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The Graybar Hotel by Curtis Dawkins

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Before reading Curtis Dawkins’ short story collection The Graybar Hotel, you should decide how you’re going to come to terms with Dawkins’ crime of murder that put him in prison for life without parole. Decide if you are comfortable with the book’s profits going to an “education fund” for Dawkins’ children.

In the early morning of Oct. 31, 2004, Dawkins shot Thomas Bowman to death during a drug-fueled crime spree in a neighborhood of Kalamazoo, Michigan. In his book, the only explicit reference to the murder is “The night I killed a man was a horrible ordeal, especially for his family, my family” in the book’s acknowledgments. This detached and somewhat unapologetic sentiment is followed by “you learn within twenty-four hours of hearing a prison door slam shut, either you will die regretting the past or you’ll learn to live in the present.” He is correct. Pages of melodramatic regret would not change anything. Continue reading

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The Boomstick Film Club: The Summit

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I admit my love for movies about mountaineering disasters is a little strange. Not only do I not climb mountains myself, I actively avoid it. I’m not a thrill-seeker, and I hate being cold. I think this love comes from the same place as my love for horror movies: a sort of “thank god I’m safe and this isn’t happening to me” feeling, combined with a prurient fascination with other people’s misfortunes. If that sounds remotely like you, The Summit, the story of the deadliest day in K2’s history, should give you plenty to be fascinated and horrified by. Continue reading

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Eat Only When You’re Hungry by Lindsay Hunter

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Overeating is often framed as an issue of willpower, while drug addiction is commonly regarded as a disease. It’s not that the obese have a sickness, the thinking goes, so much as they lack self-control. But a 2011 New York Times blog post titled “Can You Be Addicted to Foods?” challenges this logic, suggesting that overeating may be genetically linked to other kinds of addictions. The post cites a study that finds that “adults with a family history of alcoholism [are] 30 to 40 percent more likely to be obese than those with no alcoholism in the family.” Addiction to food may manifest differently than substance abuse, but the two frequently run together in the blood. Continue reading

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Star Witness by Joe Meno

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Joe Meno’s Star Witness is an enchanting mystery that meanders through the lives of a motley cast of eccentrics trapped in their rural lives.

Meno, author of novels like Office Girl and Marvel and A Wonder, launched the episodic serial novella through Electric Literature. Serialized fiction published by periodicals is not a new format, but this modern iteration feels innovative and unexpected, and Electric Literature should be lauded for experimenting. Meno does the genre proud with an alluring tale about a missing girl and the young woman who is determined to find her. Star Witness exploits the limitations of the serial form by using the episodic structure and our natural curiosity to draw us into Meno’s world. Continue reading

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Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides

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Fresh Complaint, Jeffrey Eugenides’s first short-fiction collection, reads like a career retrospective. Comprised of stories that ran in The New Yorker and elsewhere over the last 29 years (only two stories appear to have been written for the collection), the book showcases the obsessions and hallmarks that have come to define Eugenides as a writer. We follow odd-ducks, middle-aged failures, and bourgeois literary types as they trek off to India, quest for a sense of fulfillment, sacrifice their ambition, and generally struggle to be happy.

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Some Bright Morning, I’ll Fly Away by Alice Anderson

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“You’re going to go into that final trial date in drag,” the famed Stormé DeLarverie tells Alice Anderson late in her memoir, Some Bright Morning, I’ll Fly Away. “You gonna go as the most upright, pretty, perfectly Southern Republican mama they ever fuckin’ seen. And you gonna to play that part like you know how to play it, the best you’ve ever played it.”

It’s the first time in the book that dressing up and playing a part has been called what it is, but drag is all Anderson has been doing since its first pages. She buries the trauma she suffered at her father’s hands under the façade of a good daughter. She clothes herself as a model in Paris. She masks herself as a perfect wife to her terror of a husband. All of these identities are drag, and they serve as a wire that runs through the book, tensing until it snaps. Continue reading

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