Reading, Writing, and Publishing

On Randall Kenan, 1963–2020

On Randall Kenan, 1963–2020

There are writers who should not be allowed to vanish and go silent for so long, much as they might prefer to do so

It was the wrong moment in American letters to be a gay, Black man writing about the South. It didn’t matter if you could write a sex scene of the kind that would, twenty years in the future, earn Garth Greenwell a national book award nomination, while also channeling the blues cadences of Alfred Murray. If you weren’t Toni Morrison or, on the mass market side, Terry McMillan, you weren’t anybody. Publishing had no room for a diversity of diversity.

The Cruising Speed of Mourning

The Cruising Speed of Mourning

or, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to a Review of a Kierkegaard Biography

I listened to music and podcasts. I called my sister; I called my friend Anika. My wife called me every hour or so to check in. I missed my dad. He was always the guy to call on a long drive—time was the one thing he had heaps of, sitting home depressed all day, and he loved to give it away to whoever wanted it. He was perhaps the greatest talker—but also listener—I have ever known.

My Lanyarded Brethren

My Lanyarded Brethren

Report from AWP 2020

AWP 2020, sparsely attended compared to the usually robust turnout in years’ past, was spread out on a soft teal green carpet that looked a little like grass. Rows of bright white tables, some empty, others covered in books and candy and tote bags, formed aisle after aisle. Planted in the middle of the broad avenues, where guests wandered, dazed or determined, were old-timey benches presumably for guests to sit and read under the fluorescent lights.

Pollito, Chicken; Gallina, Hen

Pollito, Chicken; Gallina, Hen

American Dirt in Mexico

Notice how the register of the prose, with its figures and rates, evokes the rhetoric of nonfiction. The use of general, declarative sentences about Mexico, in particular, makes me think of what my journalism professors used to call the nut-graf—the paragraph in the article where the journalist briefly pauses her account of the news to establish, in the most efficient way possible, the context for the events on which she is reporting. The result is that Cummins’s book often slips into didacticism.