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Topknots and Vaseline

I have these fantasies of an unknown flag draped around my shoulders— loyalty for the oblique, repping for the pre-defeated, running toward this pacing mercenary who has every intent to kill me. Someone is screaming my name and it’s the voice of my mother, or a dead friend. Doesn’t matter—they’re all looking for me now. Someone takes off my shirt because I can’t with gloves on. All around me, dark figures congregate. Someone is rubbing my eyes and blowing gently. Someone kisses my forehead. There is music. Chanting and opalescence. Bets are being made. My sister is there—she’s hanging onto the cage, yelling our family name. I never see who I fight, but I’ve felt her pace. I’ve tapped gloves on that heat and walked away.

Posted in Essays

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Some Form of Punishment

I know. It’s just an eating disorder. Or “disordered eating,” as I’ve been taught to say. But when women can’t choose what to do with their bodies, they find a way to choose.

Posted in Essays

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Dust in the Wind

When it’s time for the first dance, the band has not, in fact, learned “Here Comes My Girl.” So I send them on a smoke break and plug in my iPod. The drumbeat build-up, the chiming piano. Mama and Jim hold each other and dance, moving lightly in the space. The chorus breaking open, a cascading guitar. They keep their eyes on each other.

Posted in Essays

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Letter from a Liberal Minority

Political comparisons are inherently approximate, but nevertheless necessary and even instructive. In the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump, American liberals betrayed a sense of apprehension that felt familiar to me from the time I spent in Pakistan during those years. The rage and anger of Trump rallies, their open denunciations of tolerance, their garish greed for dominance and, beneath it all, their strategic use of desperation as a means to whet the poor against the weak, bore more than an incidental resemblance to rallies that have raged through Pakistan in the past decade.

Posted in Essays

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What Needed Screwing Got Screwed

An excerpt from Los Angeles in the 1970’s: Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine (edited by David Kukoff)  Any good craftsman carries his tools. Years ago they were always at the ready. In a car. In a knapsack. Claw hammers, crisscrossed heads, thirty-two ouncers. Wrenches in all sizes, sometimes with oil caked on the teeth. […]

Posted in Essays

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The Eighteen Days’ Campaign

Translated by Edward Gauvin from The World of Paul Willems I was in what they call the 18 Days’ Campaign. Eighteen days of war is, of course, not a lot at all, but for me it was a very intense time, of which I retain a very vivid memory. I was called to active duty […]

Posted in Essays

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Ghost Songs: Excerpts

I hear breathing, a dry broken noise like fabric dragging on rough wood. On the wall in my hospital room, something shimmers in the afternoon light. It is my father. I sit up and avert my eyes and he becomes more defined, as if he is meant to be seen from the far side of the eye, where apparitions live.

Posted in Essays, Tin House Books

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Pieces of Soap: About the Cover

In the design brief for Stanley Elkin’s Pieces of Soap, editor, Tony Perez, suggested I look to the title essay for ideas. In Elkin’s humorous meditation on mortality and compulsion, he writes about his soap-stealing obsession, describing the massive collection of pilfered soap that fills his home: Because I have, in basket and hamper, in […]

Posted in Essays, Tin House Books

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The Rest of the Novel

For conveying ideas, novels are among the least functional and most decorative of the blunt instruments.

Posted in Essays, Tin House Books

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Pieces of Soap

This would have been after the ms was first diagnosed but before the chair glide was put in, before, in fact, anything very important was wrong with me at all.

Posted in Essays, Tin House Books

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Between Two Worlds: The Backdrop of The Long Room

At the end of the 1970s and during the first year of the succeeding decade, I lived on a boat on the river Thames at Chelsea.

Posted in Essays, Tin House Books

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Wordstock Week: Emma Straub

A few years ago, God gave me a birthday present. Joey McIntyre was coming to Madison, Wisconsin, four days before my twenty-seventh birthday. My boyfriend, Mike, and I bought tickets the day they went on sale, and when I looked at the stubs in my hand, I saw that we had just purchased numbers one and two.

Posted in Essays, Events

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Breaking Tradition

A friend lent me two hundred dollars to see a psychic named Linda Bell, a heavy-set woman wearing a turquoise kaftan, hair blown into a high bouffant. With a dramatic flourish of her arm, she gestured me, a shy seventeen-year-old girl, into her house.

Posted in Essays, Tin House Books

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How To Write A Kick-Ass Essay, with Ann Hood

Too often, when writers try to write an essay, they stumble on common pitfalls like cramming too much information into too small a space, giving too much back story, or trying to write an essay for a particular column rather than writing an emotionally true one. We all have read memoirs that take our breath […]

Posted in Craft, Essays, Podcasts, Workshops

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Awkward Positions: Promiscuous Notes

In our newest issue, Issue 69: Sex, Again?, we asked some of our favorite writers to describe some of their most awkward positions. The poet D. A. Powell was kind enough to respond with a rare foray into prose: Remember when you could just walk up to someone on the street and have sex with them? […]

Posted in Essays, From the Magazine

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Donut Hole in My Heart

Consider your donut loyalties. Consider a donut’s ideal shape and weight; consider ideal donut density. Jelly-filled. Crème. Traditional hoop versus the donut hole. Donut rebels: cronut or cruller. Myself, I advocate the classic glazed, but my loyalties here run deeper than mere tastebuds. I am, perhaps, blinded by a particular allegiance. ♦   When my […]

Posted in Carte du Jour, Essays

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One Culture: Science as Fiction and Future

Cross-legged on the sidewalk of Rustaveli Avenue, a teenager in a Jim Morrison t-shirt strums his guitar. On a window of the Entreé cafe a peeling tourist advertisement reads, “Tbilisi: The city that loves you.” Pink heels rush past a Roma toddler who sleeps beside a bowl half full of tetri coins, undisturbed by the […]

Posted in Essays

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Home of the Harlequin Ladybird

“Then they became my roommates. But they were roommates I’d found on Craigslist, strangers with whom I happened to share a kitchen and a shower. I began to notice the kinds of things you notice only about people and bugs that you live with. The way they lingered on bathroom tiles and stray receipts, drawn to the color white. The way one black wing looks when it licks out from under the shell, so thin at the filigreed tip it is gray.”

Posted in Essays, Flash Fidelity

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Driving a Truck North Through a Novella by Christina Stead

Christina Stead narrates this kind of terrifying order better than anyone I know: sometimes in a kind manic aerial shot, sometimes in a fever of words that pour from everyone’s mouth toward a fixed point in the center of the reader’s mind. I think of her as George Eliot angry in a 20th century way, but she remains obscure because—beyond the frustrating and persistent neglect of ambitious women writers—we are only rarely in the mood to admit the world is ever quite like this: terrifying, terrifying on a normal day.

Posted in Essays

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Last Bet: Cleveland 2016

I’ve been wrong about everything this year. All my predictions, all my knowing, self-assured asides, all my cute, contrary prophecies, have turned out to be utter crap. Like everyone, I misread the spirit of 2016 on a grand scale. This time last year I was assuring my friends that Marco Rubio was exactly the kind […]

Posted in Essays

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On Carolyn See’s Rhine Maidens

Our staff was very sad to learn of the passing of Carolyn See last week. She was, as Karen Karbo knew, “an institution and a great friend to many writers.” Here, a Lost & Found essay from our thirteenth issue in which Karbo praises See’s novel Rhine Maidens, along with a note from Karbo on the sad […]

Posted in Essays, From the Magazine, Lost & Found

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Tomorrow, Today will be Yesterday: Thoughts on Crossing Borders

A newspaper report says 64 refugees from two war-torn countries arrived this morning. They arrived just before dawn, when light smooths out the sharp borders of things and people alike. The pictures show tired faces, but their expressions have not been emptied – on the contrary, they seem full of meaning, they seem to talk.

Posted in Essays

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Unpacking My Lesbian Library

When we went to see the trailer we’d rented, officially Uhauling, it was clear immediately: our books weren’t going to fit. I had eighteen boxes. She had eighteen boxes. The shipping would cost over a grand and so we reconsidered. We were moving the cheapest way possible, to a new state where neither of us […]

Posted in Essays, General

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One Woman’s Meat

Elinore Pruitt Stewart’s letters depict a woman who observed nature as keenly as Henry David Thoreau did, but, unlike Thoreau, there was nobody else washing Stewart’s laundry and dropping off dinner. Thoreau talked a good line in independence; Stewart lived it, and despite the fact that she’d had little formal education, she left writings about her life that are immediate and engaging and sharp.

Posted in Essays

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Accidents

I stumbled upon a lightning strike survivor convention that was scheduled for that weekend in Virginia. It felt like a sign – of what, I can’t say. I charged a plane ticket to my credit card and told no one I was going.

At the convention one man had no arms. A woman had so much skin grafting she looked like fishnet. A man who had fought in Vietnam told a story about waking up in the morgue.

“What happened to you?” they kept asking.

Posted in Essays, Flash Fidelity

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