Hello and welcome to the new Blurbed. Each month, Columns Editor Adin Dobkin gives recommendations from his reading list, as well as listening to Columbia Journal editors’ thoughts on reading, writing, or whatever happens to be on their minds.
From the Reading List
“The Time I Went on a Lesbian Cruise and it Blew Up My Entire Life,” Shannon Keating, Buzzfeed
Most stories I turn to have at least an undercurrent of dread. It can be an unconsummated hint; that’s enough. This essay, as stated in the title, takes place on a cruise ship. If you’re like me, this alone may draw out that creeping sense of unease. Just a sliver, at least. But the story contained within is almost entirely free of that. It’s celebratory of life and experiences and romance in the best way. And, yet, it’s likely the best thing I read this past month.
“Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds,” Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker
The Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy captured me for a number of reasons. I find myself drawn to books that take on a topic of seemingly insurmountable scope. Space: also anything with space involved. I admittedly hadn’t thought much about Liu after reading the books, though I am always interested in how other cultures handle speculative fiction, sci-fi, etc. (these were translated from Chinese). This profile by Jiayang Fan looks at the unique role Liu plays internationally and within his own country.
“Portrait of My Mother as Disembodied Feet Washing Up on the Shores of Western Canada, as Reported by CNN,” Sarah Shotland, Barrelhouse Magazine
Is it somehow a subconscious tell that I feel obligated to say I’m not a feet person? I’m not, though feel free to get off on whatever you please, but I do love the premise and delivery of this poem.
From the Archives
If I had to spout off some theory on why there aren’t all that many journalistic stories on life in space, it would be that it is necessarily difficult to ground it for readers in a meaningful way. Even the most basic tasks are unfamiliar, difficult to even imagine (have you seen the clip of the astronaut forgetting about gravity once he’s back on Earth?)
In any case, there are a few stories that manage to get past that. One of these is “Home” by Chris Jones in Esquire. It does so through the eponymous subject, and how one gets back there in the wake of a disaster.
There’s no reason numbers and pictures can’t wind up being literature.
A Parting Gift
I realize the word gift generally implies something positive, which I suppose this story isn’t. But it is something I was more or less entirely unaware of prior to being told (thanks, Arthur Boyle). Cactus and plant poaching: it is a thing! It is a problem! It is likely the stem of countless great stories!