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.

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.

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.

"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.

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.

"Days of Martinis and Forgetting" by Lore Segal

“Love your stole,” Lotte said to the handsome old woman at the party, “it’s grand and beautiful.” The woman thanked Lotte while her eyes flicked subliminally to the left: she did not recognize Lotte, nor could Lotte abort the identical tell on her own face. To save her children’s heads she could not have said if she had forgotten the woman’s name or had never laid eyes on her. Lotte walked with a cane and the woman in the stole offered to get her a drink.

A Conversation with R.O. Kwon on Fanatics and Debut Novels

R.O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries is a slim, lyrical exploration of the complexities that get caught up in our desire to belong. Will and Phoebe are two college students trying to find their identities amid navigating economics, ideologies, and parental expectations. John Leal is a cult leader looking to gather more disciples. Kwon’s book delicately explores the kind of longing that draws one person into a cult, while another can walk away. There are no excuses given here, no clichéd attempts at forgiveness, just an empathetic examination of how violence and religious fanaticism can be so attractive to those looking for redemption.

"Choke" by Robert Anthony Siegel

When I was sixteen, I accidentally choked out Brian Herskowitz. One second he was trying to pull down on my sleeve and reduce the pressure on his neck, and the next he was very quiet, face down on the mat. I let go and sat back, not sure what to do.

"2008" by Elisa Gonzalez

Years later, a man described why the gods of finance couldn’t wipe everyone’s debt and / start over. Everyone’s debt is another person’s asset. That autumn, the bank did not / call. The bank sent letters in nondescript envelopes. Invitations to pay a past-due balance.

Dead Darlings: The New York Romp Dan Sheehan Cut from Restless Souls

The first drafts I wrote of the novel, then somewhat portentously called American Eden, had more or less the same storyline and structure, but contained a kinetic central section set in Harlem and midtown. In those drafts, my wayward protagonists are still headed for the west coast; they just happen to find themselves with a two-day layover in the New York on their way there.

"And Your Enemies Closer" by Collin Frazier

Terry got his hands out in front of him, telling me not to go nowhere. He starts moving over to my side of the car and I see the two Perkins girls is looking at us from the sidewalk. They hair glistening and freshly parted in thick twists with elastic ball barrettes, like oversized Lemonheads and Red Hots. They looking at me and Terry. He coming around to my window and I’m thinking about them girls watching us, wondering how many times a kid needs to see some shit like this before they give up on the pretty daydreams taped to they bedroom walls.

A Conversation with Ornela Vorpsi on Eroticism, Sexual Abuse and Harassment, and Selfhood

Ornela Vorpsi’s The Country Where No One Ever Dies (Dalkey Archive 2009) belongs among the very best post-communist novels. The novel, which was published originally in Italian in 2003, explores the traumas of authoritarianism, hyper-sexualized patriarchy, and violence in many forms, offering raw and poetic insights into individual and collective memory, migration/exile, and the meaning of art and literature.

A Conversation with Naivo, Author of the First Malagasy Novel Translated into English

Epiphany’s Fall/Winter 2017 issue features an excerpt from Naivo's Beyond the Rice Fields, the first Malagasy novel translated into English. The novel’s central love story unfolds in dialogue with the cultural and political developments of early nineteenth-century Madagascar following the arrival of the first British missionaries. Naivo explores the conflict between traditional Malagasy culture and mounting European influence in the very form of his novel, which was inspired by the hainteny oral poetry tradition. Epiphany’s editor-in-chief Tracy O’Neill spoke with Naivo and his translator Allison M. Charette at Brooklyn’s Community Bookstore in November of 2017.

Dead Darlings: The story Paula Bomer cut from Inside Madeleine

Greatly under the influence of Philip Roth’s Nathan Zuckerman in my twenties, I wanted to create a character that could both stand in for myself as an autobiographical tool and work as an alter ego, a character who did things I would never do, lived a life I never had. The character that was born of this idea was Madeleine, and her name had two functions for me at the time. She represented Proust’s cookie, a portal to memory, and also she was “Maddie”— she was “mad,” crazy, angry.

Like Roth, I hoped to use this character throughout my writing life. I didn’t want to retire her after one book. But when shaping the novella Inside Madeleine, I cut many chapters about Madeleine

A Conversation with Elena Georgiou about Immigration, Food, and Dance

There is no better time to read Elena Georgiou’s collection The Immigrant’s Refrigerator, which explores boundaries—both physical and emotional—and how they shape individual’s identity and community (both adopted and home). Georgiou translates the experience of exile as her characters try to find love amid displacement or celebrate the intimacy of a shared meal against the backdrop of unspeakable violence. The Immigrant’s Refrigerator reminds us that “home” is in reality an unfixed, fluid state always being negotiated by the personal, political, cultural.