BURN PILE: "Incels and the NBA" by Jake Bienvenue

Welcome back!

As usual, there’s a lot of stuff going on. Before we get into that, I want to drop a link to an incredibly poignant article written by Tim O’Brien, National Book Award winner and author of The Things They Carried, over at LitHub. In it, he reflects on war, remembrance, and the paradox of experience. It would of course be sloppy to draw too many parallels between the Vietnam-era United States and our own unique historical moment, but nonetheless, O’Brien calls attention to some very important issues.

Armed with a nuanced historical perspective, go check out this article. Susan B. Glasser, staff writer for The New Yorker, has the takeaways from this week’s Trump shenanigans. Speaking of men throwing temper tantrums, Eileen Pollack, creative writing instructor in the MFA program at the University of Michigan, wrote a wonderful article over at LitHub about this very thing. She situates the rise of incels in the context of the Unabomber.

In celebration of the approaching NBA season, and speaking of young men understanding the world, go check out this article over at LitHub about youth and pickup basketball. Here is the rundown of the controversial comments made by LeBron James about the protests in Hong Kong, and here is a hilarious article from McSweeney’s in response.

Finally, for fun, here is LitHub’s list of the best poetry collections of the decade, and here your favorite songs pictured as vintage book covers.

Until next week!

BURN PILE: "The Nobel Prize and the National Book Award Finalists" by Jake Bienvenue

A lot of big news in the literary world this week!

The National Book Foundation released the finalists for the prestigious award on Tuesday. For a full list, check out NPR’s run-down. The Nobel Prize in Literature was also given, this time around to Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke. The decision to bestow the award upon two Europeans has been somewhat controversial, for reasons that a ElectricLit covers here. Regardless, go check out some of the authors!

And if that’s not enough book recommendations, LitHub ran a great list of the ten best short story collections of the 2010’s. Looking ahead to future authors, here is another run-down from LitHub about the book deals that were announced this week—Rihanna is on there, spoiler alert. Literary darling Ocean Vuong, too, ran a piece in LitHub about the ten books which most influenced the process of writing his breakout debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. This list from ElectricLit will help you pick the books you need to have a sad girl fall. And, after all this, if you’re hurting for a good back but low on cash, here is an article detailing some of the secrets to shopping in used bookstores.

And, finally, here is a piece from McSweeney’s about the existential pull of pumpkin space, especially for men.

Happy fall!

BURN PILE: "Movie Releases and Banned Books" by Jake Bienvenue

Welcome back!

We’re gonna start on a slightly different note than the usual Donald Trump and climate disaster thing.

Todd Phillips’ The Joker was released today in a whirlwind of drama. Its depiction of political unrest and antisocial tendencies turning to violence has left many uncomfortable. Here is an article over at Slate which might help navigate the complicated context and ramifications of the film. Narrative always seems to have a particularly inflammatory role in society, perhaps even more so as individual events come to have dramaturgical significance which transcends the events themselves, spurred in large part by increasingly extreme narrative politics and a media system rooted in storytelling, which are linked cyclically with consumer expectations molded by those very systems. Like a big dumb literary tornado.

I sense I might be preaching to the choir here. Well, if you’re so inclined, here are seven ways you can hide the release of Frozen 2 from your child, courtesy of McSweeney’s. To go along with the movie thing.

In any case, here is an article from over at ElectricLit about something you might be interested in buying: America’s very first banned book. On the other end of the spectrum, here is a wonderful and comprehensive list from LitHub of the ten best debut novels of the decade. And, if it suits your taste, here is another article from LitHub about stillness, disguise, and nature writing.

To cap it off, here’s an interview posted over at The Rumpus with Shonda Buchanan, who was in Missoula in September as a CutBank-sponsored author at the Montana Book Festival.

See you next week.

BURN PILE: "Impeachment Proceedings and Greta Thunberg"

Well, folks.

The world seemed to respond to the issues presented in last week’s installment, and now climate politics and sexual politics have seemed to come to a totally-weird form of a head. In an absolutely wild turn of events, Greta Thunberg addressed the U.N., stared down Donald Trump on every screen in the world, and, to my imagination, single-handedly sparked impeachment proceedings with a fucking gaze. How does this pertain to literature? Well, as it happens, Thunberg now has a two-book deal with Penguin Press, reported by LitHub. While the book deal preceded the incident at the UN, it still goes to show that staring down Trump (and trying to save the world) could be lucrative for aspiring writers. And, as a further point of contrast, one of Elizabeth Warren’s campaign strategists is up for a National Book Award. That’s right, it’s Steve Bannon.

Also, just a friendly reminder that the government sneakily released the federally-mandated (and incredibly bleak) Fourth National Climate Assessment on Black Friday of 2018. It would have received hardly any attention were it not for the fact that Melville House decided to publish it. Yet again, the literary world saves the real world. Go check out the story over at ElectricLit. It’s wild. Also, Amazon, one of the biggest distributors of books worldwide, is facing a climate strike of their own. Rebecca Renner has a story over at LitHub about employees striking at the corporate giant’s headquarters in Seattle.

Anyways, here’s a little how-to from McSweeney’s about talking to your parents about colluding with foreign governments. And, if you’re aesthetically inclined, here are the best book covers of September.

See you next week!

BURN PILE: "Climate Change, Sexual Politics, and a Pinch of Humor" by Jake Bienvenue

Welcome back to Burn Pile, friendly readers.

If you don’t know, today marked the beginning of the global climate strike. Women and men in over 150 countries will be marching in protest against sluggish political systems whose policies have not reflected the urgency of the issue at hand, which is planetary ecological catastrophe. As writers and readers, we are beginning to be confronted with the prospect of constructing and consuming narrative in the face of a future which might not remember us. Here is an interesting article by Omar El Akkad over at LitHub about what stories might survive climate change. In it, El Akkad asks questions about what roots narrative when we’re losing the ability to anchor our memories to the land. And if that seems a little glum to you, Elizabeth Putfark wrote an article for LitHub about maintaining humanity in the face of global anxiety. Both are well-researched, precise, and, to varying degrees, helpful. Most importantly though… organize

While we’re on the topic of political subversion, go check out an interview over at ElectricLit with Mona Eltahawy, the author of The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls. Also on ElectricLit is a transcript of Jacqueline Woodson’s address to the recipients of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards, a foundation which supports emerging women writers. The title of the address is “We Are Writing Against Our Own Erasure.” It’s chilling. As an aside, the space between paragraphs up there might lead one to conclude that sexual politics and climate politics are somehow different issues. They are not. 

But anyways, courtesy of McSweeney’s, here are five reasons to stop what you’re doing and write a dystopian feminist novel. Here is a letter to all the women who die first in horror movies, brought to you by ElectricLit. And finally, here is a riot of a piece from McSweeney’s which lists quote unquote honest job postings in academia. Probably good to end this one with some humor.

Go out and change the world. 

BURN PILE: "Literary Drama and the Coming of Fall" by Jake Bienvenue

The rapid coming of autumn was heralded this year by at least a couple of contentious happenings in the lit-sphere.

Many of you may be familiar with Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway. Or, if you’re like me, you hadn’t before this week. For those who haven’t found their way onto the media platform, Calloway has over 795,000 followers. This massive following led to a reported six-figure book deal--a deal which dissolved under mysterious circumstances. Earlier this week, Natalie Beach, Calloway’s friend and former ghost-writer, wrote a tell-all article in The Cut about the would-be literary celebrity. Whatever your opinion on the spat, the media attention it has garnered invites questions about the dynamic between social media and the publishing industry.

And if that doesn’t satisfy your thirst for drama, National Book Award-winner Jonathan Franzen wrote a contentious article in The New Yorker about the global climate crisis. In it, Franzen implores people to give up the pipe-dream of halting the process of planetary destruction. A novel take from the critically-acclaimed novelist. 

Well, let’s move on from that. It’s fall, and that means books in general, and spooky books in particular. If you’re an Agatha Christie fan, go check out a fascinating article about the mystery author and Post-Capitalism on LitHub, written by eminent philosopher and critic Slavoj Žižek. Or, if you want to write horror like Shirley Jackson, check out some advice from the author, also on LitHub. If you’re still not satisfied, consider showing up for ElectricLit’s Edgar Allan Poe-themed festival in October. 

To take a detour into the humorous while remaining within the spooky Victorian mindset, go take a peek at Colin Heasley’s mock-article in ElectricLit about writing queer characters in the Victorian era without getting censored. And to leave you with one last little bit of humor, Jessie Gaskell wrote a hysterical article in McSweeney’s titled “I’m Just the Guy to Write Your Female Empowerment Series.” 

And happy fall, folks. 

BURN PILE: "Toni Morrison, Labor Day, and Fall Releases" by Jake Bienvenue

Welcome back to Burn Pile, folks! 

We’re gonna be coming at you the rest of the season like a metaphor which describes a column that threads literature and current events with humor, wit, and style each and every Friday. If such an object of comparison exists. 

We should, however, recognize one of the gargantuan occurrences of the summer before we move along: the death of beloved writer Toni Morrison. August 5th was a heavy day for those of us here at CutBank, as it was for the millions of people who were touched by her work. May she rest in power. Go check out an interview over at LitHub with the beloved author. In it, Morrison touches on everything from her family history to meeting Jeff Bezos. The Guardian ran a cool series where authors of color--such as Tracy K Smith--reflect on Morrison’s importance. Speaking of her lasting influence, here is an interesting opinion article by Ross Douthat of The New York Times. In it, he approaches Morrison’s oeuvre from an economic perspective, arguing that she might be thought of as the last “great American novelist.” 

Anyways, Monday was Labor Day, a day in which we all collectively celebrate the fight against economic coercion and oppressive capitalism by watching TV, recovering from Sunday, and thinking about Tuesday. In celebration, here is a landmark article run by The New Yorker in 1999 by the one-and-only Anthony Bourdain. This stunning ode to the food industry helped kickstart the career of the beloved star of Parts Unknown. If you’re interested in other odd jobs, here’s a funny interview from McSweeney’s with former Miss Massachusetts, Alissa Musto. And, after all this, if you want to quit your job and run away, go check out ElectricLit’s list of books about just that. 

If all this book talk gets you in the mood, go check out LitHub’s roundup of the best books coming out this fall. Featuring Salman Rushdie, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Stephen King, and Margaret Atwood, this is a good list of what’s up next in the lit-sphere. 

Speaking of Margaret Atwood, labor frustration, and literature, here is a fascinating article from The New Yorker about the novelist’s upcoming installment in the world of The Handmaid’s Tale and the political complicity of our time which makes this world so terrifying, and so real. And, to bring it all the way back to the briefly-mentioned Jeff Bezos, here is an article from ElectricLit about some of the drama involving Amazon shipping Atwood’s new novel a week early, and that decision’s effect on indie booksellers. 

Happy Reading!  

BURN PILE: Death, Taxes, and Game of Thrones

We all know what today is, but a couple of things before we get started.

First off, Monday is Tax Day. Get those taxes filed before midnight, or better yet, before 7pm today MST. Then reward yourself by watching this TED Talk from 2016 in which Katie Bouman explains the algorithm she developed for capturing a black hole on camera. Afterwards you should check out this piece by The New York Times spotlighting all the many women in addition to Bouman who contributed to the historic achievement.

Speaking of women making waves, LitHub argues that, instead of being called a great “millennial” novelist, Sally Rooney should just be recognized as a great novelist. Ana Cecilia Alvarez for The New Republic analyzes the impossible subject matter of Valeria Luiselli’s novel Lost Children Archive, and over at ElectricLit, Marci Cancio-Bello interviews Susah Choi about the painfully accurate teenage emotions captured in her new novel Trust Exercise.

That’s the latest for prose, but April is National Poetry Month, and in celebration of the poem’s traditional appearance in eulogies, The Atlantic has compiled a list of elegiac poems mourning things lost or dead, which serves as a good segue into Game of Thrones. 

First, in no more than four minutes of rhyming couplets, James Corden sums up the last seven seasons of GoT and reminds us that Winter is Here. Then The New Yorker makes some predictions and offers their own set of eulogies for characters likely to be introduced and killed off in the eighth and final season. 

To get serious for a second, The Atlantic issues a criticism of GoT and the fantasy genre as a whole for featuring authoritarian rule as the preferred form of governance by hero and villain alike and posits that elections are the only way to truly subvert the genre by letting the people win the game. And over at BuzzFeedNews Jacob Anderson (aka Grey Worm) laments the show’s lack of diversity, while George R.R. Martin himself speaks up in The New York Times Style Magazine about what today’s politicians, including the President, could learn from his characters. Emilia Clarke is more direct, suggesting a fiery end to a Westerosi Trump. 

All this death is grim business and no doubt we’re going to lose some of our favorites (Esquire makes the case that it will be Daenerys), so count on McSweeney’s to lighten the mood with a little exchange between Jon Snow and 23andMe. 

The night is long and full of terrors even if you’re not banging your aunt. Happy watching. 

BURN PILE: America’s Future, the Hugo Awards, Literary Movies, Unpublished Poems by Emily Dickinson, and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Lit Mags

Howdy folks,

This week, CutBank would like to say thanks to everyone who dropped by to see us at the AWP bookfair. You are the best. Yes, you. Don’t doubt it for a moment. Now, to the links!

On Tuesday, the finalists for the Hugo Awards were announced. This year’s finalists for the very best in science fiction include authors Yoon Ha Lee, Naomi Novik, Nnedi Okorafor, Brian K. Vaughan, and Ursula K. Le Guin. Congrats to all the finalists!

Science fiction is desperately needed, especially when we all can’t stop worrying about the future of our country, a topic discussed by Victor LaValle in this interview with Tochi Onyebuchi. Poetry also can act as a salve for our fears. Take Dan Chiasson’s profile of anti-pastoral poet David Baker as an example. POETRY BONUS: Check out these ten previously unpublished poems by Emily Dickinson.

And yet there is always room in the future for hope and heroes. Take Pete Buttigieg for example. The openly-gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana is expected to announce his presidential campaign. Gonna file that under Good News That We Need More Of. Further reading: Lucas Grindley argues that “Yes, It Matters That Pete Buttigieg Is Gay.”

CutBank would also like to remind you that as you fight The Fear it is important to take care of yourself. Sometimes you just need to put on your pajamas and curl up with a book or watch a movie or show. Should that be the case, check out Bookriot’s list of 15 book adaptations you can stream for free with nothing but your library card. (featuring UM alum Emily M. Danforth).You can also take a look at LitHub and Electric Literature’s lists of literary adaptations coming out in 2019.

If podcasts are more your jam, then perhaps give fiction/non/fiction a listen. Their newest episode will tell you everything you need to know about lit mags (featuring editors Brigid Hughes of A Public Space and Jennifer Baker of Electric Literature). 

In the meantime, stay strong, stay good,


BURN PILE: AWP around the corner!

If you’re like us, you’re gearing up for AWP and are equal parts excited and overwhelmed by the sheer plentitude of writers, events, and offsite activities. That’s to say nothing about all that Portland offers beyond the walls of the Convention Center. So many options! Thank god for the daily yoga offerings and the Dickinson Quiet Space—we’ll need a few moments of quiet here and there. But planning is key, and so to help you best wrangle all that’s on offer at AWP, we’ve rounded up a few of the most helpful links out there.

The first is obvious but not to be overlooked. The official AWP attendee guide is full of useful information and tips, along with lots of nice, glossy pictures. Scrolling through it with a pen and notepad is a good place to start.

This page by writer Paulette Perhach really is key. It has links to a webinar about how best to navigate AWP while staying sane and (also) having a good time, a pre-made Google map of the Convention Center and downtown Portland with all the AWP essentials (including best places for coffee, breakfast, and even a few walks to seek some peace and quiet) and a pretty useful list of tips (which include preparing a good elevator pitch and making sure your AWP app profile is filled out and ready to go so you can tell anyone you meet to find you later on the app). Paulette Perhach also has a good list of #AWPtips on Twitter, so follow her at @pauletteperhach and search #AWPTips for more useful advice. Also, if you text WELCOME to 444999 she’ll send you a lot more resources, including checklists, reminders, a packing guide, and even a conversation starter guide for the socially awkward (who, us?). Good stuff there, guys, good stuff. 

If that’s not enough for you, here’s another list of tips compiled by The Writer

Meanwhile, if the official event schedule has you cross-eyed, The Portland Review has compiled a shorter list of AWP highlights, mostly featuring their own contributors and alumni, but it’s a bit more manageable and also highlights some offsite events for after-hours. Elsewhere, The Rumpus has put together their own list of recommended events.

And of course, don’t forget to come to the kickoff event sponsored by CutBank at Dig a Pony on Wednesday night, 8pm. There will be readings by Soma Mei Sheng Frazier and Joan Naviyuk Kane, our 2018 Chapbook winners, and a DJ to follow. And stop by our table at the book fair (T6025) for a chat, a button, the two newly released chapbooks, and the brand new issue of 89!

See you in Portland!

BURN PILE: Tragedy in New Zealand, the passing of a poet, and St. Patrick's Day

We here at CutBank were horrified and saddened at the news of the mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday. Here The New Yorker examines the best way to discuss the tragedy without amplifying either the voice of the gunman or the violence he wrought, but laments the social media platforms that allow for endless circulation of the filmed attacks. Over here, they argue that it’s time to have a serious look at the rising threat of white nationalism around the world, while The Atlantic shines a light on the long history of white supremacist ideology in the United States before taking a look at the ways mass shooters, including Friday’s, have repurposed literary words of bravery to evoke the heroic in their attacks on the defenseless.

So how to cope with a world gone mad? With books, perhaps. Over at Guernica, 2018 Oregon Literary Arts Writer of Color Fellow Reema Zaman discusses how to heal collective and individual wounds after a traumatic event, which is the focus of her new memoir, I Am Yours. And The New York Times will be celebrating Women’s History Month by featuring stories, essays, and appreciations by and about women throughout March.

Let’s pause a moment to mourn the passing of a literary great, poet W.S. Merwin, on Friday March 15. In honor of his life and work, The Paris Review has compiled a few of his best poems.

To end on a brighter note, today is St. Patrick’s Day, dedicated to the saint known for converting pagans to Catholicism and for driving the snakes out of Ireland. You could certainly mark the holiday by drinking green beer in an Irish pub or parade, or you could seek out one of these books written by Irish authors set far from the homeland. Whichever you choose, sláinte!

BURN PILE: Celebrating International Women's Day

March 8th was International Women’s Day, a holiday celebrated all around the world, if less so in the U.S.A.. Let’s honor it here at CutBank.

First off, take a gander at this roster of talented women on the just-released 2019 longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Over at The New York Times, Kristen R. Ghodsee decries the American preference for Mother’s Day over International Women’s Day (attributing this to the latter’s socialist, Eastern bloc origins) and declares, “we are more than our wombs.”

Meanwhile at Broadly, twelve leading feminist thinkers from all backgrounds come together to discuss their visions for the future of the feminist movement and what it means for race, gender, art, and politics.

Across the pond, many an eyebrow was raised on Friday at the speech made by Megan Markle at the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust in honor of International Women’s Day, which she used to call attention to the stigmatization of menstruation, while at ElectricLit, Lily Meyer interviews Swedish comic artist Liv Strömquist about the shame associated with menstruation and the female body explored in her new graphic novel Fruit of Knowledge: The Vulva vs. The Patriarchy, panels of which have been put up by transit authorities in the Stockholm subway.

The Atlantic considers whether rebranding clothing and beauty products to appeal to “real” women misses the mark by implying that some versions of womanhood are false, and moreover by continuing to feed into the notion that beauty is a necessary female goal. Meanwhile, Nicholas Dames reviews L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated “Female Byron”, the first ever biography about one of the most famous female literary figures of the pre-Victorian period.

Finally, as always McSweeney’s is prepared with a list for the modern woman seeking to take advantage of that extra hour of daylight to squeeze a bit more into her already packed life.

Here’s to all the women dancing backwards in high heels. Happy International Women’s Day!

BURN PILE: No Redemption for Cohen, Heaney’s last SMS, reading like Douglass, Tolkien’s watercolors, and remembering Anthony Hollander

As we bid (perhaps futilely) winter farewell, CutBank brings you a list of articles featuring some illustrious and/or notorious individuals for this week’s Burn Pile.

We would be either quite forgetful or hermitlike if we didn’t feature Michael Cohen and his testimony to the House Oversight Committee. Over at LitHub, Timothy Denevi asserts that there is no redemption for Cohen.

And if Cohen’s testimony or Denevi’s article has convinced you or perhaps reinvigorated your desire to be a better person, a better person like maybe Frederick Douglass, the good folks over at Lapham’s Quarterly have provided you with Douglass’ reading recommendations.

Or maybe you’re looking for something more fantastical, more visual. Look no further than The Paris Review’s feature on Tolkien inspired imagery. Who wouldn’t want a sunny jaunt through the Shire right about now?

For the more aurally-inclined, The Millions remembers one of the great audiobook narrators, Anthony Hollander. His antics are never to be forgotten (except perhaps by David Foster Wallace fans).

Finally, we’d like to recommend John West’s article about Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney’s final text message to his wife: “Noli timere.”

We couldn’t leave you with a better wish than Heaney. Be not afraid.

BURN PILE: Oscar Sunday

The 2019 Oscars are tonight, so let’s talk about the movies!

First up, The New Yorker has a compilation of the best writing they’ve put out in recent weeks about the nominated films. This one alone will have you prepared to speak knowledgeably about all the nominees, even if you skip out on the actual awards ceremony. And here’s The New Yorker’s run-down of this year’s Oscar-related scandals, as well as a brief look backwards at the scandals that came before, including one involving the 1961 film The Alamo. (Unrelated to the Oscar’s, but this Guernica article examines the truer, darker history of the much-mythologized Alamo and its ongoing role in propagating racism).

Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is already riding on many firsts: it’s the first Netflix-produced film to be nominated for Best Picture, and its female lead, Yalitza Aparicio, is the first indigenous Mexican woman to be nominated for Best Actress. If it wins, it will be the first foreign-language film to take home Best Picture in the entire 90 years of the awards ceremony’s history. In this profile of the director, The Atlantic examines the spotlight given to female characters and their stories in much of Cuarón’s work. And Yaritza Aparicio herself opens up to Harper’s Bazaar about the making of the film, her home country, and what she imagines for the future.

Meanwhile, LitHub speculates over potential nominations for a fictional Academy Awards ceremony for books and has University of Montana MFA alum and former CutBank editor Andrew Martin nominated in the category of Best Debut for his novel Early Work. We can toast to that.

The price of nomination, however, is to prepare a speech, and lately they’re expected to include an incisive or inspiring political commentary. While we wait to see what tonight brings, the good people over at McSweeney’s have unearthed a long-lost acceptance speech written by Sophocles for Oedipus Rex in which he praises the rise in women’s stories brought to the stage by men and reminds us of our democratic right to be entertained. Given McSweeney’s other piece listing the many things that outnumber women who’ve been nominated for Best Director (including onscreen Charlize Theron deaths), sounds like Sophocles was describing the Oscars’ ceremony itself.

BURN PILE: African-American History Month and President's Day. Irony much?

In honor of Black History Month and a day before President’s Day, let’s focus on the African American contribution to art and literature and not talk about the President, shall we? First up, the NAACP Image Awards have announced their 2019 nominees, with Black Panther dominating the competition. A good way to spend President’s Day might be watching it or one of the many other titles on the list of nominees. 

Meanwhile, The New York Times recognizes the life and work of Dudley Randall, who started the Broadside Press out of his home to publish the work of black writers and poets, who couldn’t be published elsewhere, as part of Detroit’s Black Arts Movement. 

And over at Poetry Foundation, Morgan Jenkins examines the way Morgan Parker’s new poetry collection Magical Negro weaves tales out of the past, present, and future of black life in America, while at The Paris Review, Hilton Als discusses the new David Zwirner exhibitionGod Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin. 

And ElectricLit gives us an interview with Hanif Abdurraqib about his new book Go Ahead In the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest and how writing about music helps him to articulate a better world than the mess out there today.  

And finally, a day before she turns 88, here is a compilation of the legendary Toni Morrison’s best advice on writing, including her own views on how writing enables her to impose order on the chaos of the world. 

Now let’s all get to work creating a better world with our words. God knows we need it.

Happy Black History Month. Happy early President’s Day?

BURN PILE: New releases, tabloid drama, and odes to motherhood in the first week of February.

This Tuesday saw the release of some much-anticipated books. Check out a selection of the titles here, which include Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf and The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang, which was mentioned in this piece by Electric Lit as one of four new books that present a different way to discuss, and understand, mental illness. 

As for James, there’s a slew of interviews and articles about him out there right now. The New Yorker did a lengthy profile on him a few weeks ago, and here he is at LitHub reflecting on why he’s always meant to write about his mother and how it has eluded him.

On the subject of mothers and motherhood, here is Emily Bernard reckoning with writing about female desire and the reality that her daughters might read it. Or you could check out this interview with Lydia Kiesling in which she discusses her decision to place the minutiae of motherhood at the center of her new book, “The Golden State,” which also explores the complexities of immigration and marriage.

Drama often follows the dissolution of marriages, especially high-profile ones, but seldom do they erupt into action-hero size media battles the scale of the Bezos vs. National Enquirer showdown. While McSweeney’s is there to remind us of the pillar of morality that is Jeff Bezos, The New Yorker analyzes the perfect domestic goddesses that people MacKenzie Bezos’s fiction and how even they can’t save their men.

That’s February getting off to quite a start, but at least we’re out of January. On that note, let’s pause a moment to celebrate Sandra Cisneros being awarded the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature and imagine getting to hang out with that panel of judges.

A pen in motion will keep the ink from freezing. Keep warm, keep writing!

BURN PILE: Dodging the Super Bowl Blues

Apparently, tomorrow is the Super Bowl, which has given us cause to reflect on great American traditions, what it means to duck them or all out defy them, and how fiction can provide an escape from the dominant national narrative. 

To help us out, here is a meditation on food as a means for an oppressed people to celebrate their humanity and register their defiance of non-inclusive national holidays, from the late Ntozake Shange.

Laila Lalami at The Nation makes the case that fiction not only helps us to develop empathy by walking a mile in another’s shoes, it can also help us to survive the constant Twitter onslaught orchestrated by a President determined to keep the narrative focused on himself.

Along the same lines, Sarah Wendell at The Washington Post analyzes the uptick in reading among furloughed federal employees and how fiction, especially genre fiction, provides a necessary escape into worlds where the evil are punished, the good are rewarded, and justice is served. This comment alone deserves pause: “It’s a rather substantial act of trust to place one’s time and energy in the hands of a writer, especially during a difficult period.”  

For a more immediate escape from tomorrow, here’s ElectricLit with seven books to read about racial inequality in America instead of watching the high holiday of the NFL. 

And here is Nico Oré-Girón ruminating on the power of fiction to help her reclaim lost time by reimagining the narrative of queer adolescence in America. 

All of this reading should give you an out for tomorrow. But if for whatever reason you choose to watch (no judgement), the good people over at McSweeney’s have your back with a Super Bowl Commercial Bingo that almost makes the whole thing worth it.  





BURN PILE: Back to School Toolbox

Now that the new semester has jumped off the blocks and ground every other aspect of life to a halt, we can look at our tool box of literary links to help current students and prospective students through the next few months. 


For those of you that have sent your applications to MFA/MA/PhD programs across the continent and beyond, we recommend that you DO NOT check gradcafe or mfadraft hourly. Your life is still happening and no one needs that kind of stress in their life.

Workshop is great and all, but workshop also sucks. This can be what it feels like. Thank you, McSweeney’s for always reminding us that workshop hurts. A lot.

Great Resources 

For any sort of graduate program content—written by current and post-MFA students—we recommend The MFA Years. Caitlin Dayspring Neely has consistently made sure this website has provided great content to prospective and current MFA students everywhere. Cruise through their articles. You’ll see.

LitHub will personally attack you with this article, but it’s important. Copy editor Benjamin Dreyer shines a light on bad habits we all have.

Are you ready to send out that brilliant thing you’ve been working on? We recommend checking out Entropy Magazine’s Where to Submit page. It is a great way to find book and chapbook prizes, contests, general call for submissions, and even residencies. Do it, and your Duotrope account will blow up. You can also submit to our contests

When/if things start to go south in your workshop or writing group, perhaps look to this great series brought to you by the good folks over at Electric Lit. It is so much better than sifting through yet another pro/anti-MFA debate. And if things get so bad that you just need a breath of fresh air, look no further than Tracy K Smith’s podcast The Slowdown.

Above all, keep reading and keep writing. You and your work are worth it.

BURN PILE: Remembering Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019)

Mary Oliver passed away yesterday. Today for our weekly Burn Pile, CutBank would like to remember her and the gift of her poetry.

Over at LitHub, Brandon Taylor writes how Oliver’s work made him “feel worthy of being in the world.” Emily Popek also reflects on her time as Oliver’s student at Electric Literature. Similarly, Summer Brennan looks back at the lessons she learned from Oliver. For The New Yorker, Stephanie Burt remembers Oliver and her books “of secular psalms, inquiries into nature, and reasons to go on living.”

In the wake of this loss, those of us at CutBank could get mired in grief and sorrow. It would be easy, here in cold and snowy Missoula, MT. But today, cruising through Poetry Foundation’s website, we can read their Poem of the Day: “White-Eyes” by Mary Oliver. We can read that poem and all the rest. We can read and remember. And be thankful for Mary Oliver.

May you all be “married to amazement.”

BURN PILE: Or bonfire? This week (year?) women are dancing, governing, writing, and generally getting about burning the patriarchy to the ground.

Two weeks into 2019 and there are some powerhouse ladies out there making headlines. Elizabeth Warren has announced her candidacy for president, so it’s worth a read over at the New Yorker to find out how she is taking on entrenched corruption in the most organized way possible. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been in office for one week exactly and has opponents riled up about everything from her tax plan to her dance moves. Don’t miss her own Instagram video giving it back to her critics outside her Congressional office, taunting: “I hear the GOP thinks women dancing are scandalous. Wait till they find out Congresswomen dance too!” Meanwhile, Maureen Dowd encourages her to dance on without losing sight of the main goal. Why the main goal can’t include exposing some of the backward ways of the old guard in Washington, especially vis-à-vis their views on women, is a question for a different post, but it seems like the new Congresswoman can be forgiven for coming out swinging.

There is something suspicious about how many of the same people who hated Hillary Clinton now have it out for Elizabeth Warren and AOC. The people over at McSweeney’s swear (fingers crossed) that it has nothing to do with the fact that they’re women but count their lucky stars that the dancing video rescued them from the follies of a socialist insurgency.

In other news about what it feels like to be a woman in 2019, The Paris Review reflects on the anger, the frustration, and the humiliation of being a woman navigating the daily threat of violence in the great U.S. of A., and Kristen Roupenian talks about being expected to answer for Cat Person as though it were auto fiction when her story went viral in the New Yorker last year.

Meanwhile, Oyinkan Braithwaite discusses the way beauty is elevated to the level of virtue in an interview with Electric Lit about her novel My Sister, the Serial Killer, while Lareign Ward poses the argument that the much-maligned romance novel might just have a thing or two to teach us about a world in which women’s desires are allowed not just to exist but to define the narrative. Revolutionary, indeed.