Favorite Fiction, Essays, and Poetry of 2017

Throughout the year, I had the best intentions to actually generate some material here on my blog. As a penance for missed time, I thought I’d close out the year by pointing to some favorite reads from 2017. There are two rules here: instead of the traditional “best of” lists that float around, everything on this list is by a person I’ve at least met in real life, and everything was published in 2017. In some cases, these authors are my friends or colleagues. In some instances, they were my teachers or mentors. In other cases, the authors are folks I met briefly—either at conferences, readings, events, what have you. But there was a real-life interaction, no matter what.

Why this kind of faves list? Because even with the super-charged turbines of the social media self-promotion machine, the hype around deserving, compelling, and striking short-form works like poetry, essays, and short fiction tends to run out of fuel pretty quickly. Promotion is hard. Self-promotion is harder. Preserving these intense and gorgeous works of art, harder yet. Still, each of these pieces has lodged itself in my mind, and I hope that, just maybe, there’s a place in your memory for some of these pieces.

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News: “Lucky Strikes” and “Waking the Dreamer”

I’m excited to announce some recent publications! I’m excited to see both of these pieces out in the world. One is a short story, “Lucky Strikes,” which you can find over at Souvenir Lit. (While you’re there, be sure to check out the other fantastic work in the issue!) You can read “Lucky Strikes” here.

The other piece is a work of video game criticism that explores the intersections of ethics in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk from Omelas.” Special thanks to the fine folks at Response, the journal of the Mid-Atlantic Popular Culture Association, for giving this essay an outlet. You can read “Waking the Dreamer: Link’s Awakening, Fantasy Utopias, and the Ethics of Suffering” here.

And maybe, in 2017, I’ll start and keep a regular blogging schedule. Who knows?

News: Sidebar Podcast ep. 1: BK Fischer

I’m excited to announce that a project-in-development is now live! At the Modern Language Studies website, you can find our new fiction and poetry podcast, The Sidebar. For our inaugural episode, I met the poet, editor, and critic BK Fischer at the New York Public Library. Fischer and I talked about her poems in MLS, which perform a feminist remix of Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse.

So why is this podcast called The Sidebar? Each episode will feature a conversation with a poet, fiction writer, translator, etc. who has been published in Modern Language Studies. So our discussions are a sidebar to the work in each issue.

And not to be outdone, the graphic design of the website . . . hosts the podcast in the sidebar! Click here to listen to The Sidebar.

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Parody, Play, and the Dark Knight Detective

I was at a dim sum restaurant with my wife and a few friends yesterday when I learned that Adam West had passed away after a short battle with leukemia. I felt a strange jolt when I heard the news. It wasn’t a surprise, necessarily: West was 88 years old, after all. So I didn’t feel that someone’s time and art had been stolen from us (as has been the case with so many other recent celebrity deaths—Prince, Carrie Fisher, for instance). But I had lost the origins of something conceptual with Adam West’s passing, something that became a portal to my future interests as a writer and a critic.

Adam West was my first introduction to the powers of parody and play. His Batman, in the campy 1960s cult classic, showed my fledgling mind what art can do with a well-timed joke or a subtle tweak of conventions or a quiet disavowal of an audience’s expectations. And it didn’t hurt that Batman was a descendant of—and an ever-evolving riff on—the canons of detective literature. Continue reading

News: Review of Minae Mizumura’s INHERITANCE FROM MOTHER at Necessary Fiction!

My review of Minae Mizumura’s Inheritance from Mother is now up at Necessary Fiction! You can catch the review here.  Small teaser: Mizumura’s heartrending novel about mothers, daughters, and familial duty comes to us in Juliet Carpenter Winters’ breathtaking translation. The book was released by Other Press this May.

And just as important: you can order Inheritance from Mother from your local indie bookstore, Barnes & Noble, or your retailer of choice.

The Book We Need Isn’t Orwell’s 1984

Orwell’s 1984 may provide us with a vocabulary for critiquing the Trump administration. “Double speak,” “thought police”: these and other turns of phrase explain the peculiar and insidious ways in which Trump is gaslighting America. (This is a phenomenon that Lauren Duca has explained, incisively, in Teen Vogue.)

And while we need 1984‘s lexicon of authoritarianism, it’s not the book for our moment.

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News: Review of Dinitia Smith’s THE HONEYMOON at Necessary Fiction

My review of Dinitia Smith’s The Honeymoon has gone live in Necessary Fiction! You can read my review of this novel here. This novel, published by Other Press, meditates on the life and work of the Victorian novelist George Eliot, and it’s a mesmerizing work of biographical/historical fiction. You can find this book online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon, or you can find it in your local indie bookstore.