All posts tagged: 2014

On Naming

Filthy McNasty's SignTo exist humanly, is to name the world, to change it. ~Paulo Freire

When I was 19 my full-time job was bartending a pub called Filthy McNasty’s. McNasty’s sat on Rose Street in Edinburgh, Scotland, one of the roughest streets in the city center at the time. Fights punctuated each hour of the night and later, after I’d moved on up from McNasty’s, a friend was stabbed near there in a skinhead-like attack. Indoors, customers called me “Garth” because of my wild, unkempt hair, like Garth in Wayne’s World. I didn’t wear makeup and favored baggy jeans and t-shirts; I guess this made me infuriatingly gender ambiguous. My fellow bartenders, with their straightened, bleached-blonde hair, penciled-on brows and figure-hugging polyester tolerated Garth to the best of their abilities, aside from one woman, whose actual name I don’t remember, but whose tan outfits—tight pants and jacket—and extremely thick accent conjured the name “Tanner” in my mind. This word, Tanner, also captured the sound of her voice. She clearly despised me/Garth. She would sashay away from us when the bar wasn’t full enough to force us close together. We could barely understand one another’s accents so the physical distance was a welcome relief.

Olivia ZhengOn Naming

Ask a Local: Dagoberto Gilb, Austin, TX


Austin Texas Lake Front


In this month’s Ask A Local, Dagoberto Gilb offers us a glimpse of Austin, TX in the form of a micro-interview.

Your name: Dagoberto Gilb

Current city or town: Austin, Texas

How long have you lived here? 15 years 

Isabel MeyersAsk a Local: Dagoberto Gilb, Austin, TX

Writing and Violence: An Interview with Judith Frank


Judith Frank

Judith Frank is the author of the novel, Crybaby Butch, and a professor of English at Amherst College. She received a B.A. from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a Ph.D. in English literature and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Cornell. She has been the recipient of a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, and support from both Yaddo and MacDowell. Marni and Judith spoke online about Judy’s new novel, All I Love and Know, and what it means to write about violence in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Isabel MeyersWriting and Violence: An Interview with Judith Frank

Layaali Arabic Music Performance

Event Date:
Thursday, March 26, 2015 – 7:00pm9:00pm
POWERHOUSE, Amherst College

Join us at the Amherst College Powerhouse for an electrifying musical performance by Layaali, a Massachusetts-based group committed to furthering the appreciation of traditional Arab music and culture.

Doors open at 7pm on Thursday, March 26. Concert begins at 7:30pm.

Free and open to the public!

Part of the Copeland Colloquium Program at Amherst College.
Photo by Layaali Facebook Page.

Emma CroweLayaali Arabic Music Performance

Translation Master Class – Postponed

Event Date:
Wednesday, March 25, 2015 – 4:30pm6:00pm

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED. Check back for rescheduling. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Hisham Bustani and Thoraya El-Rayyes will lead a translation master class. Drawing on texts in an array of source languages, the master class will focus on important literary considerations for translators, translation techniques, and the experimental and collaborative process of translation.

To register, email [email protected]
Part of the Copeland Colloquium Program at Amherst College.

Emma CroweTranslation Master Class – Postponed

Where I Once Belonged: A Tribute to Kent Haruf


I studied history in college, because it seemed somehow practical (don’t ask me why), and after three years of study I realized that I was a mediocre historian at best, that what I loved about researching the past were the stories, and so I took a creative writing class.

By sheer luck that class was taught by Kent Haruf. I had no idea of the tradition of great writers who had taught at Southern Illinois University (before Kent, Richard Russo and John Gardner held his faculty position), nor the already strong and growing writing program that was present in 1995 when I was there. I walked into the first day of class like any other, hiding my nervousness with aloofness. I never had the text for any class on the first day.

Olivia ZhengWhere I Once Belonged: A Tribute to Kent Haruf

Friday Reads: December 2014

This month’s recommendations from The Common’s contributors and staff deal with the intersection of old and new, ancient and modern, on every level—personal, religious, political, even supernatural. Perhaps in the spirit of the season, we seem preoccupied by stories of intergenerational strife, love, and ambition. In their urgent focus on belief and truth-seeking, these books represent a literature of searching, a catalogue of quests across time and around the world.


To the End of June by Cris Beam, The Harafish by Naguib Mahfouz, We Others by Steven Millhauser, Hum by Jamaal May, High as the Horses Bridles by Scott Cheshire.

Olivia ZhengFriday Reads: December 2014

Review: Troy, Michigan & Don’t Go Back To Sleep

Reviewed by J. MAE BARIZO

Troy, MI

J. Mae Barizo reviews two poetry collections: Troy, Michigan by Wendy S. Walters and Dont Go Back to Sleep by Timothy Liu.


Wendy S. Walter’s Troy, Michigan chronicles municipal and personal history in this elliptically elegant collection of sonnets. This book swivels gracefully through eras in the city of the title, alluding to its mythic namesake while divulging the narrator’s observations on industry, race, and the tug of the natural world. Walters spent 15 years of her childhood in Troy, which is in close proximity of Lake Huron and Lake Erie; her father worked for General Motors. 

Olivia ZhengReview: Troy, Michigan & Don’t Go Back To Sleep

Book Shopping in Lisbon


It’s Thanksgiving Day across the Atlantic in Massachusetts, where I live. There, among my American family and friends, it’s a quiet, contemplative day, but here in the Chiado, the heart of downtown Lisbon and the city’s oldest shopping district, everything is bustling, as if the Portuguese are scurrying to get a one-day head start on Black Friday. It’s a raw, drizzly day, a sign of winter’s approach, and the cobbled sidewalks are slippery. I’ve walked these hilly streets for 35-plus years, often darting from one bookstore to the next—new, used, rare—flipping through the pages of everything from current bestsellers, to obscure dime-store colonial-era comics, to rare folios of brightly-colored, highly inaccurate antique maps. That’s what I’m doing today, I’m book shopping.

Olivia ZhengBook Shopping in Lisbon