Elaine’s and the New York I barely knew

by David Alm December 10, 2013

I never had a chance to go to Elaine’s, the famous writers’ haven on the Upper East Side that closed in 2011. But I know its kitschy decor, its tightly packed dining rooms, and even its pay phone. Thanks to Woody Allen. He used Elaine’s in his films, from Manhattan (1979) to Celebrity (1998). It was the perfect […]

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Flying Paper: a film review

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein December 9, 2013
flying paper

I recently watched a screening of the feature-length documentary film Flying Paper, directed by Nitin Sawhney and Roger Hill, at the Downtown Islamic Center in Chicago. Today I’m thinking about people around the world trapped in political nightmares and ideological wars waged beyond anyone’s reach. I’m also thinking about what the arts can do to […]

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To save the humanities, try a little tenderness

by David Alm December 4, 2013

Did you know that only 8 percent of undergraduates major in a humanities discipline like English or philosophy? Or how about the fact that more than half of college professors today are adjunct, or so-called “contingency” faculty? Or what about the hard, cold reality that people who study English or philosophy enter their working lives […]

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If you have a story to tell, just tell it

by David Alm November 8, 2013

A confession: I rarely write if I’m not getting paid for it. So I was humbled earlier this week to attend a reading by a woman I’d never heard of before, but who has built a following that any writer would covet. In the basement of a small independent bookstore in Brooklyn, at least 100 […]

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In defense of unpaid internships

by David Alm October 24, 2013

In 1999, I published my very first article: a 400-word review of a book about Japanese art from 1615 to 1868. It was a catalogue for an exhibition that spring at Yale University, and I got the assignment not because I was an expert on Japanese art, or because I was a student at Yale, or […]

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Rage against the language

by David Alm October 17, 2013

I once knew a guy who thought that when journalists are recognized for outstanding work, they receive a Pewlett Surprise. And who of us didn’t, at some point in life, utter the words “intensive purposes” when we should have said “intents and purposes” instead? Then there’s “should of known,” “supposably,” and the most cited example […]

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Review: A Self Made of Words

by Jeff McMahon October 14, 2013

A Self Made of Words by Carl H. Klaus Iowa, 2013 Recently a Buddhist acquaintance suggested I read Simone Weil because of her work on attention. She writes, for example, that “Absolute undivided attention is prayer,” which lends a Buddhist flavor to her Judeo-Christian theology. Attention can be aimed at anything, after all, not necessarily […]

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Life, works cited

by David Alm October 8, 2013

In her book But Enough About Me, What Do You Think of my Memoir, Nancy K. Miller describes reading as an autobiographical act. The books we read help to define us, she writes, and, in turn, they say something about who we are. In other words, you are what you read. So on this 10th anniversary […]

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Black and White and Blue All Over

by Crista Cloutier October 7, 2013
photo by Crista Cloutier

What’s black and white and blue all over? A magpie! I should know. My best friend was a magpie. We met when I first went to France. Each day I followed the same forest trail that led me to my favorite spot in the world, a hillside abbey built in the 13th century. I loved […]

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How to break up with an island

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein October 6, 2013
2013-03-21 18.31.06

Step #1 — Unfairly blame all your unhappiness on the island. And then realize the island is YOU. Many of us spent our days trying to explain the inexplicable of Zanzibar. A vortex, a magnet, a spell. It’s the tiny island with an epic history, whose trade winds speak the language of spirits. It’s a […]

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Contrary Turns Ten

by Contrary Magazine October 6, 2013

For Contrary’s Tenth Anniversary, the editors compiled top-ten lists of the best works of poetry, fiction, and commentary we’ve published since the magazine’s debut in Autumn 2003. But of course, these lists could never be complete—or even correct. What have we left out? If you have  favorites that you’ve read in Contrary, please let us […]

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Writing your way into college

by David Alm October 1, 2013

Bard College announced this week that it was introducing a new admissions option for prospective students, one devoid of GPAs, test scores, and other stone-cold metrics that, some say, do little to represent a complete human being or how well they’ll actually do in college. Starting next year, smart high schoolers who might not look […]

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You don’t need to study the arts. Or do you?

by David Alm September 20, 2013

He was the last person you’d expect to say that people don’t need to study the humanities. He’s made an entire career out of them — as an educator, as an organizer of public programs, and as a widely published essayist and literary critic. But a little more than a week ago, over a couple […]

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Two degrees, 14 years’ experience, will tweet for food

by David Alm September 9, 2013

I’ll cut to the chase: I’m looking for a job. Specifically, a writing job, or at the very least, one that involves words in one way or another. This could include editing, ghostwriting, or even social media. It’s a depressing process, and I’ll explain why in a moment. But before I do, let me just […]

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Becoming better writers via social media

by David Alm August 19, 2013

Some people (i.e. me) often complain that social media is ruining our attention to detail and appreciation for the craft of good writing. You can just throw something up (double-entendre totally intended) and go back to whatever else you’re doing on those eight other windows you have open in your Web browser. Punctuation? No time! […]

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