For your weekend reading, an essay in the Kenyon Review – “The Ghost Writes Back” – by Amy Boesky about ghostwriting the Sweet Valley High books while working towards her Ph.D. in seventeenth-century literature. It’s a complicated essay about many things, but at least some of those things include sameness and difference, the nature of ghosts and ghost writing, good writing and bad writing. It’s just a fantastic read.

There was a whole protocol for trying out. I wrote a sample chapter, and the editors must have liked it, because I got hired to write Book 16: “Rags to Riches.” (Given the state of my bank account, the irony wasn’t lost on me.)

Imagine, superimposed on the gray-and-grainy screen of a floundering, slightly depressed twenty-something, the shimmery outlines of an idealized adolescent world. All drawn—I just had to color it in. I could pick any colors, as long as they were pastel! The characters were already invented. They had “histories,” personalities, but I could add nuances. The plots were already there. Who could have dreamed of such adventures? A plane crash in a Cessna. Hysterical paralysis following a bad break-up. The rich posing as poor and the poor as rich. The tennis star that longed to be ordinary, the ordinary girl that longed to be a starlet. Differences smoothed away by the sameness-machine of narrative.


— “Trevor,” by Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong holds a BA from Brooklyn College and will complete an MFA from NYU in 2016. His poems have appeared in Best New Poets, Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, The Nation, New Republic, The New Yorker, Poetry, and The American Poetry Review. He has published two chapbooks, No (2013) and Burnings (2010); his first full-length collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, will be published by Copper Canyon Press in 2016. Vuong is the recipient of a 2014 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He is originally from Saigon and lives in New York City.

NO by BRIAN DOYLE via Kenyon Review

The most honest rejection letter I ever received for a piece of writing was from Oregon Coast Magazine, to which I had sent a piece that was half bucolic travelogue and half blistering attack on the tendencies of hamlets along the coast to seek the ugliest and most lurid neon signage for their bumper-car emporia, myrtlewood lawn-ornament shops, used-car lots, auto-wrecking concerns, terra-cotta nightmares, and sad moist flyblown restaurants.

“Thanks for your submission,” came the handwritten reply from the managing editor. “But if we published it we would be sued by half our advertisers.”

This was a straightforward remark and I admire it, partly for its honesty, a rare shout in a world of whispers, and partly because I have, in thirty years as a writer and editor, become a close student of the rejection note. The shape, the color, the prose, the tone, the subtext, the speed or lack thereof with which it arrives, even the typeface or scrawl used to stomp gently on the writer’s heart—of these things I sing.

One lie I tell is that we care, generally—human beings—about each other. We could not, I tell myself in the moments just before the night’s dark hour, create The Odyssey or King Lear or Thomas and Beulah without a profound sense of The Other. Surely, were it true this thing’s a joke, nothing more, and a cruel one at that, we’d have no Dickinson, no Yeats, no freakin’ Rumi, read by Bly, loud on an old tape deck while I shower.
My Instructor

My Instructor for the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop is Geeta Kothari, just got an e-mail for some of the stories we’ll be reading. They all look interesting, and there’s a Hemingway in there as well as a Tim O'Leery, so who knows. Those writers are definitely outside my usual box surrealism, and magic realism, and southern gothic.

Super excited, I haven’t written in like a month because I’m justifying saving my stuff for the workshop. #kenyonreview
On Wallop by Jordan Stempleman | Kenyon Review Online
Jeff Alessandrelli reviews Jordan Stempleman's Wallop on KROnline. "Courtesy of Charles Olson, Jordan Stempleman’s Wallop begins with a telling epigraph..."

A huge thank you to the Kenyon Review’s Jeff Alessandrelli for taking the time to read and review my latest collection Wallop. Audience is always measured by the response and attention of one. Thanks again, Jeff, for your honest and articulate attention.