In the Event of Contact

My partner asked recently what I look for most when reading short story collections. What’s most compelling? Is it character? Playfulness in form or structure? The cohesive whole created by the range of stories? It’s never just one thing, is it? The voice and humor in Bryan Washington’s collection Lot blew me away. The granular […]

The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway

There is something quite private about annotating a book. Without thought to publication, writing in the margins is an act of confidence; there is the possibility of glibness, or pretention, or completely banal questions that we wouldn’t typically offer up in public. We are able to argue with every page of Plato, if we so […]

The Silk Road

The characters of Kathryn Davis’ The Silk Road read as metaphorical appendages to one body. In a yoga studio called “the labyrinth,” the eight practitioners move through their poses in unison, cautious not to draw the ire of their enigmatic instructor. While rousing from a final, collective meditation, the group encounters a problem: one of […]

The Clarity of Hunger

Cheryl Pappas’s debut flash fiction collection, The Clarity of Hunger, explores longing of all kinds. The sixteen stories range from traditional narratives, to fables, to hermit crab fiction—each with striking images and uncluttered, lyrical prose. While some of Pappas’s characters yearn quietly, others seethe before taking radical action to reclaim their lives. All endure the […]

Alien Stories

In Alien Stories, Nigerian-born E. C. Osondu collects playful parables of immigrants and exotic cultures, all of which orbit a vague idea that there might be something “else” out there, a life somewhere that’s different from our own. While the title is an easy bit of wordplay (Osondu not-so-subtly captures the overlay between the “aliens” […]

The Perfect Nine

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is, by both artistic and political measures, one of the most important writers of the last fifty years. A novelist, playwright, and essayist, he is often cited as the first East African writer to be published in English, but the most revolutionary aspect of his vast body of work was his turn, […]

Scuttling and Creeping

Scuttling and Creeping Photo by Image Catalog Through the dark one-way mirror, I watched a group of toddlers shoving squishy foam cars along a rug, their faces grim with concentration. Another group was piled in and around the lap of a sturdy woman reading a picture book. And in back, on a wooden loft, a […]