favorite recipes from the Austen estate, handwritten by Lloyd herself. “If you read every recipe, you can see that ingredients come from around the globe,” editor Julienne Gehrer says, “but the vast majority were grown, raised or sourced locally: eggs, cream, butter, pork, poultry, mutton, beef, venison. Fruits were from the nearby orchard or soft fruit bushes. Vegetables and herbs were from the kitchen garden. Today, if you cook extensively from Martha’s book, you’ll do a fine job at supporting local agriculture.”

Image credit: Evert Augustus Duyckinck