Steven Tagle speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about his essay “Notes on Looking Back,” which appears in The Common’s fall issue. Steven talks about writing this essay, originally in Greek, as a way to explore his love of the language and the experience of learning, speaking, and writing in it. Steven first came to Greece several years ago as a Fulbright Fellow. He discusses his current writing project about borders and migration, and the time he spent visiting and getting to know a family in a refugee camp in Greece. Steven also talks about life in Greece—how friendly and welcoming Greek people can be to outsiders, and how the country weathered the pandemic. When he interned at The Common, Steven spearheaded the magazine’s first podcast series.
This month’s round of Friday Reads features recommendations that span place and time: from interwar Greece to eighteenth-century London to a small-holding in present day Ireland. Read on to see what our Issue 22 contributors have been enjoying.
Recommendations: The Third Wedding by Costas Taktsis, The Question of Bruno by Aleksandar Hemon, Please by Christopher Meredith, Trivia: Or the Art of Walking the Streets of London by John Gay, and Savage Gods by Paul Kingsnorth
Last year, I wandered through Greece, knocking on all the gates of Hades. I walked along the Acheron River, whose icy blue waters seemed colored by the spirits of the dead. Stalactites dripped onto the back of my neck as a silent boatman ferried me through the caves of Diros. I searched for the entrance to the sea cave at Cape Tainaron, scrambling over sharp rocks below the lighthouse as darkness fell. Sometimes I wondered if my search for the underworld tempted the Fates. I remembered Orpheus, the father of music, who charmed beasts with his lyre and descended into Tainaron to find his lost bride, Eurydice. With song, he implored Hades and Persephone to bring her back to life, and his words moved the deathless gods to tears. They granted his wish, allowing him to lead her out of the underworld on one condition: he must walk ahead of her, not looking back until they left the dark halls of death. Approaching the surface, the farthest reach of light, Orpheus feared his love’s silence behind him. He turned to look and saw her sink back into the depths, reaching out to him and bidding him farewell for the last time.
Summer ends, fall begins; back to school. And as the seasons transition, we’re reading books that combine comedy and tragedy—or, as our recommenders have it, mix “humor and horror” or “poetry with play.” These are tales of “heels and faces,” each book growing “pleasurably darker” as it’s explored. This fall, embrace a little cognitive dissonance with us and choose a book that is its own mirror image; let one of these titles reflect your own many selves as you read.
To Drink Boiled Snow by Caroline Knox, Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, The Sweetheartby Angelina Mirabella, Interpreter of Maladiesby Jhumpa Lahiri
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.