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.  

“Diversity!”

 

 

 

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. 

Warnings

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.

We, The People

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Hey Folks! Cutbank’s new Online Team coming at you loud and live(-ish).

Since this is our first Burn Pile post in a while, and a defining moment for us greenhorns, I’d like to take a moment to thank our dear friend Barry Maxwell for his success with the Second Wind Reading and for all his hard work on Cutbank’s Online source. I know it was it was hard work because now I’m doing half of his old job, and some forms of media are just Not. User. Friendly.

AND NOW, an Editorial

When regarding Freedom of the Press, no law may be passed that interferes with the people’s right to assemble, to print the press, or that causes the abridgement of free speech. But here’s the problem with the constitution: it is vague. In this instance, it’s the carefully worded language that “No Law May Be Passed” which leaves wiggle room for all other interested parties. There is nothing to say that a pitched battle cannot be waged over what the “Truth” is, only that our elected officials cannot infringe upon our right to debate and question it. I’m not a legal scholar, and it would take one to navigate the byzantine workings of modern governments. I will say this though: We Need the Press.

Let me back up and bring something into context here, it just came to my attention that the local alternative/Indy Newspaper here in Missoula was just shut down, as in is no longer printing the press. Well it can be hand waved as another arbitrary tide of the Free Market, or I can take this opportunity to state that the Newspaper is a dying industry. I’m a newcomer here to Missoula, so I don’t feel it’s my place to jump right into local Politics, yet if diversity of the press dies—if we, on a national level, lose the option of options, then that does not bode well for the foundational elements of a Democracy.

Plainly put, if our only options were to turn the television and choose between MSNBC, Fox, and CNN (as it is right now), we’re going to trick ourselves into thinking that the world is much smaller than it is. Problem A is that national level news outlets only care about national and international level news, servicing a ratings-based agenda. Problem B? Severe Conflict of interest. Over a year ago, it became a point of water cooler discussion, back where I’m from, about Sinclair Broadcasting Group buying up state and local level television news media. Don’t believe me? Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khbihkeOISc. It’s not quite the Orwellian nightmare of the novel 1984, but I find it alarming, and I hope you do as well. Is that all the problems I see? No, but they are the two-most relevant topics to this flash opinion piece.

What I’m getting at, folks, is that journalists take it upon themselves to go out into the world and question the ethics of the society we are living in. Do they have their own self-interest? Yes, and I would not trust anyone that did not operate in their self-interest. As they protect us from infringement upon our rights, safety, and morality as citizens, so too does a diverse range of reporting protect us from the private interests and agendas of journalists. To perform their functions as moderators and truth seekers, they need our support as consumers of their newspapers, and no, the truth is not something concerned with output we find agreeable to our tastes and philosophies.

The “truth” is about taking a skeptical look around us and asking earnest questions: is what is happening in our best interests as individuals? As a society? Hell, what even is our best interest? That answer comes from having thoughtful discussion, and to do that we need to be an educated and informed population. Do I have a plan to save a fading yet critical industry? No not entirely. But I hope these words get you started thinking about your own local news industry.

We’d love to hear back from the community. If you know of some local writers or journalists who worked with The Indy, send them our way.

Click the Caption for the Original Article on the Missoulian.

Click the Caption for the Original Article on the Missoulian.

Hump Day: CutBank introduces #MobyDickNotes

"Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm?" Before his final, three-day chase to kill Moby-Dick, Ahab questions his will, wonders whether he or some other force moves his hand. When we found our used copy of Moby-Dick, we wondered the same about its previous owner.

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