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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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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Philip Roth is most definitely NOT on Twitter

by David Alm December 28, 2012

If you, like many other people — including some seasoned reporters at the New York Times — were relieved to learn that you could keep reading new content from Philip Roth following the 79-year-old author’s retirement from novel writing through Twitter, I have some bad news. The real Philip Roth — yes, him — has […]

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Can we love fiction once we’re no longer seeking answers?

by David Alm December 26, 2012

I once asked my father, who had majored in English, gotten his master’s degree in English, and for years had dreams of being a full professor of English before he decided (wisely) to pursue a more stable career instead, why he no longer read novels. I was in college at the time, and just discovering […]

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Your thoughts on Adrienne Rich, please

by David Alm March 29, 2012

I first learned about Adrienne Rich, who died on Tuesday at her home in Santa Cruz, CA, at the age of 82, in college almost 20 years ago. I was 18, and many of my professors adored Rich. They taught entire courses about her, or at least included her poems on their syllabi, and by […]

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The literary ghosts of New York City

by David Alm December 20, 2011

I had no idea what to expect. A holiday party for ghostwriters sounds like scene in a Woody Allen movie from the late 80s. A bunch of disgruntled, hyper-cerebral guys in well-worn corduroy jackets sipping G&Ts and swapping stories about dropping acid with Cary Grant or Henry Kissinger’ s bathroom habit s. So as I […]

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UT acquires Coetzee’s archives, giving this reader pause

by David Alm October 14, 2011

The University of Texas at Austin announced this week that its Ransom Center will acquire the archives of South African novelist J.M. Coetzee. Coetzee received his PhD in English, linguistics, and Germanic languages at Austin, where he wrote his dissertation on the early fiction of Samuel Beckett, in 1969. The 71-year-old author has lived in […]

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What are you reading?

by David Alm September 26, 2011

One of the arguments against e-readers is that you can’ t see wha t other people are reading anymore. It used to be that you’d spot an interesting-looking person on the train, or at a cafe, or wherever, and take a minute to check out the cover of their book of choice. Now, all you […]

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Readers rescue us

by Jeff McMahon June 30, 2011

[capti on id=”attachment_2694″ align=”alignright” width=”300″ caption=”By fox_kiyo via flickr”][/caption] When we published the summer issue of Contrary two days ago, we had less than $2 in the bank. We’ve been scraping by since the recession hit, but this marked the first time we had published an issue without knowing how we’d pay for it. Scary, […]

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Philip Roth is done with fiction

by David Alm June 28, 2011

“Either foreswear fucking others or the affair is over,” said Drenka Balich to her lover, Mickey Sabbath, at the start of Philip Roth’s 1995 book, Sabbath’s Theater. That book began a streak of award-winning novels for the author, earning him every major literary prize in the world of literary prizes. In the p ast 50 ye […]

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Starting out

by Annie Murphy June 8, 2011

Yesterday, the Summer Fiction Issue of the New Yorker arrived. I think I may have squealed. The table of contents listed the nonfiction of Jhumpa Lahiri and Aleksandar Hemon and Vladimir Nabokov; essays on “Starting Out,” or becoming a writer, by Jennifer Egan, Junot Diaz, Edward P. Jones, and Tea Obreht; and the fiction of […]

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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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Wendell Berry

by Michael Washburn March 10, 2011

Last week President Obama awarded the National Humanities Medal to nine distinguished recipients. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal recipients included “….novelists Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates; historians Bernard Bailyn, Jacques Barzun and Gordon Wood; Library of America founding President Daniel Aaron; biographer and critic Arnold Rampersad; American Council of Learned Societies President Stanley Nider Katz; […]

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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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