Sofia Belimova

LitFest 2021 Excerpt: Interior Chinatown

By CHARLES YU

Image of Charles Yu's book, Interior Chinatown.

Amherst College’s sixth annual literary festival will take place virtually this year, from Thursday, February 25 to Sunday, February 28. Among the guests are 2020 National Book Award fiction winner Charles Yu and longlist nominee Megha Majumdar. The Common is pleased to reprint a short excerpt from Yu’s novel Interior Chinatown here.

Join Megha Majumdar and Charles Yu in conversation with host Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint (visiting writer at Amherst College) on Friday, February 26 from 7 to 8pm. 

Register and see the full list of LitFest events here.


LitFest 2021 Excerpt: Interior Chinatown
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The Language of the Body

By SARA ELKAMEL

Image of tents in a Bedouin-style camp at the Wadi Rum desert in southern Jordan

Tents in a Bedouin-style camp at the Wadi Rum desert in southern Jordan. Courtesy: Soraya Ghezelbash.

Wadi Rum, Jordan
for Yvonne

 

We pull the black of Rum over our eyes
like skin. God’s earth is vast, vast, vast—but by day

she wrapped her limbs around my limbs and drew
my air. I follow her into the dark, consider saying: Please,

I don’t know what you need—but all I see is red.
At the foot of the dunes I push her, soft as the sin

that tips the scale. I run away like a ghost, a demon, a silent drum
in the faultless dark. Not a quiver of light around my bones.

The Language of the Body
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Neighbors

By NICK STORY

Image of a figure down the hallway.

 
The Rectangle

When my marriage ended I moved to an apartment building that was mostly uninhabited. I never saw the other tenants. There were traces of them here and there—a sock left in a dryer, muted weeping down the hall, ambulances flashing out front—but I couldn’t have told you what any of my neighbors looked like.

There was a serious cockroach infestation in my unit. In the kitchen, the roaches chewed through boxes of crackers, fresh fruit, bags of rice. They crawled over the counters, peeked up through the sink drain, and burned in the oven. In the middle of the night, I’d spot them on the ceiling, circling the kitchen light like planets in a model solar system.

Neighbors
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Pandemic Diaries

By JINJIN XU 

#1
New York City    March 17, 2020

For the past few days, I’ve vacillated between panic, helplessness, and feeling like a prophetic, burning witch. I spent the first two months of this year watching the pandemic take hold of China—from the arrest of Dr. Li WenLiang for spreading “false rumors,” to Wuhan and the whole country going into lockdown, to my friends mailing masks back home to their families in China—sitting in my NYC apartment as the virus swept across Korea, Iran, Italy, making its way across the globe towards me.

Pandemic Diaries
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Translation: A Trip to La Paz

Essay by HEBE UHART

Translated from the Spanish by ANNA VILNER

Essay appears in both Spanish and English.

Translator’s Note

Hebe Uhart’s “A Trip to La Paz” is delightfully misleading in that we never arrive at our destination; we never see the city that touches the clouds. This essay is concerned with a different kind of beauty—the getting there, the buzzing potential of travel. It encapsulates why we embark on grueling car rides, on flights, on long train journeys, in the first place.

Translation: A Trip to La Paz
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Taking the Waters

By MARTHA COOLEY

Sulfur: odor of rotten eggs, matchhead, volcanoes, gunpowder, and Lucifer down there in Hell’s fire and brimstone.

Also the smell that pervades thermal spas. Along with minerals such as sodium chloride, iodine, and calcium, sulfur is a key component of many therapeutic waters. Linked as it is with fire and corrosion, sulfur also has a storied association with the healing of numerous ailments, particularly respiratory and skin-related ones.

Taking the Waters
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Willie Perdomo To Join Editorial Staff of The Common

Image of Willie Perdomo's headshot

(Amherst, Mass. — December 7, 2020)— The Common, the award-winning literary journal based at Amherst College, has hired acclaimed poet Willie Perdomo as its new Interviews Editor. With publishing experience stretching back twenty-five years, Perdomo currently teaches English at Philips Exeter Academy.

Willie Perdomo To Join Editorial Staff of The Common
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Playing Frankenstein: An Interview with Alison Entrekin

HEATH WING interviews ALISON ENTREKIN

Image of Alison Entrekin

When I met with Alison Entrekin for this interview, the first thing I noticed was all the books she carried with her: fat dictionaries, field guides on botany, one on the birds of northeastern Brazil—the type of book generally known only to birdwatchers and ornithologists—not to mention a copy of Dylan Thomas’s 1954 radio drama, Under Milk Wood. I thought, only in the hands of a translator, an obsessive sort of word junkie like Alison, could such an assortment of books assemble.

We sat down to discuss her work in a coffee shop/bookstore in Santos, Brazil. As we made small talk, Alison, almost in passing, nodded toward the bookshelf above us lined with guidebooks on Brazil for gringo tourists. She explained that she had translated many of these guidebooks into English, a long time ago. She told me this, it seemed, neither to emphasize the extent of her work, which is no doubt impressive, nor to boast—and there is much to brag about—but in a self-reflective sort of manner, more to herself, as if surprised by how far she has come, from translating tourist guidebooks to now being the most sought after English translator of Brazilian literature. Her long list of translations includes works like City of God by Paulo Lins, Cristovão Tezza’s The Eternal Son, Chico Buarque’s Budapest, Clarice Lispector’s Near to the Wild Heart, and Blood-Drenched Beard by Daniel Galera.

Playing Frankenstein: An Interview with Alison Entrekin
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Author Postcard Auction 2020

Image of TC logo with headshots of authors participating in postcard auction

It’s that time of year again: bid for a personalized, handwritten postcard from your favorite author through The Common’s seventh annual author postcard auction! The personalization of the postcards makes them fantastic gifts, just in time for the holidays.

Join in on the fun this year for a chance to receive a postcard from New York Times-bestsellers, National Book Award-winners, and MacArthur Fellows. In the past few years, authors have famously gone all out with their postcards: expect to receive anything from long letters to drawings and doodles to haikus. 

New this year, in celebration of The Common’s 10th anniversary, some bidders will also receive rewards from Penguin Classics! The first and every fifth bidder, plus the highest bidder and top two underbidders (just missed out on winning!), will receive one of a handful of books from the gorgeous Deluxe or hardcover Vitae series including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, George Elliot’s Middlemarch, and the autobiography of Frederick Douglass.

Online bidding will open to the public at 10 am EST on November 9, 2020. Participating authors include literary powerhouses such as André Aciman, Susan Choi, and Valeria Luiselli, as well as writer-performers Jenny Slate and David Sedaris. Newcomers to the auction include acclaimed writers Anne Carson and Phil Klay and world-renowned singer/songwriter Natalie Merchant.

If you’re interested in supporting The Common but don’t want to bid, click here to donate

Author Postcard Auction 2020
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