Ritual Nostalgia: Revising the MFA Stasis


I DON’T REMEMBER WHEN I first heard of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, though I do remember the first time I lied to seem more impressive. I was six-years-old at the Jewish Public Library in Montréal, as was my childhood ritual. The library was a short walk away from the duplex I lived in facing a park. My older cousin was there—he was, very impressively, seven years old and a boy.

A Chaotic Jumble of Infinite Possibility


The bathroom was covered with graffiti.

For example:

The only things worth fighting for in this world are LOVE & FRIENDSHIP was written above the toilet. Immediately underneath: Wrong. You should never need to fight for love. And below, a third comment – this one in red: YOU are the fucking wrong one here, buddy. Love is a battlefield.

I washed my hands and checked my beard for signs of grey.
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Photo by Daniel Lozano Valdes

Time was measured counting dog carcasses along the roadside, like a prisoner scratching days from a stone wall, calculating how many chalky white mounds of flesh I’d find concealed in lime between house and city to mark the passing weeks.
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Photo by Rosie Mucklestone

My mother died in the early minutes of March 21, 2012, just as spring was coming to its fullest expression in Birmingham, Alabama, the city where she was born, married, and had her children, and where she had lived her entire life. The foliage was a promising shade of bright green. The suburban lawns were visions lined with banks of azaleas in full bloom. The year was still young; as yet, the sun’s heat had no weight to it.
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Canadian Vacation

by Erez Attias

Her pleasant face fixed in a rictus of vindictive triumph. She yelled, “We got one!” and high-fived her male associate. Machito had all but confessed to working on a tourist visa. I seized with panic as the customs agent reviewing my documents waved me through. I watched, horrified, as Machito was shuttled off to an interrogation room. Machito glared back at me with a wounded look. He looked so small next to their wide bodies, like they could crush him with one coordinated turn. “Sir! You can’t linger here. Move it along,” the customs agent barked. I made my way through the area, then doubled back to find an immigration official.
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by Hannah Rodrigo

We walk back towards the concert along a dirt road lined with hemlocks. The bass is distant, persistent, and although the lower frequencies are all that reach us, I still recognize the song. You don’t want to be alone. You don’t want to be alone. Well, precisely. Read more →

FERRANTE IN THE CELLAR: A Vulgar Appreciation


I suppose one feels emotional, reaching the end of a life. But also I feel an unfortunate bitterness—not for coming to the end of the books, but for potentially coming to the end of an even greater alchemy: Elena Ferrante. Her entity perhaps extinguished prematurely by some aggressive practitioner of bits and bobs and bylines—an Italian journalist. I won’t sift through his trash (or his real estate or financial records) here.
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City of Losers: The Tradition of Loserdom in Downtown Montreal

The night manager eats like a 12-year-old and doesn’t gain a pound. He’s 6’2” with a skeletal frame. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night he drives me home to Verdun after we stop at one of a handful of 24/7 restaurants on Montreal’s downtown west side: Angela’s on Maisonneuve for fettucine carbonara, the Subway on Guy where the guy on graveyard shift always gives us the firefighters’ discount in exchange for a steep tip, or else Joe’s Panini on Drummond.

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Photography by Carrie MacPherson

Madeleine Thien and Heather O’Neill are two of Canada’s most beloved authors of their generation. In a piece commissioned by carte blanche, the two award-winning writers discuss a wide range of topics, from being private people in a world that worships personality to backgrounds and the influences on their work. This email exchange spanned a number of weeks this fall.

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