The Blog

Making Silk from Chalk: John McPhee's SILK PARACHUTE

Matthew Clark

To gauge a writer, one might consider his or her ability to transform something ostensibly banal, like chalk, ordinary blackboard chalk, ordinary calcium carbonate, ordinary grape-growing stuff, into something interesting. Unsurprisingly, to read John McPhee’s most recent collection of essays, Silk Parachute, is to marvel at the way he elicits a temperament the opposite of boredom. “Season on the Chalk” begins on the River Thames at Gravesend, with McPhee’s grandson, Tommaso, appearing “out of somewhere” with a broken river stone and writing one letter on the revetment: R. A revetment is a barricade. “Somewhere” is McPhee, and more generally, any author.

Unleashed: An Interview with Pushcart Prize Winner Susan Perabo

Sara Kosch

The Story

"Twenty dollars is all I ask as payment, enough to buy a couple more bags of the store-brand food for the ones left behind. Some people give me more. One time a lady from Hanover wrote me a check for five hundred dollars. She said I was doing the Lord's work. I thought to myself that maybe the Lord had more important things to worry about than a kennel full of slobbering dogs, but I wasn't about to say so, standing there with her check in my hand. The truth was, I didn't really know why I did what I did, and I didn't see any reason to spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. It was just the way it was."

Downwind of Nazism

Russell Valentino

In the town of Gorizia, just north-east of Trieste, I visited a museum that's housed in the local synagogue and is devoted to the memory of the Jewish community of Gorizia. There is no Jewish community of Gorizia, not for the past 40 years.

Diary of the Intern: Dwight Schrute at TIR?

Sara Kosch

I love people. Even something as routine as sending out e-mails has the potential for a good chuckle thanks to the unexpectedness of people's quirks, humor, and good cheer. One of my projects this summer is to contact small presses about adding The Iowa Review to their review lists (so we can get copies of books to review) and see if they want to be a part of our "Small Press Announcement" page, which will be coming to our website this fall and will allow people to see the publication dates for upcoming titles. I've sent out oodles of e-mails to about ninety presses, and while most of the replies have been pretty standard, there have been a few that made my heart happy.

On the road

Russell Valentino

On the road, well, the sea.  Where I've been reminded that my voice in English is as marked as any, not the neutral thing we often find ourselves assuming. This time it happened as I was trying to translate a local poet, Ligio Zanini, not translated before into English to my knowledge. He wrote in the dialect of Rovinj (Ruvaigno in his idiom), which is spoken by some six hundred people or so today, a number shrinking all the time. Zanini was quite a master of it, not the simple fisherman he impersonates in much of his verse. Hence the paradox and the challenge: a rustic but simultaneously sophisticated voice, close to the sea, marked by it, a poet using an apparently rough-edged language of expression that few will recognize let alone read or speak....


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