When the Public Narrative Fails

In a Nation That's Lost Its Way, Literature—the Private Narratives of Others—Can Guide Us

Leave it to Joan Didion. In her essay “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” published in 1967, she identified a kind of slippage in our culture, the breakdown of collective narrative. “The center was not holding,” she famously begins, before moving on to details: “casual killings and misplaced children and abandoned homes and vandals who misspelled even the four-letter words they scrawled.” It’s a set of images to which I find myself returning here in the summer of 2022, when the Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade; the findings of …

How Literature Became a Weapon in Russia’s Culture Wars | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How Literature Became a Weapon in Russia’s Culture Wars

It’s a Battle of Tolstoys as Protestors Face off Against Putin’s Propaganda Machine

On April 10, 2022, Moscow police arrested resident Konstantin Goldman for brandishing a book in public. Goldman had posted an image on social media in which he posed holding a …

Why Do We Love ‘Choose-Your-Own-Adventure’ Stories?

From the I Ching to an Upcoming Netflix Romcom, Interactive Fiction Dares Us to Decide What Happens Next

The new Netflix original horror movie Choose or Die turns on an interactive computer game called “CURS>R,” which resembles a classic ’80s adventure program in which a user inputs text …

Joan Didion Helped Me Tell My Own Story

Her Language and Landscapes Carved Out a Literary Space for My San Bernardino Childhood

When I arrived at Stanford, I was immediately confronted with the clues of my inferiority.

The other students had straight white teeth, more than one week’s worth of clothing, and “pocket …

Where I Go: The Poet Sits in the Dentist’s Chair | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Where I Go: The Poet Sits in the Dentist’s Chair

This Is What Happens When 'Two Mutually Oral Professions' Meet

I have many flaws. I delight in judging my neighbors. I step over the shower drain jammed with a whirlpool of my hair. I read the comments section. I leave …

In Zimbabwe, Literature Is Protest | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

In Zimbabwe, Literature Is Protest

A New Generation of Authors Are Giving Voice to the Post-Mugabe Reality

In November 2017, when a military coup removed Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s head of state after 37 years of rule, euphoria gripped the whole country. Many saw it as an …