In Conversation with Ploi Pirapokin

Shamar Hill: I’m curious about your background and how you came to writing. Ploi Pirapokin: I came to writing primarily because I loved reading and wanted to be in conversation with the authors I read. My father had always boasted about having read every book in the library at university and 6-year-old me wanted toContinue reading “In Conversation with Ploi Pirapokin”

Pretzels, Performers, and Property: Louis Greenstein’s Mr. Boardwalk

Before Donald Trump began his march to the White House, before he had his own line of clothing, and before he had his own television show, he was simply a real- estate mogul, setting up casino after casino in Atlantic City. Before Trump dug his grubby paws into the sand, though, Atlantic City was aContinue reading “Pretzels, Performers, and Property: Louis Greenstein’s Mr. Boardwalk”

Memoir, Travelogue, and Lyric: Raymond M. Wong’s “I’m Not Chinese”

 The first thing you need to know is that I’m not Chinese. My name is Raymond Wong and I stopped being Chinese at the age of five. And so begins Raymond Wong’s touching account of his own coming of age as a Chinese American. I’m Not Chinese is part memoir, part travelogue, part lyric essay, andContinue reading “Memoir, Travelogue, and Lyric: Raymond M. Wong’s “I’m Not Chinese””

Lush, Humid, and Lost: The Characters of Vanessa Blakeslee

Vanessa Blakeslee’s short story collection, Train Shots (Burrow Press, 2014), gives you a little pause. True to the title, the breaths between stories are like the pauses in between downing shots. Blakeslee is not afraid to end things on a suspenseful note, and I still find myself wondering about the fates of some of the characters.Continue reading “Lush, Humid, and Lost: The Characters of Vanessa Blakeslee”

Dickinsonian, Delphic, and Dreamlike: Kathryn Levy’s “Reports”

In her collection of poems, Reports (New Rivers Press, 2013), Kathryn Levy presents a distillation of hurt, regret, and wonder. This is verse that eschews sentiment. These poems toss aside pat notions of speaker and story, offering up instead imperative, Delphic pronouncements in clipped, syncopated lines that exhibit a charged urgency. Reports reads like telegraphic shorthand: IContinue reading “Dickinsonian, Delphic, and Dreamlike: Kathryn Levy’s “Reports””

Humor amidst chaos: Moshing it up with Mindela Ruby

In her debut novel Mosh It Up, Mindela Ruby proves that she’s done her time in mosh pits. She knows what it means to be loud, fast, and punk and Ruby’s characters are alive with this same energy. Mosh It Up is about Boop, a San Francisco punk of the punk-revival 1990s, when “real” punks actedContinue reading “Humor amidst chaos: Moshing it up with Mindela Ruby”

Grey-Suited and Bitter with Gary Beck’s “Clerk”

For the first few months of a job—maybe a year—you feel you have a great thing, until the boredom, the stagnation, the frustration, the repetitiveness sets in. You want out, but it is also your livelihood. You feel hinged between two places, and the powerlessness of it all, until you make that big decision to let itContinue reading “Grey-Suited and Bitter with Gary Beck’s “Clerk””

Behind the relentless marquees

I just returned from a work trip to Vegas and was reminded again of the immense darkness that lies behind the relentless marquees, the canned attractions, overdone resorts, and extraverted casinos. What intrigues me are the people, the ones who live off the scraps: the immigrants in stained shirts flicking pornographic cards at tourists; the oversunned men undoing the failed Harmon Hotel,Continue reading “Behind the relentless marquees”