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This Week in Short Fiction

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As civil servants in heavily militarized gear keep the Ferguson community under surveillance and the rest of us glued to the Internet for increasingly shocking reports of brutality and awe, we need another good story this week. Enter the Coffee House Press Black Arts Movement Series.

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An End to Bookends

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At Salon, Molly Fischer criticizes the New York Times’s “Bookends” column, going so far as to suggest that the it be eliminated for good. She compares the question-and-answer formats — and the content of the prompts — as reminiscent of  high school English classes:

It’s not just the stiff phrasing (“What should we make of this?” “What’s behind the notion?”) that gives Bookends its blue-books-and-binder-paper feel.

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A Colony Divided

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In Koktebel, on the southern coast of Crimea, artists have gathered for almost a century, attracted to the “particular light and kinetic landscapes.” Now, with the annexation of Crimea, Neil Macfarquhar of the New York Times reports that the summer writer’s colony is divided, and the otherwise communal atmosphere has given way to two competing factions: the pro-Russian Crimea and the anti-Russia Crimea.

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Riskier Books Find Readers

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The changing economics of the publishing industry may be hurting profits, but it has also allowed writers room to experiment with new forms that are often more challenging to readers than has been allowable in the past. Instead of meeting declining sales with pedestrian replicas of past successes, authors are taking greater risks, and often rewarded for it, explains Thomas McMullan at the Guardian:

Perhaps the taste for inventiveness stems not so much from reaching back into modernism, but more from the desire to find something representative of the physically detached, digitally connected way most of us communicate, just as Joyce was compelled to find a new way to express the rapidly changing face of the early 20th century.

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Creative Writing’s Business

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Rumpus contributor Nick Ripatrazone writes about teaching students the business side of creative writing at The Millions, addressing some crucial questions:

Should a writer submit to a literary magazine that only “pays” in contributor copies? What does it mean that we, in the literary community, have accepted lack of monetary payment as commonplace?

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The Science of Why You Can’t Read Good Literature

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Writer Michael Harris discusses digital distraction and reading War and Peace at Salon:

But there’s a religious certainty required in order to devote yourself to one thing while cutting off the rest of the world. We don’t know that the inbox is emergency-free, we don’t know that the work we’re doing is the work we ought to be doing.

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Fine the Way You Are

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Homogeneity in the literary scene isn’t a recent development. Earlier this year, Junot Diaz caused a stir by branding the unbearable too-whiteness of his workshop experience. Justin Torres and Ayana Mathis couldn’t help but contribute:

“One of the characters is sort of referred to as having something like almond skin, something that would identify the character as black.

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The City of Diaries

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Since founding Italy’s National Diary Archive Foundation in 1984, Saverio Tutino has amassed “thousands of diaries, letters, [and] autobiographies,” in an attempt at “remembering, and celebrating, the lives of ordinary people.” As reported by Elisabetta Poveledo in the New York Times, this city, Pieve Santo Stefano, outside of Arezzo, has become known as the “City of Diaries.”

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Word of the Day: Eidolism

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(n.); belief in ghosts; etymology difficult to trace, but typically attributed to the Greek eidolon (“image, apparition, phantom, ghost”)

There was something else in the house, unmentioned and unlabelled. A sort of shadowy presence that hovered by the back door. No one referred to it, so I kept quiet, but without ever really actually seeing anything I knew it was a boy.

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