Communing with the Imaginary Friend in Amanda Goldblatt's HARD MOUTH

by Tess Crain

What is the meaning of an imaginary friend? Appearing mainly to children but at times lasting into adulthood, invented companions can signal madness, creativity, both, or neither. Sometimes, they simply serve as company. A writer I know used to have an unreal pal named Zee—“he had a kind of sarcastic jauntiness”—who resembled a wisp of smoke and wore a monocle, like an ephemeral Mr. Peanut: “he was my only real friend for a while.” My roommate had a tiny, bald, blue man who sat on her shoulder and scouted for danger. A college friend once had multiple miniature dragons. In most cases, these familiars erupt from the collision between psyche and environment: reading a fantasy series, watching performance art, loneliness.

Master of Horror To-Be: On the Nightmares of Nick Antosca

by Zack Graham

You probably haven’t heard of Nick Antosca, but you will soon. He wrote on one of the most psychologically nuanced and visually arresting television series ever in “Hannibal.” In late 2017, Guillermo del Toro signed on to produce Antosca’s feature-length script Antlers. At 36, Antosca is well on his way to becoming a modern master of horror, on par with a Robert Eggers, an Ari Aster, or a Jordan Peele.

All Horrors Under the Midnight Sun: On Nesbø’s KNIFE

by Tess Crain

Everyone in Oslo has a parquet floor. This is what I’ve gathered, anyway, from reading the crime fiction of Jo Nesbø. While Nesbø has written standalone novels (like the excellent Headhunters and The Son), parquetry is general throughout his Harry Hole (“whoule” in Norwegian; how it looks in English) series, about the brilliant but polarizing Oslo Police detective, distinguished by his alcoholism and hail-mary competence. Two sentences into The Devil’s Star, water leaves “a wet streak over the oak parquet” of an apartment. In Nemesis, a thief’s shoes click loudly on the parquet flooring of a bank. A doctor in The Redbreast gazes sadly at “the worn parquet floor” of his office.

Upstate Dispatch: Which One Were You?

by Harris Lahti

As I drive, the country highway’s pattern of overgrown campgrounds, boarded-up motels, and stretches of impenetrably dark woods begin to resemble a series of horror movie sets, at last punctuated by a white-steepled church illuminated with halogen lights. I pull into the parking lot the church shares with an enormous prefab building of black corrugated steel. Skate Time.

With THE NICKEL BOYS, Colson Whitehead Yet Again Proves His Brilliance

by Zack Graham


One of the most talented American novelists of his generation, Colson Whitehead’s nine books constitute about as diverse a body of work as any living writer’s. His settings include a post-apocalyptic zombie attack, an American slave plantation in the 1700s, the mid-’80s Hampton’s, and the modern World Poker Tour. He is the recipient of nearly every serious literary award and/or honor known to mankind, and his essays and stories have appeared in every leading English-language newspaper and magazine. The man is a national treasure.

The Ways In Which We Borrow

by Robb Todd

There is trouble on the street tonight. Had a premonition that she should not go alone. She caught me stealing once when I was five. I enjoy stealing. It is as simple as that. It is just a simple fact. Because mutiny on the bounty is what we are all about. We are going to board your ship and turn it on out. 

Two Novels, Fat and Thin: Keith Gessen’s A TERRIBLE COUNTRY and Ryan Chapman’s RIOTS I HAVE KNOWN

by J.T. Price

To further the comparison between the two texts, certain thematic valences notwithstanding, Chapman’s debut is an all but negative image of Gessen’s sophomore effort—disjunctive where Gessen’s narrative is straight ahead; knowing and bawdy and essentially unconcerned with portraying human relationships at any great length, while that effort forms the pith of A Terrible Country; over-brimming with uprooted wit whereas Andryush walks, block by block, to discover where he might truly belong.

Christian's Wasp

by Siena Oristaglio

I’m lying in bed listening to the sound of wasps gnawing at my windowsill.

It’s Saturday.

Sunlight sprawls sleepily across my pillow.

I blink into its glow.

I open an article from Harper’s on my phone.

Smile, America

by Tess Crain

America prizes smiling. Companies in client-facing industries have been known to circulate “service with a smile” policies, which require workers to feign happiness, if necessary, to please customers. “Hey Philly, got a smile only a brother can love?” “Give Us Your Crooked, Crowded, and Snaggled Teeth.” “Come in for a lifetime supply of confidence.” So asks, begs, and pledges SmileDirectClub, one of several fix-your-face startups with pandemic advertising. I understand. I got braces freshman year of high school and did not smile with my mouth open for two years.