Category: Life

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The Real Real Deal

If one could add the entirety of what we can see and what we can’t — the supplicant on a rant, matter dark, unknowable, persistent bitterness neat and stowable – what we would be forced to examine are children wrenched by famine, a panoply of catastrophes, like man-made war, man-made disease. We might also deign to look...

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“Nothing But Gifts,” by Edwin Dobb

Published in the current issue of Harper’s Magazine, the essay “Nothing But Gifts,” by Edwin Dobb, is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing we’ve lately had the pleasure of reading. Discursive and tangential in form, the essay nonetheless always returns to the author’s central inquiry: What does it mean to choose to love? The adoptive...

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Three Versions of Happiness

1) Refrain from seeking happiness. Be happiness. 2) Become the cause of happiness in others. 3) All right. That’s marvelous in theory. But how do you go on when every morning brings news of the intolerable, the intolerable that we all tolerate? How do you consciously continue the divine comedy, momentarily detouring Dante’s hoary inferno...

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Sarah McCartt-Jackson’s “Stonelight”

“Stonelight,” the debut collection from Appalachian poet Sara McCarrt-Jackson, is as plain and unfussy as West Virginia dirt. Seldom have poems of such beauty and human sentiment proclaimed themselves so simply and directly. Shale, coal, rocks, stones — the minerals McCarrt-Jackson’s miners seek have a talismanic power, which the poet translates into the music of...

The Meditation Shield

People who have a meditation practice — doesn’t matter what kind or style — make a conscious decision to put their focus on something specific: breath going in and out; a mantra; waves arriving and receding. Thoughts come and go. Things happen or don’t. And the meditator observes them all. When you’re traveling on the...

Better, From Several Perspectives

When a business owner replaces employees with automation — machines, robots, computers — the effects radiate in two opposite directions. On one hand, the employees (and their families), have less, since they no longer draw a paycheck. On the other, the owners (and their shareholders) have more, because lower payroll means higher profits. A dear...

Space Force: An Open Letter from the Intergalactic Federation

Dear President Trump and Vice-President Pence and Other Inhabitants of Planet Earth, It has come to our attention — and sorry for the delay; light can only go so fast — creatures from the planet Earth wish to establish a so-called Space Force, militarizing areas of the universe that are not currently part of planet...

The Mind’s I

We recently encountered the 1981 anthology “The Mind’s I,” by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett, and we’re pretty sure our brain will never be quite the same. The collection contains “fantasies and reflections on self and soul” expressed in essays, stories and one-act plays that work as literary thought experiments meant to refine (define?) our understanding...

Valerie Fox’s “Insomniatic”

Half way through Valerie Fox’s sensational poetry chapbook “Insomniatic,” it dawned on me that her poems are funny — effortlessly. They’re not jokey or gimmicky, so why all the deep humor? Because they’re remarkably real, and each person’s version of reality is usually the darkest and brightest comedy of all. Fox’s work has an undercurrent of...

Tyrese Coleman’s “How to Sit”

Offered as a “memoir in stories and essays,” the debut book from Tyrese Coleman, “How to Sit,” blurs the lines between genres and categories, focusing, instead, on searingly honest recollection of a childhood — and a life — shaped by unreliable women and predatory men. Coleman’s prose is spare, direct, powerful. “I am the product...