Ever since Alice Munro won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature for her short fiction, I’ve been meaning to read her work. I didn’t get the chance, however, until this past week, when I read “Dimension,” Munro’s haunting yet elegant short story. Weaving seamlessly through past and present, memory and live action, Munro tells the tale of Doree, a middle-aged woman grappling with her husband’s institutionalization and a tragedy that changed her life. I won’t reveal any more – much of the story’s genius lies in the way it releases, little by little, crucial fragments of Doree’s past – but it’s a must-read for both its innovative structure and Munro’s clean, skillful prose.
— Whitney Sha
You played that always crass and sometimes hilarious party game, Cards Against Humanity. You faced the question- “What helps Obama unwind?” – and your hand was ho-hum: “oversized lollipops,” “active listening,” “Keanu Reeves.” You were one card short, so you drew from the deck. Pooping back and forth. Forever. The card read, “Pooping back and forth. Forever.” You laughed. You had no idea what this meant. The game fizzled out half an hour later and you sat in your dark room with your roommate snoring. You typed into your Google search bar: “Pooping back and forth. Forever.” You found the phrase was a quote from a 2005 film, Me and You and Everyone We Know, written and directed by Miranda July. The film was on Netflix Instant. You watched it. Ten minutes in, a goldfish in a plastic bag jiggled on the roof of a moving Range Rover, the driver ignorant of his pet’s plight. A woman in a sedan drove worried in the next lane, watching the car-top fish. As she considered how to alert the driver, the elderly man sitting shotgun, whom she was employed to chauffer, told her that the best thing for that fish would be if his owner could just drive steadily forever. You laughed because you knew that was impossible. Then you were quiet. The film was beautiful in a dirty way, or maybe the other way around. Miranda July understood how surreal real life can be. She knew how serious, sad people tell the funniest jokes. Miranda July gave you a smile with six keystrokes and five words. You never thought your throat would feel heavy and your eyes would get wet when you remembered the words, “Pooping back and forth. Forever.”
— Will Lathrop
What I’m tolerating this week: The Listserve is an e-mail lottery with nearly twenty-five thousand subscribers; every day, one of those people is chosen at random to send an e-mail to everyone else. True-to-form Listserve e-mails will start off with the authors expressing shock at being selected and mystification as to what to say. Then they give you their music recommendations. Some of the time you get job requests, some of the time you get piles upon piles of platitudes, some of the time you get a shoutout to Chaz, Patrick, Crosby or whoever else first introduced the author to the Listserve. Mostly you get not-terribly-interesting life stories.
I know I’m being a sourpuss and not making the Listserve sound very enticing—that’s because it’s usually not enticing. I don’t want to misrepresent it. It’s usually slog. But I would still recommend it because of the occasional fascinating kernels you find there. The Listserve is how I learned about GISHWHES, for example, and about the residency that sends artists to live on a boat in the Arctic Circle. The Listserve is where I got from “Lester Quiche” a really orthographically and syntactically unusual e-mail about corndogs, getting ripped, and rusty car and, convinced that there was a hidden code, e-mailed and e-mailed back and forth about it with a high school friend I hadn’t talked to since graduation. Yes, the Listserve brought all these good things to my inbox and could bring good things to your inbox as well.
And there are a few other reasons to sign up. Maybe you’ll let the Listserve e-mails accumulate and then, when your lack of time and organization is weighing down heavy upon you and making you sweat, you’ll delete them en masse and get that nice feeling, that decluttered feeling. Maybe your daily Listserve will be a sweet little reprieve between more pressing e-mail correspondence. Maybe you’ll find a Listserve message telling you to follow your dreams and appreciate yourself no matter what on exactly the kind of day when you most need to hear those things. Or maybe you’ll actually get picked. Two Princeton students I know were picked within the past month. If it happened to them, it could happen to you, or me. Given the odds, I can only imagine that getting selected to write one of these e-mails feels something like a lightning bolt or adrenaline shot of fate. That, at least, is something worth trying for.