Man is a bubble, and all the world is a storm. He kept it on a shelf in our family den, where for years when I was a kid it roared down at us -- unappeasably furious or so I always thought at being trapped up there on its high perch, with no company except some painted beer mugs and a set of purple glass swizzle sticks. Then one day it got broken; I don't remember how.
This is the conclusion I have come to after looking at this non-controversy boiled up by writer Francine Prose — on Facebook, of course, where perhaps one should let non-controversies lie.
The good thing about the controversy is that it made me read both stories both are good. The bad thing about the controversy is that I got tired, again, of readers who seem to have no clue what the imagination means beyond the borders of narrow, realist strategies, and who evince no curiosity and have no clue about the writing or reading ways of others.
This country is now led by President Shithole, also a social media author, like Francine Prose, but of dumb tweets, a man who has no imagination beyond the borders of his narrow, racism-clogged brain, a brain that evinces no curiosity or clue about the thinking or living ways of others.
Through this strategy of inversion, his plots become invariably reflexive — one has to retread ground to read his plots well because his inversions require our reimagining of the words that came before.
Menard has a history of reading Cervantes does not have. My sense is that Concord, Hertfordshire, and Tacloban all gain from such intertextual couplings. One could almost call the trick Borgesian, though it was realist, and a reflexive, playful strategy was not apparent.
The Pakistani couple returns to Karachi during the Trump era instead of staying, and they reminisce about their time in the blandest town I do not want to live in: In both stories, a man is assigned to work with a prim, religious co-worker from a background like his own.
In both stories, the men have beautiful, socially ambitious wives. The couple are taken up by rich people, but when the wife tells a lie, the rich people drop them. Fishing for information, they invite her to a hugely awkward dinner at which she refuses to eat. They have an intense, long, revelatory conversation.
Such useless dudgeon over details that in fact should have given Prose a clue, if she could read 21st-century prose — if she could read outside her lens. By invoking Gallant through fiction so clearly and carefully, Shepard relays the double-consciousness that might lie in a reading of Gallant by a writer of color — particularly a woman writer of color.
Shepard has gallantly doubled our pleasure in Gallant. They treasured the card and left it standing long after the others had been given to the children to cut up. In fact, one might miss them, pre-Shepard. And so on and so forth: She wrote in a Facebook post: As someone who was familiar with the Mavis Gallant story and recognized the parallels, I enjoyed it as an homage … It was a re-imagining of a story … I also wonder if I have a different bias as a South Asian immigrant who grew up here consuming literature that was considered universal and never seeing myself or my community in the stories I loved.
So I grew up constantly, constantly re-imagining those stories with characters who were not white, thinking what would this story be without that default? Would it still be universal?
Ambiguity and splitness are the fates of all humans — no one has a singular identity, as all of us know as we move from one role to the next, office to subway to home to death.
But the ambiguous identity of the immigrant on that subway is often visible, sometimes tragically. More importantly, the ways of immigrant seeing are double-brained — there is the majority world that encompasses you and that you would be foolish to reject outright; and there is the world of your specific upbringing that you would also like to bring to the world.
I am not being generous in saying that; I am being accurate. She gives us therefore both a larger history of reading, and an individual response to a story loved. I imagine that is why she gave the title those double-edged words. I write here sharply about Francine Prose not because I disdain her — she is, of course, entitled to her ways of reading.
But I do not understand why she cannot immediately claim for Shepard what is so obviously an old literary trope: The history of appropriation in literature is too long, an old truism, but Prose seems incapable of imagining an Asian-American writer would be doing so strategically, purposefully.
I imagine this is because Prose does not get different ways a writer of color might read Gallant. One thing I do understand is that damning a writer with plagiarism has a dire history with writers of color. I think of the African-American Harlem Renaissance writer Nella Larsen, author of the brilliant, transgressive novel Passing, whose career was doomed by accusations that she plagiarized the work of a white British writer, the now-unknown Sheila Kaye-Smith.
As the critic Kelli Larson notes: There are ways in which a noisy white voice, unknowing of the ways in which others read or write, can narrow our view of art and destroy a career.In a remote corner of El Salvador, investigators uncovered the remains of a horrible crime — a crime that Washington had long denied.
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Nic Sheff defends the controversial choice in an eloquent, exclusive op-ed about how his own dark history informed the Netflix series.