language

The listicle as literature (?)

by David Alm January 21, 2014
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I am to the listicle what my parents were to the Beastie Boys. When I was 11 years old, in 1986, I thought the Beasties were the greatest musicians of all time, and yes, I was including Beethoven, the Beatles, and Simon & Garfunkel in that valuation. My parents, meanwhile, laughed and rolled their eyes, […]






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How to break up with an island

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein October 6, 2013
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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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To write well, first tune out the clatter — if you can

by David Alm April 30, 2013
woman-reading

What’s the difference between good writing and everything else? At the risk of sounding pedantic, I’ll offer this: specificity. You have to know what you’re writing and why. This doesn’t mean you have to know the exact form your writing will take before you lay down the first sentence, but at the very least, you […]






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French History for Foreigners

by Becca Rose Hall September 28, 2012

I just went to my first-ever football game: my friend Scout’s high school students getting whupped by a fancy private school with cheerleading boxes. Look at them, we kept saying as the score hit the mid-thirties to zero, they have cheerleading boxes. I felt, before I went, that I kind of knew what football was […]






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A very short story with 14 words you’ve never seen before

by David Alm July 11, 2012

This story, which I wrote this morning and for which I do not expect to win any literary awards, contains 14 words that no one (except maybe Vladimir Nabokov) has used in the past 100 years. I found them in a list of “old-timey” words that should be brought back into fashion, and they really […]






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Antioxidants and Great House

by Annie Murphy August 3, 2011
Great-House

“Great Grapes: Score another point for resveratrol, the antioxidant found in red grapes and red wine. Basque researchers have shown that, in mice and men, it blocks lipid accumulation …” (48 Psychology Today 7-8/11). Is this literary ? Something about it struck me. I wondered why readers of Psychology Today would notice and/or find interesting […]






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Live from the sky: liminal notes and observations from Addis to D.C.

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein June 5, 2011

These notes have been written between countries — in that space beyond countries — where borders are only imagined and the world below looks like a pregnant map relieved of all its flatness. I’m writing in that mildly frantic but sleepy traveler’s space: counting backwards to determine local time, attempting to reconcile body with mind, and telling […]






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MANENO — a few words on the making of Stone Town’s monthly poetry reading series

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein May 21, 2011

Where were all the poets and writers in Zanzibar? Where were those wordsmiths hiding? Throughout my first year in Zanzibar, I may have been living inside the poem that is this island, but I’d stopped writing poetry, and I felt like the proverbial fish out of water. I’d defined myself as a poet and writer […]






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Langston Hughes in Paradise

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein May 12, 2011

In the later part of his life, the poet Langston Hughes made several trips to Africa, presenting and leading writing workshops all the way from Nigeria to Uganda. Some say he emerged as an official celebrity in Africa when, in Senegal, he delivered a pivotal speech entitled “Black Writers in a Troubled World,” declaring that […]






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Language lessons from the Supreme Court

by David Alm March 2, 2011

Go English! More specifically, go language geeks, wherever they may be. In this case, they’re in the Supreme Court, which ruled this week that AT&T may not claim exemption from the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds that it is a corporation, and thus, a “person.” While corporations are technically treated as persons, with […]






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Alphabet power and orthographic ghosts: The short story of Swahili script

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein March 2, 2011

In Swahili, uhai means “life.” In Hebrew, it’s chai. In Arabic, it’s haiya. So there it is, life itself braided into three languages entangled with my own history as an American Jew strangely drawn to life in East Africa. I often explain my ability to speak Swahili as some wacky fallout of a liberal arts […]






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