2016 Amuse-Bouche Archive

Writers Read: The Feel Trio by Fred Moten

Fred Moten’s writing is being lost. Or found. Or the kind of lost you want—the wind whipping through trees in Alabama or words that come in meaningful bursts, though you are unsure of the meaning or the source of the bursts. You reel in a mad maelstrom of feeling, entirely precognitive but at once familiar, […]

Writers Read: About This Life by Barry Lopez

In the introduction to his essay anthology, About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory, Barry Lopez describes becoming a writer and finding his voice. He writes of the universality of story in all cultures, a binding theme in this collection: “Stories do not give instruction, they do not explain how to love a companion […]

Spotlight: After the ring… / Prayer / She’s a lot more fun…

After the ring, strip naked Peel your original self like a grape, become unrecognizable when you meet yourself in the mirror. When you meet your husband’s colleagues, just after they get a whiff of baby vomit, glance at your waistline, ignore your proffered hand, say: I am raising our children. Watch them head for the […]

Writers Read: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, chronicles the stories of peoples living in Annawadi, a slum on the outskirts of the airport in Mumbai, India. Between 2007-2011, Boo interviewed 168 people and reviewed over 3,000 public records with the help of translators. She did so in order to answer some pretty […]

Spotlight: Sou’Memphis ER

Waiting room TV wanna know “CREDIT NO GOOD?” in blinkedy blue letters blue plastic chairs hard as rocks blue scrubs and blue shower caps on the nurses and docs blue-eyed po-lice ++all in blue beat my cousin black and blue the PA system sayin ++code blue ++code blue I wonder if they talkin bout him […]

Writers Read: Mefisto by John Banville

This is a novel written by an author in extremis, an author both blessed and possessed. John Banville admits to experiencing a nervous breakdown while writing the book. He called it his attempt to set himself free in the practice of writing. The story is a first-person narration in the past tense. It is set […]

Spotlight: I Hate Myself for Loving You

I don’t know how he figured it was me who told the school he had AIDS, but he found out—and finds me under the bleachers, smoking a cigarette. He even throws the first punch, which I think is out of character for the rich bitch star of our high school track team, headed to Yale […]

Writers Read: Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio

I read the essay collection Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio, and returned to my own work-in-progress that suddenly resembled the cute chicken scratch of a toddler. Or an actual chicken. I looked at my attempt at an essay and thought, surely there’s a mistake. This can’t be my most recently revised draft. Alas. And so D’Ambrosio’s […]

Spotlight: Picking Blueberries / Organ Stop Pizza, Mesa, AZ / I Go Into The McDonald’s Bathroom

Picking Blueberries My mother’s colander: metal with small, heart-shaped mouths— It was an old thing, probably my grandmother’s before, just like that blueberry bush in our backyard, planted 50-odd-years ago, a natural inheritance. We never used the colander except when picking blueberries, and even that became a hobby my parents left for their aging relatives […]

Writers Read: The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment explores a woman trying to survive the emotional storm after her husband leaves her. While thin on plot, the specificity of the character study strikes a universal chord. The brutal and ugly honesty is striking, off-putting, and at times self-indulgent, but the character always remains true, which makes her […]

Spotlight: The Things We Saved

On a heavy Saturday in June, Steven and I wait for strangers to pound through my mother’s front door, but the strangers never come. Exclamation points, dotting our Craigslist posts like lollipops, have failed to lure buyers for the Vintage, Mint Condition! Italian provincial dining room set! and the Like New! Singer Sewing machine. No […]

Writers Read: On Being Stuck by Laraine Herring

Writer’s block. We’ve all experienced it. Sometimes we force ourselves through it. Wait it out. Try a writing prompt, take a break for coffee or something to eat. And sometimes it’s stickier than that. Now, you can’t get a word down. You’re staring at the white page. Maybe a revision? Maybe you should start over—like, […]

Spotlight: A Thin Season / In My Travels

A Thin Season (For a young man beheaded for listening to Western pop tunes in his father’s grocery store) It is a thin season culling the air of blue breath choked sudden as a sword at the throat of a young infidel the forbidden pop tune of his innocence still playing in the annals of […]

Writers Read: Children of the Days by Eduardo Galeano

Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History consists of a series of 366 vignettes, one for each day of the Roman calendar year, not noticeably related to one another, which create a mosaic of fractured memories of human history. The volume continues the late Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano’s Hegelian approach to understanding and articulating Latin […]

Anna van Schaap, Smoke Signals, 2016, Oil on Canvas, 48x36in

Spotlight: Say It Like You Mean It

Spotlight: What I Brought Back / Freya at the Farmers’ Market / If an Egg Floats

What I Brought Back Peace Corps Lesotho, 1980-82 I brought images of a motorcycle, a tsetututu, sputtering down pot-holed roads to a village where men stuff mint in their nostrils, women stretch their mouths in ululation, boys extend legs in Bruce Lee moves, and babies are secured on mothers’ backs by blankets with airplane designs. […]

Spotlight: The Waiting

My last living memory is of my husband carrying my half-conscious body away from the thick heat and clinging wetness of the rice field. Something has bitten my right heel, leaving a crescent of bloody marks. He places me on our cart, jumps on, and prods Sakhi, our cow, into a jingling trot. Sweat and […]

Writers Read: A Field Guide for Immersion Writing by Robin Hemley

A Field Guide for Immersion Writing is Robin Hemley’s non-fiction methodological primer for writers on immersion journalism. In this compilation, Mr. Hemley covers a gamut of approaches to tackling immersion-writing projects, using examples of his work and other writers’ works to apply the mechanics of the narrative process. His techniques cover advice for undertaking and refining […]

Spotlight: Moorings / Walking the Dog in Autumn I Stop to Tie My Shoelace

Moorings Suppose you say water. We’re on the boat, making for Babson Island, one of three tiny beach slabs that connects at high tide. We set anchor, mark the drift, account for wind, row to the shallows. This place has sand dollars. You find some, bring them to me. I will wrap them in tissue […]

Writers Read: Dated Emcees by Chinaka Hodge

On the Friday following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Chinaka Hodge performed selections from her newly released poetry book, Dated Emcees, at 826LA to benefit the literacy organization. With poems honoring Jordan Davis, references to Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant, and tributes to Tupac and Biggie, Hodge has no shortage of words for […]

Spotlight: Burning Nettles

The train ride from Osaka to Arashiyama took an hour. Noriko rested her head against her husband’s shoulder and drifted off into a light sleep. She was exhausted from long days working at the Tesagara Tea Room and taking care of their two-year-old son, Eiji. Disembarking at the station, Ichiro instructed the cab driver to […]

Writers Read: Bending Genre “On Convention” by Margot Singer

In “On Convention,” Margot Singer is less interested in defining what creative nonfiction is, and more interested in what it is doing and what it can do. She seeks to understand the evolving nature of the art of the genre, and how it blurs the lines between the “conventions,” of good writing—an imitation of mimetic […]

Spotlight: Each Time We Enter Costco / By Morning / Nothing of Me Will Survive

Each Time We Enter Costco I cannot help myself. I have to say, “See that? Free hearing tests!” To which I add, “Can’t hear me?” He ignores that, so, “Eh? Eh? What’s that?” His brittle bearing flashes mad. The cart gets filled in silence. Stuff we do not need in ludicrous amounts: pintos, potato chips, […]

Writers Read: Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

The great thing about graphic memoirs is that they tell a story with pictures and somehow capture a feeling or an expression that no words can explain. It’s tricky, though. Because the association that a graphic novel is a story of cartoons, the expectation is that the subject matter is fiction. With a graphic memoir, the […]

Nancy Calef, CNN, oil on canvas, 36" x 48"

Spotlight: Peoplescapes

Writers Read: Reeling Through Life by Tara Ison

In Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love and Die at the Movies, Tara Ison taps into her subconscious and squeezes out a rich stream of life lessons. Weaving her personal stories together with scenes from iconic films, Ison reflects on the “influence of film on [her] own authenticity” (5) and specifically examines […]

Spotlight: Longing, as dirge / Elegy / Epitaphs for a state you’ve never seen

Longing, as dirge The wood in warp and disrepair has had its share of everything. Never drinking not even rye and absinthe puddled sickly on this old porch. No, the sazerac’s candy burn fails to impress this sagging terrace— it smolders on as coal beneath the eves. Although my foot glances toward his thigh and […]

Writers Read: Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata

The palm-of-the-hand stories anthologized in this collection span decades of Yasunari Kawabata’s life, from 1923-1972, and far pre-date the recent moniker “flash fiction,” though they could be classified now using that label. Most of these stories are realistic, detailing families at home, strangers on the train, and past lovers’ meeting by chance. There are a […]

Spotlight: The City Stargazers

Bonnie started stripping the moment her bedroom door latched behind her. She undid her blouse buttons. The white fabric stuck to her back, and she peeled it off and let it crumple to the floor. She tossed it so that it sat in a small, sweaty mountain in the corner of her room. Next to […]

Writers Read: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The much talked about Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is about murder—the murder of black people by white people in a country that has thrived, since its inception, on the abuse of black bodies. This thriving is economic, but it is also cultural and, therefore, part of our identity as Americans. Over […]

Spotlight: Lift / After the Rain / Caveat Emptor

Lift Up here even a slim wind sets the outstretched jib singing, but that doesn’t bother me any more than the crane’s height or cab’s close quarters. The way my son tells it, you’d think I lift a hundred tons on my back every day and build those buildings with my bare hands. I say […]

Writers Read: The Art of Recklessness by Dean Young

I was hoping that at some point I would figure out what this book is about—maybe you are too. – from The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction by Dean Young (p. 153) It’s difficult to digest all of The Art of Recklessness into an annotation, probably by design.  Writer Dean Young often loses the reader with lines […]

Writers Read: Excavation by Wendy C. Ortiz

LA-based writer Wendy C. Ortiz writes about her loss of innocence in her debut memoir Excavation, which has received rave reviews since its 2014 release. Ortiz’s writing is rife with figurative language like simile, metaphor, personification, parallel structure, alliteration, and repetition, but it is also incredibly self-reflective. Whether it’s the temporal distance that gives her […]

Spotlight: The Last Cigarette

On September 26, 2009, at about a quarter past one in the morning, while outside, a cloudy night sky was closing in on Padua, he, lying on his king-sized futon next to his profoundly asleep wife, was shaken by a violent cough. Eyes staring into the dark bedroom, he was overcome by the age-old fear […]

Writers Read: The Ecstatic by Victor Lavelle

The Ecstatic is Victor Lavalle’s intriguing debut novel cataloguing two months in the life of Anthony James, a 23-year-old horror-movie loving, obese, unstable, socially inept, obsessed with cleaning, sometimes-schizophrenic, college dropout. Anthony’s narrative begins on September 25, 1995, when he is abruptly rescued from “living wild in his apartment” (3) in Central New York and hauled […]

Writers Read: The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit gets the title for her work The Faraway Nearby from Georgia O’Keefe. “From the faraway nearby” was how O’Keefe would sign letters to the people she loved after moving from New York City to rural New Mexico. Says Solnit, “It was a way to measure physical and psychic geography together” (108). It is […]

Spotlight: Maranda on Fire

I started firewalking after seeing a picture of a monk burn himself to death, but of course it’s more complicated than that. The monk came to history class where we were studying Vietnam, talking about what a mistake it had been, and about the protests against the war, in our country, and over there, where they […]

Writers Read: The Kingdom of This World by Alejo Carpentier

Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of This World is a historical fiction novel set between the 1750s and 1810s, encompassing the time frame of the Haitian revolution. Carpentier creates an alternative history to the popular narrative of Toussaint L’Ouverture. The story is narrated by Ti Noël, an uneducated slave of the French plantation owner, M. Lenormand […]

Jeanette May, Fox, 2013, Archival Pigment Print, 24 x 36 in.

Spotlight: Morbidity & Mortality

Writers Read: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

In the bestselling medical ethics-centered nonfiction work The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, author Rebecca Skloot uses primary resources, including one thousand-plus hours of personal interviews, to piece together a life—Henrietta Lacks’s—lost too soon to cervical cancer yet forever immortalized, thanks to the science of cell culture. Like a wedding cake, the book is rich […]

Spotlight: Telling it Slant / Counting on an Axe / Disturbance with Walnut

o there is Michelangelo up the ladder
on the platform
laid on his back
wishing he chipped at a piece of sculpture instead…

Spotlight: Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) / Sooraya Qadir / Mr. Frank, Biology

Ammi and Abu, and that brother of mine— / They don’t know who I am. Curfews & calls / to prayer, weekly lectures at the mosque, / but then, there’s also the smell of bacon…

Spotlight: Breakup

In Charlotte, where winter brings no guarantee of snow, small children press their palms together, close their eyes so tight they see waves of color, and plead with God to unzip heaven…