July 24, 2015

Laura, who comes every other week to clean my house, seems not to engage with the little narratives I leave for her.

December 06, 2016

I live five miles from where the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel tragedy unfolded, along the New River Gorge in Fayette County. Hawk’s Nest is an extreme in a class of extremes—the disaster where truly nothing seemed to survive, even in memory—and I have made a home in its catacombs. The historical record is disgracefully neglectful of the event, and only a handful of the workers’ names were ever made known. What’s more, any understanding of Hawk’s Nest involves the discomfort of the acute race divide in West Virginia, seldom acknowledged or discussed. Indeed, race is still downplayed in official accounts. Disaster binds our people, maybe. But what if you’re one of those deemed unworthy of memory?

July 15, 2016

In the kitchen of the McCullers house, my boom box picked up an Alabama public radio station; after writing all day, and before reading all night, I would listen to the radio and cook, in the very room from which warm meals once emerged to feed the girl who grew up to write The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.

May 15, 2017

A previously unpublished poem by Margaret Walker. 

For a dozen wonderful writers:
Goodbye to all you girls and guys
who walked this weary way 
who climbed these hills
and walked these miles
this rocky wooded chase.
A dozen wonderful writers

April 28, 2016

A short story from the Summer 2013 issue.

Swansea said he’d never cried, not even when he was a kid, because it’s such a false and easy way to the thing that’s eating you. Like crying is too simple for real sadness.

Fear, though. We know about fear. It makes a hot rush out of my head when it comes on, and I can’t be held responsible.

June 02, 2014
Mal Mardis spun two spent rolls of color film on the bar, didn’t look up at Gus, and realized that cutting basic cable alone wouldn’t solve the problem. He’d also have to find a way for his wife to quit subscribing to the magazines. This morning’s mission was no different than when Brenda renovated their bathroom, den, or what used to be a two-car garage. Mal was supposed to drop off the film at any of the one-hour developers twenty miles from their house, use that time to buy at least two dozen frames, go back to the developer—Eckerd, Jack Rabbit, Walmart, One-Hour Photo—select the nicest shots, and ask that the person behind the counter now blow them up into 8 x 10s.
April 04, 2016

A story from our spring 2013 issue.

You see the painter standing outside the book store, smoking, one hand shoved into the pocket of his jeans, a hooded sweatshirt giving him the squat, neckless look of a bodybuilder. But you know, from the opening/reading the night before—he wore a short-sleeved, double-pocketed shirt like the one your father used to wear bowling—that his arms are thin, muscle tone soft. Four months later, when he sends you a picture of himself naked, six muscle-pounds heavier, leaning back in his office chair to better display (you assume) the newly articulate abdominal lines, you will tell him you remember noticing, that first night, the paunch of his stomach beneath the bowling shirt.

January 28, 2016

For three over-warm days in late May, Allan Gurganus welcomed me to his home to hold forth on his life and art, and on the imminent publication of Local Souls, about the invented town of Falls, North Carolina, population 6,803. An ordinary place of extraordinary people, Falls appears in nearly all of Gurganus’s fiction—“an inexhaustible resource,” he calls it, a town he knows with such kissing intimacy he can amble in it block by block and tell you how many cracks the sidewalks have.

April 15, 2016

A guy on the local news said most gas stations lowered their prices at nine in the morning and raised them at four, something about fucking over people who’d already driven to work and drivers who didn’t leave their cubicles until dusk. He didn’t exactly use those words, but any rational cynic knew what he meant.

March 14, 2017

A story by Jesmyn Ward, the first of three excerpts from her forthcoming novel Sing, Unburied, Sing. 

I like to think I know what death is. I like to think that it’s something I could look at straight. When Pop tell me he need my help and I see that black knife slid into the belt of his pants, I follow Pop out the house, try to keep my back straight, my shoulders even as a hanger; that’s how Pop walks. I try to look like this is normal and boring so Pop will think I’ve earned these thirteen years, so Pop will know I’m ready to pull what needs to be pulled, separate innards from muscle, organs from cavities. I want Pop to know I can get bloody. Today’s my birthday.