Issue 54

Winter Reading

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Editor's Note

Putting together a literary magazine is a joyful yet Sisyphean task. Just when you’ve pushed the boulder up the hill to the printer, back down it rolls. And with it go all the characters you’ve lived with and loved for months, all the small moments of joy and revelation, all the humor and sadness. From the bottom, you begin again, from scratch, always from scratch. Just as writers must court failure in order to transcend the known, we, too, are always looking to challenge ourselves. We search stories for that peculiar mix of the new and the ever-old true, but told anew. In this issue, we found it in young writer Helen Phillips’s story “Flesh & Blood,” about a woman who can see through people’s skin. We saw it in veteran Stuart Dybek’s fractured take on the operatic life in his story “Tosca.” And in Benjamin Percy, too, no stranger to fictional and personal risks, who writes here of his monthlong liver detox (spoiler: no meat and no alcohol do not tame Percy’s inner beast). Two books after being a New Voice in Tin House, Monica Ferrell returns to our pages with the poem “Oh You Absolute Darling.” Always searching for fresh writing, in this issue we are happy to introduce three New Voices: David Feinstein, Sam Ross, and Eric Burg. The venerable writer William Gass, interviewed here, says, “So you try, but you probably will fail. It’s a business. Failure is what happens.” To risk, to dare– that is his, and our, challenge. We’re proud of this issue, but as always, we’re never completely satisfied. We do, however, hope that we have failed better with this, our fifty-fourth try up the hill.

A note about the digital versions: If you read on a Kindle, use the Mobipocket edition; for all other e-readers, use the ePub edition. 

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Table of Contents


William Gass
Soliloquy for a Chair
Karen Russell
Reeling for the Empire
Steven Millhauser
Sons and Mothers
Diane Williams
Two Stories
Robert Anthony Siegel
The Right Imaginary Person
Stuart Dybek
Amelia Gray
House Heart
Charles Baxter
Helen Phillips
Flesh & Blood


Mary Ruefle
Favorite Song
Nite Nite
Michael Wayne Roberts
Dear Nuages,
Donald Dunbar
Something True
Monica Ferrell
Oh You Absolute Darling
Jericho Brown
Willing to Pay
Brandon Shimoda
The Killing Fields
For the People
Gregory Pardlo
Philadelphia, Negro
Brittany Cavallaro
Censored History

New Voice Poetry

Sam Ross
Regarding the Murder of Your Boyfriend’s Roommate
David Feinstein
This is the Remix
Pharmaceutical Ad, Take One
Eric Burg
from Love Poem in C Minor


William Gass


Benjamin Percy
Glutton for Punishment

Lost & Found

Alexander Chee
On Julian May’s Saga of the Pliocene Exile Tetralogy
Andrew Scheiber
On J. J. Phillips’s Mojo Hand
Marcia DeSanctis
On Graham Greene’s The Comedians
Aaron Gilbreath
On Leonard Gardner’s Fat City
Joseph Martin
On Camden Joy’s The Last Rock Star Book or: Liz Phair, A Rant

Readable Feast

J. C. Hallman
The Art of Chewing