In late February of 2020, Barrett Swanson volunteered as a victim at Disaster City, a sprawling training facility for first responders. The coronavirus had not yet reached pandemic proportions, and it quickly exceeded some of our worst-case scenarios by the time his essay was published in Harper’s in June. …


It started innocently enough: my first (and probably only) Bumble match wanted to show me his favorite movie, About Time. I’m a sucker for a good romcom but hadn’t seen it, and I suspected there was a reason I would watch the trailer on YouTube and opt for another film instead.

“I’m not sure I’m going to like it,” I told him.

“You don’t have to like it,” he said.

We curled up on the couch and pressed play. Two hours later, as the credits rolled, he asked what I thought.

“It’s fine,” I said.

“What did you really think?”


(Alternate caption: When you’re told the project pays in “exposure.”)

I wrote a piece about wool mittens in November, and a few days before the zine was set to launch, another pair of wool mittens went viral. AFP photographer Brendan Smialowski snapped an image of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders sitting on a folding chair at President Biden’s inauguration. The Senator’s arms and legs were crossed, placing his wool mittens front and center. It’s not a particularly stunning photograph; in an interview, the photographer himself said he didn’t even like the image. …


1. I’m not entirely sure when everything splintered into fragments. One night I warmed my hands by a fire as a full moon rose above the woods, and then a breeze rustled through palm trees as sand and sweat stuck to my skin, and then a UPS truck kicked up a flurry of blaze orange leaves, and then, a few hours later, those leaves were blanketed in snow. Slivers of days were captured through a lens, pixelated and distilled down into an image on a screen, and distributed via small squares onto handheld devices. …


photo: Chelsea Batten

Chelsea Batten lives on the Upper Peninsula with her husband and son, only (only!) five hours north of my adopted hometown of Eau Claire, WI. For someone who grew up twenty-five minutes from the border of Maine and forty minutes from the border of Massachusetts, five hours seems like another planet. Heck, it was only four hours to Canada! (I realize it’s now only five hours to Canada.) But both because of Chelsea’s proximity and relative remoteness, I like to use her as a kind of gauge. We have similar sensibilities and overlapping tastes in literature. I love her writing…


In a recent interview, Hanif Abdurraqib said he found himself returning to albums that felt familiar, because “the familiarity gives me comfort. It’s been hard for me to listen to unfamiliar things in unfamiliar times.”

The author and poet’s 2017 collection of essays They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us moved beyond music criticism and appreciation into an illustration of how music intimately influences lives. His 2019 book Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest looks back on mid-1980s and early ’90s hip-hop with a mixture of music history and personal essay.

“When I say…


Seven years before I turned seventeen, I was a devoted subscriber of Seventeen magazine. Every month, I cracked open the latest issue and spread it out on the kitchen table. I held it up to my nose on the couch, inhaling the perfume samples, and read it before I fell asleep at night. Most of the publication’s advice was far too mature for my pre-teen brain, and absolutely inapplicable to a life set in the woods of New Hampshire. I wore a uniform to school and never learned how to properly apply makeup. …


‘We Are the Weather’ by Jonathan Safran Foer (FSG 2019)

In October I wrote a review of Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest book We Are the Weather, which had been released at the end of August. Since the publishing industry moves at a glacial pace, the review wasn’t posted for another six months, at which point I’d moved on to other books.

The lives lived in the gaps between writing and publishing sometimes feel as though no time has passed, and other times it feels like an eternity.

I know I’m not alone in saying the last six months — if not the last six days — have felt like…


In 1518, the dancing plague struck Strausbourg. A woman took to the streets and danced until she collapsed from exhaustion, then rested and returned to dancing. Before long, she was joined by dozens of others. The number swelled to 400, all afflicted by the same mysterious urge to dance “long past the point of injury,” according to the encyclopedia. There was no music, just people silently shaking and shimmying, so the town brought in a band, thinking the plague would run its course. It went on for months, and people reportedly died from strokes and heart attacks.

At the time…


Dotters Books in Eau Claire, WI, photograph: Elizabeth de Cleyre

In the dead of winter, I relocated from Portland, Oregon to Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Donald Trump had just been elected president of the United States, sending shockwaves through the liberal bubble of PDX, as the once-blue state of Wisconsin blushed red. I didn’t have any close friends or family in Wisconsin. I didn’t move there for a job. As a writer and editor, I could theoretically live anywhere in the world with an internet connection. I chose what some might view as an unlikely location: Wisconsin, a flyover state that is not necessarily synonymous with literary, cultured, or creative. …

Elizabeth de Cleyre

writer, editor, & bookstore co-founder — elizabethdecleyre.com/about

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