“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.”

All our fevered history won’t instill insight,
won’t turn a body conscious,
won’t make that look
in the eyes say yes, though there is nothing

to solve

even as each moment is an answer.

— From a poem in Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, reviewed at The Rumpus by Shaelyn Smith.
“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.”
“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.”

NEW READERS REPORT THEME: “HAUNTED”

We’re hungry for more writing from Rumpus readers, so we’re now accepting submissions for our next Readers Report!

This time, we want you to tackle the theme “Haunted.”

Please send your submissions, maximum 400 words, to Susan Clements, silentjoy2001 AT yahoo.com. We’ll choose the best ones to run as a feature on the site.

All submissions are due by midnight on Thursday, October 2nd.

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.

Jonathan Russell Clark reviews Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.

Too many elegies elevating sadness
to a kind of sad religion:

one wants in the end just once to befriend
one’s own loneliness,

to make of the ache of inwardness—

something,
______music maybe…

— From Once In The West by Christian Wiman, reviewed by Caitlin Mackenzie at The Rumpus.
On the tour of our school I deliberately hung back, the last to enter a room and the last to leave. Here was the front desk where you signed in if you were late. Here was the hall lined with class pictures, including one with a famous actress camouflaged amid the smooth, blurred faces. Here was the auditorium where I played Corelli concertos and Hello, Dolly! on my violin. Only now the auditorium was condemned. We stood just inside its doors, lights off, straining to see the stage, the scent of wood and dust and warm velvet and an intangible nostalgia flooding me like a dark tide. At the reunion I took stock of who had come. Not my friend, the Brain. Not my friend, the Hippie. Not my on-again-off-again Crush. Not my stand partner and Rival. No one from my AP English class. No one from my bus route. Not the Queen of the school. Not the Outcast, either.
Behind The Caves by Randon Billings Noble.