FROM THIS SEASON'S ISSUE: Winter 2014


Last Rites: A Chinese Burial

After my Grandfather died, he waited in line for one year. His ashes, inside a lacquered box, sat among the ashes of others in a cold concrete bunker nestled in the Chinese countryside. Each box bore a tiny black-and-white engraving of the deceased. The owner of the bunker kept track of burials by scrawling a name and date on the lids. A single light bulb hung from the ceiling. It was rigged to save electricity by shutting off when it sensed no movement. Whenever someone came in on funeral business, the bulb flickered on. Otherwise, the dead waited their turn in darkness.

Snarking Towards Bethlehem: The Gawker Manifesto That Wasn’t

A specter is haunting the World Wide Web—the specter of smarm. Or so Tom Scocca, features editor at Gawker, would have it. His bombastic opinion piece “On Smarm” took the online literary world by storm last December, drawing not just affirming nods from fellow smarm-conspiracy theorists but replies from big names like Maureen Dowd and Malcolm Gladwell as well. (It also drew a fair number of unique page views: more than “I Can’t Stop Looking At This Weird Chinese Goat,” but less than “Two Minutes Of Nothing But Goats Yelling Like Humans,” which is fairly strong on the Gawker scale of buzz).

SantaCon is Coming to Town

Nothing says happy holidays like a trip to the mall. Drooping garlands swaying to a decaying cassette player, bleary-eyed consumers everywhere, holiday spirit in the air; the most wonderful time of the year. In between stops and swipes, a child’s will and insistence drags his family onto a different kind of line, to a path striped with candy canes straight to the North Pole. Each step leaves an imprint in plastic snow, all leading toward the big man at the end. For every child, this time is the most important part of the holidays, the moment to speak face-to-face, man-to-man, with Santa Claus himself.

Notes From
21 South Street

Poetry

For The Crew Marooned On an Island in the Aegean Sea

At the chunk of rock They moor their ship their only memory It is noon the wind lies down On the warm deck And they gather the lots made of bone Shuffle the playing cards Chance arcs in by the mast In the sound of the collapsing cards The captain will not play the game His daughter is different Master of this place Of measurement and particle He will not let her at the foot of the rock He would like to remain faithful to the instruments

Fiction

The January Tunnel

Excerpt from The Beast of Gévaudan, a novel It suddenly started raining and the only place the Archivist could find to park his car was on the other side of campus. Rain hadn’t been predicted; the sky was clear when he left his apartment, the late spring constellations clustering brightly overhead. He couldn’t see them until he came out from under the trees, though. The Archivist’s street was lined with hawthorns, a fact he would remain ignorant of for the rest of his life, being uninterested for the most part in the living world. Like the stars, the hawthorns’ white flowers were in clusters. Everything was clear and bright, the air so sweet it made him sneeze. Where on earth was the moon? Behind something else. He was trying to locate it when the heavens opened.