Reviews

Review: Mudflat Dreaming

Book by JEAN WALTON

REVIEWED BY WILL PRESTON 

Mudflat Dreaming cover

A few years ago, I made an impromptu road trip to a Canadian ghost town called Bradian. Tucked into the Chilcotin Mountains about five hours north of Vancouver BC, Bradian lies at the end of a forbidding 45-mile dirt road and was deserted in 1971 after the local gold mine closed. Despite its near-total inaccessibility, Bradian has become a strangely coveted object since its abandonment. The town has passed from one owner to the next, each with their own ludicrous plan for its empty streets: a retirement community, a sketchy immigration scheme, a drug smuggling operation. And as if rebuffing the unwanted advances of a long line of suitors, the town has foiled every attempt to claim it. (It’s currently on the market for $1.2 million.) Writing about Bradian for The Common in 2017, I saw its bizarre holdout as a parable for the tug-of-war between human conquest and the natural world, a reminder that not everywhere should be subject to the drumbeat of development.

Review: Mudflat Dreaming
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Friday Reads: April 2019

Curated by: SARAH WHELAN

Happy Launch Week! We are so delighted that Issue 17 is here in time for spring. After you’ve enjoyed these recommendations from some of our Issue 17 contributors, purchase your copy here. 

Recommendations: Be With by Forrest Gander, The World of Yesterday: Memoirs of a European by Stefan Zweig, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, Bridge of the World by Roberto Harrison

Friday Reads: April 2019
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Friday Reads: March 2019

Curated by: SARAH WHELAN

Issue 17 is almost here! Subscribe by March 31st to get your copy, then kick off the weekend with a book recommendation from one of our Issue 17 contributors. This month, our contributors are taking us on inventive narrative journeys across all seven continents and through all four corners of consciousness.

Recommendations: I, the Divine by Rabih Alameddine, Welcome Home by Lucia Berlin, Naming the No-Name Woman by Jasmine An, The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

Friday Reads: March 2019
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Birds of Passage: A Review

Birds of Passage Movie Poster

Movie directed by CIRO GUERRA and CRISTINA GALLEGO

Review by HANNAH GERSEN

 

From its joyous opening dance sequence to its melancholy ending, Birds of Passage (Pájaros de verano) is unlike any movie you have seen about illegal drug trafficking. It’s a gangster movie that downplays violence, looks closely at attempts at peacemaking, and is centered on the fate of a mother and a daughter. Set in Colombia between the late 1960s and early 1980s, the film is told from the perspective of a Wayúu family who live in the arid, northern region of the country and become significant exporters of marijuana to the U.S. Their success in the drug trade brings wealth, but it also pulls them into a world of violence and greed that engulfs and divides their family and their community.

Birds of Passage: A Review
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LitFest Friday Reads: February 2019

It’s that time again—The Common and Amherst College will be hosting the fourth annual LitFest at the end of the month. For three days, February 28th to March 2nd, award-winning authors, poets, and critics will descend on Amherst to read, discuss, teach, and celebrate great writing. This year the lineup includes two National Book Award finalists, two Pulitzer Prize winners, and a New York Times bestseller. View the full list of participating writers and a calendar of events here.

LitFest Friday Reads: February 2019
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Lost, Found, and Betrayed: A Review of Shirkers

Movie directed by SANDI TAN

Review by HANNAH GERSEN

 

In 1992, at age 19, novelist Sandi Tan wrote and starred in Shirkers, a feature-length road movie shot on the streets of Singapore. The title was inspired by Tan’s idea that in life, there were people who were neither movers nor shakers, but shirkers—those who evade responsibility and duty, escaping the confines of society. It starred Tan as S., a murderer and kidnapper on a mysterious mission to save children. One of Tan’s points of inspiration was J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The plot didn’t matter as much as the mood, which Tan cultivated through carefully chosen locations, props, costumes, and music. Tan hired a friend to compose a soundtrack on his electric guitar, and hand-made many of her props, including a colorful board game that S. uses to plot her kidnappings. S.’s costume was a pink sailor shirt and blue knee-length shorts; she carried an old-fashioned camera on a strap, as well as a leather suitcase. “When I was eighteen,” Tan explains, “I thought you found freedom by building worlds inside your head.”

Lost, Found, and Betrayed: A Review of Shirkers
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Friday Reads: November 2018

Curated by: SARAH WHELAN

Thank you to everyone who bought Issue 16, subscribed to receive a copy, or attended a launch event! To celebrate, this month we have three more contributors are here to give us peak at their bookshelves. Whether you’re in the mood for a classic novel, a contemporary essay collection, or an upcoming book of poems, our writers have you covered.

Recommendations: Hybrida by Tina Chang, Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner, Frantumaglia by Elena Ferrante.

Tina Chang

Friday Reads: November 2018
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Review: Oranges

Book by GARY ELDON PETER
Reviewed by JIMMY NEWBORG

The cover of "Oranges" by gary eldon peter

When I think of what it was like to grow up as a gay boy, I remember a particular kind of longing, a confusion over what to do with, or what might happen to, my heart. Most of us lived our earliest years without role models who think and love as we do, whether we looked to our own families or to TV and movies. As we came of age, for many of us, that confusion lingered but led to surprising, triumphant love once overcome. Gary Eldon Peter’s debut short story collection, Oranges, deftly portrays the life of its protagonist, Michael Dolin, as he navigates this trajectory from a childhood in Mason City, Iowa to adulthood in Minneapolis. 

Review: Oranges
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Friday Reads: October 2018

Curated by SARAH WHELAN

October Friday Reads has arrived, which means Issue 16 is not far behind! This month, check out reading suggestions from a selection of contributors from this month’s upcoming issue. Then, be sure to preorder to get Issue 16 in your mailbox. 

Recommendations: Shameless Woman by Magdalena Gómez, Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sarah Schulman, The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud, A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems by Marilyn Chin, and This Little Art by Kate Briggs.

Shameless Woman 

Friday Reads: October 2018
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Review: The Distance Home

Book by PAULA SAUNDERS

Reviewed by TESS CALLAHANthe distance home cover

Willa Cather once said, “Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.” I thought of those words while reading Paula Saunders’s cinematic debut novel, The Distance Home, which she has said is based on her fractured 1960s South Dakota childhood. Saunders draws from a deep well. 

The Distance Home joins such recent novels as Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone, Joyce Carol Oates’ A Book of American Martyrs, Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth and Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton that explore family dysfunction. Saunders asks us to consider the violent underside of American drivenness and its impact on a family’s most vulnerable members.  

Review: The Distance Home
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