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A Public Space

No. 10

The Chinese Chekhov: the letters of Shen Congwen; Yiyun Li on kindness; Tim O'Sullivan's Father Olufemi; Mary-Beth Hughes's widow of Combarelles; Samanta Schweblin's brother Walter; David Potter's Dr. Kreutzer; Lawrence Weschler on Alec Soth's Las Vegas birthday party; Jenny Davidson, Graham Foust, Paul Glimcher, and Amy Leach on tomorrow; and poems by Cynthia Lowen, Jennifer Moxley, Ed Roberson, John Yau, and more.

Table of Contents


If You See Something

All Came to an End

In 1931, in the throes of the Great Depression, Grant Wood made a chronological list of thirteen prior economic depressions, beginning with 1819.

Grant Wood


If You See Something

To the New Year

Comes upon and at me / does your gone-tinged promise.

Graham Foust


If You See Something

Donkey Derby

Usually all we have to do when we go a-conquering is to build a boat, find a benefactress, recruit a ribald crew, and wear radiant glinting helmets.

Amy Leach


If You See Something

Rachet Rachet Rachet

I’m sure I’ll take you with pleasure!” the Queen said.

Jenny Davidson


If You See Something

Whose Fault Is It?

Since the time of Descartes, Westerners have seen their core identity as a feature that stands apart from the physical world.

Paul Glimcher



The Woman Who Lived in the House

He learned of Sergei’s arrest and imprisonment when a waiter switched the television to CNN.

Salvatore Scibona



Father Olufemi

There seemed to be a fellow feeling between the priest and bus driver, each too slight for his uniform.

Tim O’Sullivan



My Brother Walter

My brother Walter is depressed.

Samanta Schweblin



Las Vegas Birthday Book

My wife took me to Las Vegas to celebrate my fortieth birthday.

Alec Soth



On Alec Soth’s Las Vegas Birthday Book

Alec Soth’s spare volume of documentation culminates in that deliciously inspired last-minute stab at monetary redemption.

Lawrence Weschler



The Widow of Combarelles

Patty promised her old friend Coren she had the very best cure for heartache: the shrewd and pitiless French.

Mary-Beth Hughes



Dr. Kreutzer

At night, alone in the greenhouse, Dr. Kreutzer listens to Bach.

David Potter



Think Your Way Out of the Rain

I got to meet my heroes / and have dinner with them

Matthew Rohrer



Two Poems

In that part of the field / near the woodpile / had arisen an indistinct figure, / like a deeper blotch / in the evening darkness, / a seeming dog flying over the roofs.

Giampiero Neri



Parable of the Children

If it is better to be feared / than loved, best of all / pitied—obeyed not out of threat / but an understanding / the inability to harm / makes benevolence / a moot point.

Cynthia Lowen



Bidwell Park

When the previously withheld faces grew tough as flax / or softened into pliant pine in the umber wood, inclined / together, numerous, when the cobble crushed underfoot, / and pistachios cracked in their shells, grown heavy, / grown consummate among the nibs of leaves, then curious / seemed the stars, those nether eyes which scrutinized / each shape that stirred against the unlit trunks of trees.

D.A. Powell



Psalm Made of Silk

The psalm is a door / that tears me.

Christopher Janke




No more the lovely ease of it all, / and many years removed / from those languorous afternoons / where, together, they seemed / to create their own air

Stephen Dunn



Two Poems

Behind the hill / overlooking our tiny enclave / dwells a giant known far and wide

John Yau



Two Trees

Wintering Beech / Tabernacle of green light green shade, summer space / of beechen green and shadows numberless, / that’s now but a bony show of itself, all its / ornaments and nest-hiding glad rags / wind-torn and let go where silence opens / its stony arms.

Eamon Grennan



Each Gets So Shamefully Little

Each gets so shamefully little, only half a face, honed to a fine point, like swallow shadows dipping after mosquitoes

Mary Crow



Not That, Disappointment

I am inappropriate I feel it / in every said thing in every / enthusiasm desire wish / but mostly in every / unsettling ambition

Jennifer Moxley



Moon Jar, Century Unclear

Part of the pearlescent surface is gone / from the glass back to sand

Ed Roberson



Two Poems

The turrets, self-conscious and vulgar, / the doors, so functional, / the tinted windows, lovely and perhaps unreasonable.

James Schuyler




I am a forty-one-year-old woman living by myself, in the same one-bedroom flat where I have always lived, in a derelict building on the outskirts of Beijing that is threatened to be demolished by government-backed real estate developers.

Yiyun Li



An Irrelevant Writer: Yiyun Li Introduces Shen Congwen

Great books are never abandoners—they don’t betray us; they don’t turn away from our candid admiration or criticism; they don’t die.

Shen Congwen



Letter to the Editor

The “historic” novel is, for me, condemned even in cases of labour as delicate as yours, to a fatal cheapness, for the simple reason that the difficulty of the job is inordinate and that a mere escamotage, in the interest of ease, and of the abysmal public naiveté becomes inevitable.

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