Upstate Dispatch: One Heard Road

Upstate Dispatch: One Heard Road

By Harris Lahti

There is Tom the carpenter, Jim the plumber, and Harry the heating guy whose hunting dog recently bit his nose off. Ladybird still sleeps in the bed, he tells me. Wasn’t her fault. 

The bandages on the top part of his nose slip down while he talks. The bridge of his swollen nose is clearly not attached to his face. Each time he turns away, I can see the eyelashes blinking on the other side. 

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Mei's Crow

Mei's Crow

By Siena Oristaglio

The room is as dark as a crow.

A bright light appears, bathing a group of figures. They pose along a bench, their gazes fixed into empty space.

Strange sounds permeate the room — news clips, low voices, musical snippets, static — a radio on seek. The group remains still.

Far behind them, two figures emerge. One, legs spread, appears to give birth to the other.

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The opening to Pingmei Lan's "Cicadas and the Dead Chairman"

The opening to Pingmei Lan's "Cicadas and the Dead Chairman"

By Pingmei Lan

That summer when Chairman Mao died I saw a funeral for the first time, a national one. It had gone on for weeks. Everywhere I turned people were wearing black armbands and making white paper flowers. The usual sea of blue Mao suits seemed to be foaming, churning, shaping into dark and light swells. Thousands of mourning wreaths blanketed Tiananmen Square, eventually spilling down to the sidewalks of Chang’an Avenue. For days, then weeks, it looked like snow in summer.

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A Single Mind

A Single Mind

By Tess Crain

Some of the best novelists in the Americas and Europe have written about chess—yet one of the best chess novels, Chess Story (published in German as Schachnovelle; also known as The Royal Game) by Stefan Zweig, was written by an otherwise less than superlative author.

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Why You Love New York

Why You Love New York

By Zack Graham

“You, Very Young in New York,” a poem by Hannah Sullivan, will remind you of why you live in New York. It will remind you why you struggle through winter after winter, why you wait underground for a train that may never come, why sometimes, despite living in the biggest city in America, you feel so alone. In short, “You, Very Young in New York” is the perfect remedy for a brutal New York February.

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Ivoire's Flamingo

Ivoire's Flamingo

By Siena Oristaglio

I recognize the bold colors and simple, graphic drawing style. A hot pink bonfire radiates from the base of what appears to be a vintage wooden paper cutter. The object hangs on the wall across the room from me, its broad handle jutting into the space.

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"Never Complain and Never Explain"

"Never Complain and Never Explain"

by Robb Todd

A silver-bearded man stands in the middle of a sidewalk spotted with gum, a bamboo rice paddy hat tilted on his head, and he cups his hands at his waist and asks in monotone: “Can you help me? I’m poor.”


I pull a banana from my coat pocket and hand it to him, and he says, “Everything you need to know about life you can learn by watching animals,” and he peels the banana by pinching off the black spot at the bottom, not by pulling the stem. “I speak several languages, including toddler, and I’ve picked flowers from rhinoceros horns. Every ritual is forced upon us.”

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The Shame of Reading

The Shame of Reading

by Tess Crain

This past year, I set out to read a hundred books. All had to count, more or less, however subjectively, as “literature.” As I had read fifty-two not without effort the previous year, the goal was to read more, not more quickly; and since my schedule had not changed in any major way, doubling this number required I make time… mainly by skipping parties, putting off work, and puttering less. The project was self-conscious but—books being central to my life as a writer—seemed worthwhile.

Time began to register in volumes…

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The Magician

The Magician

by Zack Graham

There is a preternatural precision to Hernán Diaz’s every syllable, word, phrase and sentence.  No room to spare.  He doesn’t let you breathe.  What’s more, he is a writer capable of conceptual translation.  He can turn the banal into the fascinating.  He can reduce the complex into the basic.  He can even make the gruesome majestic.

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Introducing the Epiphanic

We’re pleased to announce a new monthly feature showcasing four critically minded writers: Zack Graham, Tess Crain, Robb Todd, and Siena Oristaglio. The Epiphanic, so-called, will publish at least one piece each month about an artistic enthusiasm, whether literary, visual, or performative in nature… The intention here is to provide an extended space for critically minded writers to develop their perspectives. If literary culture is to survive well into this new century, the vital role of critics cannot be ignored. Algorithms do not speak with an individual voice; it is the individual voice, finally, or several in conversation, that consecrate literary endeavor. If the perception of value is left to the marketplace alone, well, then, it’s safe to say we all stand to miss a great deal.

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To Understand Russia’s Complexities, Turn to Its Contemporary Literature

To Understand Russia’s Complexities, Turn to Its Contemporary Literature

by Olga Zilberbourg

A friend’s ten-year-old son recently came up to me at a party to ask, “You’re from Russia, right?” Sensing caution in my assent, the boy hesitated before asking the next question, clearly trying to phrase it in a way that wouldn’t cause offense but would express his curiosity. He finally came up with, “It’s a very violent place, isn’t it?”

Whenever I’m asked to summarize the entire country of Russia at a party, I invariably recall a scene from a popular Soviet movie. When a character returns home from vacation onboard a cruise ship, his apartment building super pressures him to give a lecture to the residents entitled, “New York—the City of Contrasts.” The hero remarks that the cruise didn’t go to New York but to Istanbul and Marseille, and the administrator quickly goes along. “Fine. Call your lecture, ‘Istanbul—the City of Contrasts.’ What’s the difference?” To many Soviet citizens living behind the Iron Curtain there seemed, indeed, little difference between going to New York and Istanbul. Both were equally exotic. To many of my American acquaintances, contemporary Russia remains such an exoticized “other.” This massive country that covers more than one eighth of the Earth’s inhabitable land and is inhabited by approximately 160 ethnic groups speaking one hundred languages becomes reduced in conversation to a few set phrases.

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"The Factory" by Elena Ferrante

"The Factory" by Elena Ferrante

* “The Factory” was originally published in Epiphany’s Winter 2014 issue, Risky Words.

In the factory—she had immediately understood—overwork drove people to want to have sex not with their wife or husband in their own house, where they returned exhausted and empty of desire, but there, at work, morning or afternoon. The men reached out their hands at every opportunity, they propositioned you if they merely passed by; and women, especially the ones who were not so young, laughed, rubbed against them with their big bosoms, fell in love, and love became a diversion that mitigated the labor and the boredom, giving an impression of real life.

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A Letter to My Younger Self As You Begin Your MFA

A Letter to My Younger Self As You Begin Your MFA

You will learn craft and language, you will develop a love affair with poetry, you will find lifelong friends and mentors. You will experiment, test your boundaries, search for your voice. But you will find yourself surrounded by white peers, white teachers, people who can’t push you to ask yourself the harder questions about who you are as a writer. While this will bother you slightly, you won’t know how to articulate why, or even what you’re looking for, at least not in a way that doesn’t sound self-hating.

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