The Happiness Craze: Books in Search of Bliss

Featuring reviews of:

  • Happiness: A History, by Darrin M. McMahon. Grove Press, 2006.
  • Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert. Vintage Books, 2007.
  • The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, by Jonathan Haidt. Basic Books, 2006.
  • Against Happiness: in Praise of Melancholy, by Eric G. Wilson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.
  • Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, by Barbara Ehrenreich. Metropolitan Books, 2009.

The Urban Canvas and Its Artists

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Graffiti is hardwired into society. People have a natural impulse to leave their mark on public property, to tell the world they were here and, perhaps, what they think about it. Historically, graffiti serves many purposes. Victors of war have used it as territorial markers and gangs to stake out their turf. Politicians use it to spread their ideology while subversives use it to talk back to authorities without fear of reproach. Advertisers promote their products and criminals their unlawful services with graffiti. Lovers immortalize their devotion. The dislocated and alienated claim a sense of place.  And artists gain a public audience. At its most basic level, graffiti is an affirmation of our own being; it is an announcement that “I was here.”

A Conversation with Dan Chaon

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Things are changing really fast in terms of even what the reading experience is. I stand by the claim that short stories and poems tend to be pretty far outside of the purview of mass culture. You’d be hard pressed to talk to a man on the street who could tell you a story that had been written in his lifetime. He might be able to mention Jack London or O’Henry or something like that. But at the same time, I don’t think the fact that fewer people read them or that they’re not part of the center of mass culture makes them any less vital.

Poetry Feature: David Wagoner

Featuring the poems:

  • Elephant Dance
  • The New Giraffe
  • On Being in One Place Too Long
  • A Logical Proposition to His Coy Companion outside a Tropical Beach Cabana [this poem was featured as a Poem of the Week November 8, 2011]
  • Aftershock

Poetry Feature: Amy Newman

Featuring the poems:

  • On Safari in the Serengeti with Her Husband Kayo, Anne Sexton Writes Letters to Her Therapist [Poem of the Week October 11, 2001]
  • The Day after the Dean of Michigan State College Admits Him to Lansing Sparrow Hospital for Rest, a Naked Theodore Roethke Barricades Himself behind a Hospital Mattress [Poem of the Week April 14, 2012]
  • When Robert Lowell Sets Up Housekeeping with Latvian Dancer Vija Vetra on West 16th Street
  • During His Admission Procedure at Abbott Hospital’s Mental Health Unit, John Berryman Discourses on The Scarlet Letter‘s Reverend Dimmesdale
  • When Patricia Hartle Would Give Delmore Schwartz a Ride to His Old Farm Property in New Jersey, He Would Wander about in the Fields for Hours, Calling for a Lost Cat

Poetry Feature: Shara Lessley

Featuring the poems:

  • First Days: August
  • Advice from the Predecessor’s Wife
  • The Explosive Expert’s Wife
  • Test [this poem was featured as a Poem of the Week October 25, 2011]


This story is not currently available online.

A little awkward, she thought, the morning after your lover has fled, to have breakfast with his mother. A little awkward that the apartment you occupy is attached to her garage, that you haven’t found a job in this little tree-rimmed town full of eclectic approaches to keeping body and soul together. A little awkward that you have no immediate place to go, now that her son has gone.This story is not currently available online.

Kristin's Uncle Otto

This story is not currently available online.

I was struggling with an overgrown border when Sarah’s phone call came. Spring was already galloping ahead. I was heaving out my favourite perennials, pulling them free of the worst of the weeds and dumping them in a heap on the mossy grass. Once this was done, I’d break off anything that was salvageable, heel it into some corner, weed-kill the jungle, then replant. Blitz gardening.

Oh, Such Playwrights!

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The cab was a battered canary-yellow Crown Vic, and without question the driver was accelerating in running the traffic signal that had just turned on Ninth Avenue—he must have been doing fifty. When the wailing ambulance arrived from Roosevelt Hospital only a few blocks away, the last thing anybody was thinking about—either the sidewalk bystanders, stunned at what they had witnessed, or the efficient EMS workers—were the scattered sheets of the three copies of the play, let loose from the gray cardboard box that all but detonated in the impact.


This story is not currently available online.

After the long trek to Tallil, the President called the whole thing off and they returned by Humvees and Chinooks to Saudi to await further orders. It was in camp there that Phillip beat a boy within an inch of his life, a PFC improbably named Francis China; he’d cut in front of Phillip at chow, possibly unwittingly. The kid probably wasn’t even nineteen. He was nothing to Phillip Dante. Just some kid who’d ended up on the wrong end of his infinite anger.