The Blog

Shivani on Contemp (which stands for contemporary) American letters

Russell Valentino

Some of his assertions about the fifteen most overrated writers hit very close to home: There is a tone in common here with John Palatella's piece from The Nation a couple of months back (, a general angst about the absent moral core of American letters.

Melting Snow Cones and Book Lovers' Hearts: TIR's Adventures at the Iowa City Book Festival

Sara Kosch

It was nine o'clock in the morning on Saturday, July 17, and I was already sweating profusely. I wished I had thought to bring a large palm leaf or at least a wide brimmed hat, but I comforted myself with the fact that at least I was going to get some color after working inside all summer. As it turned out that color was going to be red instead of the sun-kissed glow I would have preferred, but I'll take what I can get, I suppose.

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."


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