“The sorcery of grief and illness is powerful, an unstoppable tale at the end of which all people don’t emerge, or else they stumble into a fierce light, wholly changed. I’m sitting in the garden, but in my mind I’m in the glass gallery with the parts Frida left behind, the parts that didn’t die with her, that the public will inherit: her legs, her rings, her winged corsets, the ragged and miraculously preserved artifacts of her disappeared body. Is it her pain, or her freedom from pain, that we celebrate? How are we devoted to her, and to one another? What does true devotion require? What mental and physical perversions/reversals are necessary for us to keep living on in this ruptured world? This line from Solnit, this question, sings in my head, but has no answer: “Who drinks your tears, who has your wings, who tells your story?” Fairytales, Solnit says, are about getting into and out of trouble; our most important stories are about turbulence. Out of one darkness and into one light. You enter a forest that forges you, and eventually escape it to enter another.”—The Sunday Rumpus Essay: Casa Azul Cripple by Emily Rapp.
Today marks my last day as the editor of the Sunday Rumpus, and I’m honored to celebrate it by publishing one of my favorite writers working today, Emily Rapp, with a stunningly powerful and complex essay, “Casa Azul Cripple.” I was thrilled to first introduce Emily’s work to The Rumpus three years ago, and this, one of her finest essays, could not be a better swan song for my treasured time here, and for what I think The Rumpus offers to the literary community in terms of digging in deep, defying easy taglines, continuing to embrace long-form personal and political and cultural essays that go places it is simply impossible to reach in 650 words. “Casa Azul” is one to bookmark, to savor, to return to for pleasure or to teach, to digest slowly over morning coffee and evening wine … I hope you will find yourself as shaken and transformed and exhilarated by it as I am.
For fans of Rapp’s, as well as other Sunday Rumpus regulars like Jennifer Pastiloff and Rob Roberge, I am thrilled to also announce the schedule, faculty and line-up for Other Voices Querétaro 2015 and the unveiling of our updated website. There are only 24 spots this year for the May 15-25 program, so please contact email@example.com if you’re interested in joining us in Mexico!
“I’ll admit it: until 4th grade, I wasn’t a reader. There simply weren’t many books in my house, and my parents didn’t encourage reading or read to us much. I had not sought books out. In my defense, I was often busy doing a paper route or screening phone calls from creditors or shoveling snow. But Mr. Horan changed everything. There were books all over the classroom. Piles and piles. Whenever we finished homework early, we were made to read books. We had to read. It was not a choice. And Mr. H. had great books. Classics. During free time, we were encouraged to hit the comic book stacks or visit the school library. Mr. H. read us entire books throughout the school year. The Door in the Wall. A Wrinkle in Time. Finn Family Moomintroll. The Hobbit. Also a book called Krabat by Otfried Preußler.”—The Last Book I Loved: Krabat by Chris Kubica.
“My husband was reading to my daughter—all these traditional fantasy stories, and fairy tales, like A Wrinkle in Time, and Lord of the Rings, and something called The Dark Is Rising—and you know, they’re all the same, in the way that the hero is depicted, the trials that the hero goes through—and I’m listening to these stories, night after night, and they’re giving me some of the ideas for the fairy tale. And some of the ideas, I already knew, was aware of, from reading all the stuff that my daughter would eventually be reading, or reading to her myself, so that definitely shaped the story. But I think maybe the idea that the girl is the focus of the story, that she is not just being rescued, that at one point, she rescued the boy, I think that part comes from having a daughter.”—The Rumpus Interview With Jane Rosenberg LaForge
“Full disclosure: I am a university professor. I have written many letters of recommendation, all of which I keep tidily organized in a file on my laptop. These letters represent an enormous investment of my time and creative energy — an investment that often seems unacknowledged, even (especially?) by the people for whom I write. I also have a decade’s experience writing letters to department chairs, admissions offices, colleagues, grad school chums… in short, I have written all of the kinds of letters that appear in this novel. Jay Fitger, the protagonist, takes far more liberties with his letters than I would dare. But the letters are none the less authentic-feeling, and the way their details, asides, PS’s, and references cohere into a picture of his life and his university reveals something very true about what is becoming of the arts and humanities, about the sort of men who possess secure positions within institutions of higher ed, and about the precarious situations of just about everyone else, including the students.”—Amy Letter reviews Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher, a novel made up entirely of letters of recommendation.
“Because this book is written with the attentive eye of an unrequited lover, who repeats and repeats and repeats even the most unlikely manifestations of the beloved’s beauty—vacant retail space, a shopping cart, a lost plastic yellow shovel, a coiled terrycloth turban, an abandoned Packard Plant, “the plastic kerchief my grandmother would wear over her wig and tie under her chin on days it rained,” the Walmart parking lot, and Krylon paint—the catalogs in Copia overflow with ardor and longing.”—Why I Chose Erika Meitner’s Copia for The Rumpus Poetry Book Club by Camille T. Dungy.
“I had a toy guitar when I was a kid. I’d break the strings from playing it so much that I’d use fishing line and the little grocery store plastic clips as picks. I got my first “real” electric guitar from my parents at Christmas when I was thirteen. At first I taught myself. I just wanted to do it so badly I somehow understood how it worked. But about a year later I was playing for my cousin and he asked if I knew any chords. I was like, “What are chords?” And he walked out of the room and told my dad, “You’ve got to get this boy guitar lessons.””—Sound & Vision #7: Monte Pittman, who is, among other things, Madonna’s guitar teacher.
It has come to my attention that people in this world are comparing Ariana Grande to MARIAH CAREY. As a scholar of Vocal Olympics I would like to say Ariana Grande is fine, not really for me, but please observe the following performances of the Star Spangled Banner to fully appreciate what a gold medal winning Vocal Olympian sounds like:
Ariana Grande sounds a little like she is gargling on marshmallows. Like, someone twisted their ankle and now she gets to compete and we know it isn’t right but still kinda hope it will be ok.
Dude at 1:32 was so bored. I feel you dude at 1:32. Her heart just isn’t in it.
I can’t believe this was ten years ago. This was Beyonce at her junior olympics AND YET Beyonce brings grown men to tears.
The beautiful thing about a diva is they can not reallly be in it like “WHOA AMERICA YOU MOVE ME” but they CAN be in it like “Wow, singing is so powerful damn look at what I am doing right now I can’t believe it either but I totally can somehow.” Ariana Grande does not have that diva attitude (yet) in this Vocal Olympics commentator’s opinion.
Whitney’s year everyone else just forfeited. Whitney makes you wait for it (in a sweatsuit <3). SPOILER: It is worth it.
THE DIVA YOU LOVE TO HATE (BUT ONLY ACTUALLY LOVE). Mariah knows she’s taking home gold from the first note AND WHO CAN BLAME HER really honestly who. All Mariah haters pls send me a video of you singing the Star Spangled Banner I would love to be terrified by it (just in time for Halloween!!).
WHISTLE VOICE Y’ALL. GOLD. PLATINUM! DIAMONDS AND PEARLS!!!!!!! IF YOU DO NOT GET THAT REFERENCE PLEASE REFRAIN FROM DIVA COMMENTARY THANK YOU!!!!!!!
“Later, on Cedar Rapids, John C. Reilly will shout insults in my general direction as I dance at a lesbian wedding. Later, on Gifted Hands, I will be made to sprint to set because NO ONE is allowed to arrive after Cuba. Later, on American Virgin, I will not be eligible when they ask for girls willing to flash the camera. I’d wanted to be involved in filmmaking since I was a kid, but somehow I was 25 and I was just now taking the tiniest steps in that direction. I had worked for the past two years in Residence Life at Interlochen, an arts boarding school near Traverse City, and had gotten some free film education by helping out with their Motion Picture Arts Department. My sister is a professor at Eastern Michigan University, which is not far from Detroit, and I was staying with her for just a few weeks before perhaps making the whole LA mistake. I was sleeping in the basement of the house that she and her husband shared with their four cats, and I was already feeling like an imposition. Somehow I’d socked away about fifteen grand from my previous job, but my fear of watching it dwindle sent me to do pickup construction work most days. I’d visited LA the summer before in an attempt to inspire myself to take the plunge. I was scared but determined. At about that time, Michigan passed the most generous filmmaking tax incentives of any state in the country, and suddenly I believed in fate again. Either that, or I’d just been looking for anything to help me chicken out of moving to the other side of the country with no real prospects for success.”—Detroit New Hollywood Vegas: Notes From An Extra by Joe Sacksteder
“We made conversation for a bit and when we ran out of things to talk about he put on a movie called The NeverEnding Story. I didn’t know how literal that title was but it was already late and I couldn’t commit to an infinite movie. I stayed until I saw the scary wormdog and then I excused myself.”—Ted Wilson Reviews The World #251. Two out of five stars goes to this free teddy bear party.
In the introduction to his short story collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Haruki Murakami writes, “To put it in the simplest possible terms, I find writing novels a challenge, writing short stories a joy.” After the epic 1Q84, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage must have felt like a joy. Where 1Q84 was big and deliberately paced, bringing its two protagonists together slowly, over nearly 1,000 pages, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is brief, light on its feet and spare with descriptions. Where 1Q84 focused on many lives full of strange mysteries, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki focuses on the strange mysteries of a single life. It is Murakami’s most emotionally earnest and straightforward work since Sputnik Sweetheart.
“I’ve gotta get out of here, the protagonist decides, for the first time or maybe the fiftieth, taking stock of his humdrum town, suburban conformity, whatever he thinks is getting him down. The particulars of the prison are irrelevant; it’s the escape that matters. Someone—a friend or a rival, maybe just his own nagging self-doubt—bets against him: you’ll never go through with it. You’re not the type. But what none of the characters realize is that he’s exactly the type: bored, unsatisfied, greedy for new territory, if not to take for his own then to explore as if it were. American.”—On The Road Again by Roxie Pell.
“Closure is complicated in novels, just as it is everywhere else, because of course time doesn’t stop. The story keeps going. But you’re going to have to feel like the characters have undergone all the personal growth that they are going to have to go through. You need to feel like they’ve become fully themselves, which can be a difficult thing to convey in a book.”—The Rumpus Interview With Lev Grossman
“A thematic companion piece that’s woven with fascinating anecdotes, “some obscure, suppressed, declassified, wonderful, and curious facts,” and interview subjects, “NASA Redux” (2009) affirms the cultural worth of the endangered organization’s “Star Trek-like” idealism. Signing off with a trip aboard the G-Force One and the delightful experience of (hungover) weightlessness, the essay asserts the value of wonder in general (and its effect on the suddenly floating passengers: “I could move in any direction. All was calm and effortless. And to an astonishing degree—astonishing largely because the understanding was so matter-of-fact, as though I’d begun to internalize my own understated Neil Armstrong—this sort of comfort with wonder felt like the goal of both science and religion.”)”—Brett Josef Grubisic reviews More Curious by Sean Wilsey.
“Instead of satire, I prefer the word playful. I love Burr to death. He’s everything to me. I think any successful satire has that element of love to it—otherwise it’s just tiresome. The book is meant to be playful. But I should add that there’s nothing dismissive in the way I’m using that word. Playful doesn’t mean less rigorous. Writing is more like the serious, world-building play of children than the jetski Vegas play of adults. To me, the ludic spirit is what makes fiction work. And a lot of so-called serious literature, like Shakespeare, is seriously playful.”—The Rumpus Interview With Will Chancellor
“This is my 250th review, and marks the end of five years of reviewing the world. It’s been an amazing five years. In part because of my reviews, but also because I started doing Pilates.”—Ted Wilson Reviews The World #250. The end only gets 4 out of 5 stars.
“For the record, I wouldn’t go to the Super Bowl for anything. It feels like the most corrupt event in the world. It’s just like capitalism having this big violent porn orgasm. And yes, the money shot is actual money.”—The Rumpus Book Club Chat With Steve Almond
“I thought I was in love, but really it was just a typical teenage obsession exacerbated by depression, speed psychosis, and confessional poetry. I started following him around the East Bay, waiting around the corner while he bought 40s with his brother’s ID; crouching between the cars in a parking lot, chopping lines on the mirror of a Revlon compact; smoking weed in public parks, our hoodies pulled over our heads to block the wind; crashing college parties and drinking all their beer.”—Albums Of Our Lives: Dory Tourette And The Skirtheads’ Rock Immortal by Lauren Quinn.
“We hear that all the time, memory is not reliable, but to realize it for a fact, now, that’s probably the biggest change—the biggest, isolated change. I am not the type of person that is like, “This did happen.” I’m like, “Well, that’s how I remember it and maybe it happened.” Everything now has a probability. There is a 95% chance this happened the way I remember it, or there’s a 65% chance this happened the way I remember it.”—The Rumpus Interview With M.E. Thomas, author of Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight
“I slowly formed a style by watching my role models. My mother made pancakes in black silk negligees and high heels. My high school English teacher wore grey linen sacks and red lipstick with a pageboy haircut. My older sister wore cuffed denim shorts and sprayed her bangs. My high school nemeses wore spaghetti-strapped tank tops and short shorts. Bjork and her mini buns. Joni Mitchell and her lengths. I wasn’t any of these women, and yet this was the raw material from which I assembled my own look, either in alliance or defiance. What I ended up doing was wearing 1940s industrial pencil suits and eventually shaving my head. I did what I could with what I had and where I was.”—Anisse Gross reviews Women In Clothes