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SeanHartofilis_FC2 cropPlease explain what just happened.

I saw my nieces in the basement. They’re up from Florida and are the best.  

 

What is your earliest memory?

At track practice when I was very little, I overran the finish line and was jumped, for reasons I’ll never understand, by two little boys who I’m guessing were brothers. They pushed me down and pulled my hair and kicked me. Then their mother showed up and did the same to them. I wrote about it in a short story published by The Harlem Times called “The Summer of St. Nick.”  

My daughter in the frantic evenings
Knits some stars and secrets,
Some pictures of our old wet pots,
Some letters loosely hanging
Over our home library attic.

Woolf_Emma

As my second book The Ministry of Thin comes out this month, the question I keep being asked is this: what does a ‘recovered anorexic’ have to tell us about body image and feminism?

Quite a lot actually. I believe that, as women, our desire for thin is getting way out of control. I believe that many women who do not have an actual eating disorder have profoundly disordered eating; diets such as 5:2 are normalising deeply abnormal habits. You may roll your eyes (as I do) at the crazy tongue-patchers, drip dieters, intermittent fasters. You may laugh at the Werewolf or Vampire or Caveman devotees. But no matter how feisty or feminist you think you are, I bet you’d like to lose weight. 

The Ministry of Thin_FINALAlice and I are walking down the aisle marked Dairy. I take four small tubs of Total 0% Greek yogurt, a couple of raspberry-flavor Müller Lights. I add a four-pack of vanilla probiotic Activias, then a two-pint carton of skim milk. My sister grimaces at the red-top milk—“Skim? That stuff looks like dirty water.” I nod cheerfully, “I know, tastes like it too.” We turn the corner into the aisle marked Meat, where it’s Al’s turn to stock up: bacon, chicken, and some kind of fish.

At the checkout line, we look at our baskets: butter, bacon, and eggs in hers; muesli, pita bread, Greek yogurt in mine. I also have apples, broccoli, bananas; Al has sparkling water, salmon, avocado.

See what she’s doing, and see what I’m doing? Without even thinking about it, we both have our forbidden foods—or, if not entirely forbidden, substances we steer clear of. Al never buys coffee or wine, although she will have the occasional cappuccino or glass of wine when she’s out. I literally don’t go near butter, and I wouldn’t know how to cook any of the meat she buys. Odder than her wariness of caffeine, and my strict vegetarianism, is our avoidance of whole food groups. I don’t do fat; she doesn’t do carbs. A few decades ago these might have seemed strange rules to follow, but these days they’re pretty normal. In the twenty-first century most women police their diets in some way.

Photograph of Novelist Katie CrouchBestselling author Katie Crouch (Men and Dogs; Girls in Trucks) has a new book out. Abroad is a quick-moving, high-action read that plays out both our best and worst fantasies of being a young, beautiful foreigner in Italy. Her characters are so perfectly drawn, so wonderfully vivid, you might just confuse them for people you actually know (or have read about in the news!).

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 10.42.10 AM

One of the things my little brother does at work is take a kidney out of one person and insert that kidney into another person all while keeping both people alive. This is not something I could do if you paid me, as my great aunt used to say, “all the money,” nor could I tell a patient the cancer has spread, or the liver no longer functions, or that the end is, in all likelihood, near. My brother tells people these sorts of things regularly, and then, instead of weeping, he goes on with his workday. He can write prescriptions; he can diagnose exotic diseases. He is handsome and admirable, and people tell me he’s one hell of a surgeon.

alan_michael_parker_2013What the hell is this?

A novel.

 

But it’s got 99 stories and some of them have the same titles?

That’s true.

The TNB Book Club is proud to feature Ruby (Hogarth Press), the critically acclaimed debut novel by Cynthia Bond, as its official July selection.

He is a nerve-bound
blunderbuss.

I know this, my body
a house choking
on smoke

while his ribs and comet
legs beat as one
like the throbbing sea.

9781938103803Report from the Committee on Town Happiness

We have been thinking about the trees. The trees, we have decided, know what they’re doing. We have decided (6–3, with one abstention) that there will be trees in the Afterlife.

Our thinking about trees has led us to fence Maxwin’s Park and to prohibit all pedestrian traffic therein. As an elected policy-making body, we believe that the trees need a place of repose. As we all do.

James MagruderAre you gay?

Everywhere except Uganda.

 

What does that mean?

In America, the only way I pass for straight is if I stand absolutely still and don’t speak. In Kampala, which my partner Steve and I just fled in mid-March in the wake of the anti-gay legislation getting passed, the Ugandans we knew kept asking when I was going to take a wife and have children. They advised me to shoot for four, with one serving as backup in case anything went wrong with the first three. Lots of things can go wrong in Uganda.

A particle, a wave. Staged, the icicles
record their length. What can happen
with dahlias, the weave of words
and common cells. Another world,
of speeding tickets, rambling songs,
young monsters. We lean against
our metaphors. These hands at work,
a bleach of cells, and semaphore. Dis
ambiguations, monitor combed rooms,
a bleeding rosebush. These hands, he
notes, do not produce an absence of
books. This is how books are made.

jpegTom and Elliott

1985

One place to look for a suitable husband was the monthly dance at Columbia University. Suitable meant, among other things, suited: we were looking for a junior associate at a law firm, a thirty-ish bond trader or ad writer or public relations exec with money to spend on above-ground transport, illegal stimulants, and surprise packages from the better department stores. We wanted a man at least two desks past entry level, preferably with a summer share. Or at least I did. My cousin Elliott was a different story.

IMG_0412


Where did you get the idea for your book From the Belly?  

I realized that I was amassing poems about food, physical experiences like sex, disease, pregnancy, and abortion, and ekphrastic poetry about visual representations of the human body.   The word “belly” was coming up as a common semantic thread in many of these poems and also seemed to speak to the figurative registers of my obsessions.  The “belly” suggests that poetry comes from “the gut,” among other things, and I certainly strive to write “gutsy” work that provokes questions about gender, power, identity, family, etc. There are other kinds of poems in the book too, but because of my visceral need to write them, as well as intellectual, I decided this book had come From the Belly.

Mad Lib

By Virginia Bell

Poem

After Lyn Hejinian’s “I found a wing today when walking”

I found a young woman today when walking—
she was running in her bare feet on the hot sidewalk.

We chatted at the intersection’s red light—
it’s better not to run on the grass, she clarified.

The grass can hide glass, stone, or even
unevenness, surprise.