Another year and another semester have begun, bringing with them the usual battery of stress, mayhem, and occasional delight as we all transition into 2017. I personally believe that the best way to cushion such transitions is with a great book, and to that end I’d like to tell you guys about The Paper Menagerie.
Published in 2011 by author Ken Liu, this book generated a veritable storm of critical praise. It won two of the biggest awards in Science Fiction, the Hugo and the Nebula. I picked it up on a whim at my local bookstore this holiday (why is it that all of the really Earth-shattering books come to us by chance?) and it completely consumed my life in the best possible way.
The Paper Menagerie is a collection of fifteen short stories about life, science, and human connection. Like many great works of speculative fiction, it strikes out to the boundary dividing science and technology from spirituality and fantasy, blurring the distinctions to render a reality that is gritty, charming, often strange, and resoundingly human. Regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a Sci-Fi fan, I can confidently say that there is something in these stories for you.
Although the collection as a whole is basically flawless, I had some stand-out favorites. There is pure hard-boiled goodness with a sharp techno-thriller twist in “The Regular”, which chronicles the efforts of a world-weary private investigator with a haunted past who will stop at nothing to bring justice to the victim of a brutal but publicly ignored murder. “State Change” switches gears to magic realism, portraying a society in which human beings carry their souls with them through life as physical objects that must be guarded and protected; in this harrowing world, a timid young woman seeks out warmth and companionship while straining to preserve her ice-cube soul. And in “The Waves," the ultimate fate of the human race is laid out poetically in an epic saga of deep-space exploration that challenges the meaning of human identity and love in the face of cosmic eternity.
It’s a truly beautiful collection that celebrates culture, history, science, and pretty much everything that makes life meaningful. If you do decide to pick up a copy of this wonderful book (I would offer up mine, but it’s already out on loan) feel free to hunt me down and tell me your favorites, too.
Written by Cara B.
Happy Holidays! With second semester just starting a few days ago, it feels like everything went from a calm and happy new year’s to the panic of the semester, and it can be easy to want to push things off...especially forming new habits. But starting from the very beginning is exactly how a trend in behavior becomes a routine. If you're interested in upping your writing game in 2017, here are a few tips and routines for you to consider getting into this year.
Maybe this is an obvious one, but it's challenging to find time to read for fun in college. I mean, you're already reading two novels a week for your two English classes, and there's your chemistry textbook, and there's those articles for sociology, and why would you want to read after that again? But reading really is the best way to get better at writing, and picking what you read feels like a little dash of freedom. But it has to be a routine. So, if you want to really read more books, treat it like a daily/weekly challenge: read 30 minutes of a novel, or 2 poems by a new poet, or one creative non-fiction essay.
2. Give yourself deadlines.
I’m one of those people who started making time for writing early in my life (good job, past self), but I still accomplish the most work (and sometimes the best work) when I set deadlines for myself that I treat like normal school deadlines. Add “Write 500 words about protagonist” or “Go to a coffee shop and write” to your to-do list, and then make sure you check it off! If you’re one of those people who have trouble meeting deadlines or goals you set for yourself, get your friends involved. (My roommate just got an Amazon Echo Dot for Christmas, so I’ve been considering having Alexa yell at me about my deadlines, so there's a protip also.)
3. Engage with a new form.
This is a pretty easy one to do, because it can be a lot more fun and less of a routine than the other suggestions I've given. In my opinion, any sort of art can inform your writing, no matter what it is, and it gives you a better appreciation of what the written word can accomplish when you compare it with something else. If you’ve never read a graphic novel, go read one. If you’ve never listened to a podcast that tells a story, go listen to one. If you’ve never watched K-Drama, go watch one. It’s important to engage with the type of writing you want to be doing, but you can also learn a lot from the expectations and warping of expectations that happen in other forms of media.
4. Sharing is daring!
“When are we going to read your poetry?” asked your great-uncle from Oregon over break. If you’re like me, you’ve probably stuttered something along the lines of “Well you see I’m working on something but I don’t really like it and uh I’ll it’ll be uh yeah when I’m ready, when I polish it more, then you can read it.” Maybe you don’t have to share your precious soul-space with Great Uncle Freddy, but getting feedback from a friend, or a classmate, or your Tumblr followers can be extremely helpful, and everyone should practice doing it if you're serious about writing. It tells you what is working and what still has yet to work, which we as writers can't always see on our own. Plus, the more you share things by your own volition, the easier it gets when you have to.
There are lots of possible things you can do to better your writing life in 2017, and if these aren't doing it for you, there are so many people on the internet that are doing the same thing this blog post just did. Whatever your new year's writing resolution is, good luck!!
Written by Erika S.
Whenever we have that rare and indescribably wonderful experience of indulging ourselves in a phenomenal book, nothing can compare to that consuming feeling of obsessively flipping through the pages, hooked to the characters and imagining oneself interacting with them, overcome with a strange sensation upon finishing the read and attempting to visualize how the storyline might have continued after the final words.
Many books have given me that experience, yet what I find upon finishing them is that certain lines stand out to me and remain imbedded my mind for days on end. They’re insightful lines that cause me to rethink certain aspects of my life and of the world. They’re lines that I recall when I’m in a difficult situation, lines that somehow soothe me and allow me to regain a sense of composure. Although it was difficult to choose, here are what I find to be ten incredibly powerful quotes that perhaps you too will remember in tough times and help you stay strong:
Written by Sarah S.
Rice's classes end today, so this is our last blog post of the semester. From all of us on the R2 staff, have a great holiday season!
Whenever I get really really stressed, doing something creative always helps me unwind. With finals looming ahead, everyone might need a little literary study break! When you find yourself feeling frazzled, I encourage you to try some out some blackout poetry.
All you need is a loose newspaper article, a book page or a magazine you are willing to part with, and a sharpie! Your goal—create a brand new story using the existing text in front of you. To begin, glance down at the page and box in any phrases that for whatever reason, really strike you. Now, see if any of these phrases fit together. The catch? You can’t move any of the text and you still want the poem to read correctly from left to right. You can choose whether you want to make a broad story out of just "big" words like nouns, verbs, and adjectives or if you want to create a more coherent narrative using big words and little words like "is," "of," and "the" to move the story along. Once you have a stanza or two marked out, you are ready for the fun part! Blackout EVERYTHING ELSE on the page, and feel all of your angst instantly melt away. If you want to get super fancy, you can even create pictures on the page to match the feel of your brand new poem.
I love blackout poetry because you can create something uniquely your own that stems from writing that’s already out there. There is something special about finding secret messages in unlikely places, and I swear the entire process is ridiculously therapeutic.
Have fun & happy last week of classes!
Written by Ellie M.
Depending on who you ask, creativity strikes on its own whim. It comes when you’re in the middle of a bio test or sitting in rush hour traffic or when you’re invested in a deep conversation with your best friend. Then, when you sit down at your desk, ready to write, it’s like it was never even there in the first place. We’ve all been there before. Where do you start when the poetry gets stuck, when the characters are all wrong, when the words don’t exist yet for something you haven’t even thought of?
According to one study, people are most able to do constrained thinking (like concentrating on solving singular, linear issues) when they’re at full mental capacity, which varies person to person. If you’re a morning bird, this will be when you wake up; and as a night owl, it’ll probably be easier later in the day. Thinking expansively, though, in a creative capacity where the bounds are nonexistent and the opportunities are limitless -- this is actually better to do when you’re not feeling so hot intellectually. The idea is that when you’re mentally “on,” you have the focus that you can dedicate to one task. When you’re a night owl still in that morning haze, your lack of concentration actually allows your mind to take all sorts of paths, which will likely produce some unique ideas.
Routine is how most of the greats became great -- rise, focus, write, repeat, on the same schedule every day. This repetition gives you subconscious cues that it’s time to get into the thought patterns that help sculpt your stories from the ground up. Once you’ve got your routine down, make sure you can stay in the flow. High intensity noise over 95 decibels - think a food processor - is not going to be conducive to your writing, and if you want to be most productive, split your work into 1-3 hour chunks followed by a break. Keep in mind that these are pretty broad generalizations coming from psychologists, and that maybe you function differently - like Allen Ginsberg, who could work anywhere, or maybe like Ray Bradbury, whose constant inspiration negated the need for a schedule.
When asked about his writing habits, E.B. White replied, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” So if you’re trying to get your wordplay into the world, consider this: make your ideal conditions every day, so that in the end, you are the master of the word count.
If you’re looking for more information, here are some good places to start.
Written by Kristen Hickey ('20)
I came across the poets Nesbit and Gibley (who describe themselves as “two old men who write poetry, short stories and other things”) while scrolling through my WordPress Recommendations. One of their poems, titled We Are Fragile Things, had gone viral. Intrigued, I explored the rest of their site. The poems below are just a few examples of the poignant poetry the pair have written (check out https://nesbitandgibley.com/ for more).
Poem #1: We Are Fragile Things
We Are Fragile Things acknowledges the great achievements of humans (“They’ve explored the deepest trenches, / Climbed the highest mountains, / Even travelled to the moon and back”) but notes that “we can be fragile things.” The use of “we” implicates us, as readers, as the humans the poem is talking about. We struggle with “death and accident,” but “we can be mended, / Healed by truth and trust.”
The last sentence of the poem is: “We are fragile things / Broken by loss and fixed with love.” The change from “we can be fragile things” to “we are fragile things” demonstrates that we cannot escape the struggles that life presents to us. We can, however, be “fixed with love” and the companionship of those around us.
We Are Fragile Things – https://nesbitandgibley.com/2016/09/23/we-are-fragile-things/
Poem #2: To Lighten The Load of Her Heavy Mind
The poem introduces a girl’s mental turmoil with the quote: “‘It’s not the world I endure, but myself.’” We quickly learn that her greatest enemy is herself; the girl struggles “to venture out for the newspaper” because even simple acts like that one apply “gravity / and pressure” to the girl’s “shoulders, / [and] to her beautiful mind.” The italicizing of “pressure” emphasizes the persistent burden to appear normal for other people, a new kind of struggle that the girl is “not quite used to.” Nevertheless, the poem reassures her—and us—that having a bad day is “not the end of the world.” In fact, it is perfectly normal.
To Lighten The Load of Her Heavy Mind – https://nesbitandgibley.com/2016/11/08/to-lighten-the-load-of-her-heavy-mind/
Poem #3: Wireless
Many of us are glued to our phones and our laptops. But the poem reminds us that we can—if we wanted to—leave “the mean glare of a white screen” and “fully embrace the magnificence of being human.” As humans, “we’re wonderfully wireless,” able to forge meaningful relationships without the use of man-made gadgets.
Wireless – https://nesbitandgibley.com/2016/11/01/wireless/
Poem #4: Milk
What happens when someone constant in your life passes away?
This poem brings an unexpected twist to that question by detailing the impact of a community milkman’s death on the residents, despite them “not knowing his name.” The loss of the milkman’s presence is seen in the doorsteps that remain “empty bottled,” but as the same time, life continues to go on. The repetition of “will” in the subsequent lines (“The trees will shed their leaves,” “the traffic lights will blink,” and “the sun will rise at dawn again”) also suggest that there is a constancy to look forward to. The poem ends on a hopeful note, saying that “tomorrow, there’ll be milk on our doorstep.”
Milk – https://nesbitandgibley.com/2016/11/11/milk/
Poem #5: We’ve Only Fleeting Minutes
The length of the poem (it’s only 6 lines) reflects its message—that we should live in the moment. Confronted with our fast-paced lives, we may think of pictures as the only way to “capture the moment before it ends.” But, as the speaker of the poem points out, we should let the moment end, for “that’s the beauty” of it all.
We’ve Only Fleeting Minutes – https://nesbitandgibley.com/2016/11/03/weve-only-fleeting-minutes/
Written by Evelyn Syau (’20)
In these times of stress and fatigue, I have found it exceedingly difficult to read for my own enjoyment. The things that inclined me to be an English major in the first place - those long nights wrapped up in the pages of another world - no longer seem open to me. There is simply too much to do. That essay, lab, or internship is just more important.
So, I want to use this writing space to bring up a piece by one of my favorite novelists: Isabel Allende’s “This I Believe” personal essay for NPR, called, “In Giving I Connect with Others.” In her essay, Allende details how her daughter’s untimely death led her to a revelation on how to live her life. Like many of us at Rice, Allende “lived with passion and in a hurry, trying to accomplish too many things.” However, when her daughter Paula died, everything stopped for her. Through a harrowing grieving process encompassing two years in which she reflected on her daughter’s life, Allende discovered a personal mantra to live by: You only become rich through spending yourself.
I think it is easy for us to get lost in the routine drama of life. When something like losing a loved one happens, it’s like getting a bucket of icy water to the face. All of a sudden, we see the bigger picture.
While Rice champions a culture of care, individual acts of kindness can still be forgotten in times of monumental stress. I have been guilty of this myself; when a friend was in need, I still chose to pursue my academics rather than support her. At a higher level institution like Rice, it is expected that people would need to spend more time focusing on academics. However, I think it is equally important to keep in mind that GPA and leadership positions are only a few small facets of life. When we focus in on things like grades, it is easy to become blind to the bigger workings of life and the people around us. Allende’s essay reaffirmed a tenet I always kept in the back of my mind: human relationships are the most important thing in this world. That’s probably a drastic and somewhat naïve thing to say, but it is something I see confirmed again and again in daily situations.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: while life is definitely stressful (especially with finals coming up), it may be beneficial to step back and see all the wonderful humans we have around us—and to be grateful for the relationships supporting us.
Also, if you want to read Isabel Allende’s personal essay, here it is: http://www.npr.org/2005/04/04/4568464/in-giving-i-connect-with-others
I highly recommend it ☺
Written by Jennifer F.
The following interview appears in the 2015 edition of R2. This interview was conducted by Alison Liu.
George Bilgere is a Pushcart Prize winner and the author of six books of poetry. He received his MA in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis and his Ph.D. from the University of Denver. His work has appeared in Billy Collin’s 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Everyday, Ploughshares, and The Kenyon Review, among others. Currently, Bilgere is an Associate Professor in English at John Carroll University.
Your poetry is both so accessible and humorous. Can you talk to us about what it’s like trying to find a balance between humor and solemnity in writing?
"Well, it’s true that most of my work is built around trying to find this balance. I think a successful poem should be like an exciting musical composition: lots of shifting in tempo and cadence and tone. So I like the idea of keeping the reader off-balance by moving unexpectedly from the somber and austere to the funny and comic. If you’ve ever read a collection of poems by an extremely gloomy and angst-ridden poet you know how tedious it can become. I don’t want my readers to get complacent. Someone, I forget who, once said that the world is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think. And since all of us both feel and think it only seems natural for poetry also to wear both the mask of tragedy and the mask of comedy. It’s taken me a lot of practice to and that balance. Too much humor and your poem is just a joke. Too much darkness and you risk dull sentimentality. When it’s right, when the balance is achieved, I rely on my ear to tell me so. Or my disgruntled readers!"
Do you have a favorite joke?
Sadly, the best jokes are those that can’t be shared in public, don’t you think? The very nature of the joke is subversive, often cruel. A joke that’s polite and careful to offend no one usually isn’t very funny. But okay, I do like talking dog jokes, and here’s a favorite: guy walks into a bar with his dog and says to the bartender, I have a talking dog. And the bartender says, okay, let’s prove it. And he asks the dog, what’s that thing over our heads? And the dog looks up and says, “Roof! Roof!” And the bartender says, not bad. Now what’s that stuff covering the trees out there? And the dog says, “Bark! Bark!” I’m impressed, says the bartender. One more question. Who’s the greatest baseball player that ever lived? And the dog says, “Ruth! Ruth!” And the bartender gets angry and says, this is nonsense, both of you get the heck out of my bar, and he throws them out. Outside on the sidewalk the dog looks at his owner with confusion on his face, and asks, “Dimaggio?”
For some reason that kills me.
Do you think poems can be used to tell stories, or are characters in poems more of a prop to convey certain emotions?
I do often use characters in my poems. In fact, I guess there are almost always people in them. And I want to say something about the humanity, or the vulnerability, or the wonderfulness, or the sadness, or the silliness, of that person. So I guess, to answer your question, the two are inseparable. To me, Jerry in “The Problem” is both kind of funny (he’s one of millions of amateur writers writing about fantasy realms) and kind of sad (he’s one of millions of amateur writers writing about fantasy realms).
What’s the first book you’ll read to your son when he’s old enough to understand? Michael is twenty months now, and I love reading things to him like The Polar Express primarily because he’s in his Train Phase and I loved my Train Phase. And I really do think he kind of “gets” it at some level, if only in the sense that he responds to the mystery and beauty of the illustrations as they pass by him while the words I’m reading become a vaguely musical if not entirely comprehensible soundtrack. And I’m very good at saying both “choo choo” and “whoo, whoo,” which he loves to hear. But when he’s old enough to really understand a narrative, I’ll be reading him Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Kidnapped. These books are essential reading to anyone interested in running away from home and becoming a pirate.
Some of your poetry employs details from your personal life. How does the idea of sharing part of yourself with strangers affect you or your writing?
My poems do tend to be about my own experiences. And more and more, at least in the last few books, the poems tend to be about me, as a character, moving through the world. And generally I portray myself in one way or another as a kind of foil, as a kind of comic figure, a victim of the world’s peculiarities or my own insecurities. Look at a poem like “The Ineffable,” in The White Museum. That character, who is similar to but not exactly like me, took a lot of work, and life, to develop, and I’m sticking with him. I like my poems to somehow address the fact that reality isn’t always a comfortable t for me. It’s the tiny ways we fail to move smoothly through the world that interest me. And if I can make a stranger interested in that persona, if a reader can somehow connect or empathize, I feel the poem has succeeded.
In what ways does teaching affect your writing?
I think I have the ideal job: I teach poetry workshops at a university, and I write poetry. The school is very nice about giving me time to write my poems, and my students
are very nice about giving me new approaches and insights into writing all the time. For one thing, they’re new enough to writing that they don’t mind asking the obvious questions, things like “why do poems have to be written in lines?” And I find myself thinking about things I hadn’t thought about in years, and thinking about them in a fresh way. Also, when I give my students a writing assignment, I do the assignment myself, and share the results with them. It’s encouraging to them to see how often their poems work better than mine. Of course, I’m not always happy about this, but such are the perils of teaching!
It is often said that poets, more so than other writers, must sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. How do you begin to write a poem? Is there a process that you go through when you are writing?
My feeling is that inspiration is what happens when you’re already at work on the poem. You’re plugging away at something, hoping that somehow the draft you’re working on will take o into some exciting new direction—and every now and then, very rarely, BAM! Inspiration comes along and lifts your crummy little poem into something better than you thought you could do. It’s a thrill. But yeah, I don’t think “inspiration” is something that suddenly just strikes you as you’re strolling down the sidewalk. You have to go looking for it.
At the risk of sounding cliché, do you have any advice for the aspiring writers that read our magazine?
Yes—and it’s always the same thing. Read. Read read read. Find out who’s writing the good stuff and read it. Go to your library and look at the poetry journals. If you see a poem in there you really like, or a poem in a contemporary anthology, go find a book or two by that poet and do your best to steal from him or her. Imitate, borrow, steal. That’s how every poet, every musician, gets started. And then, as you work and grow, you find yourself slowly becoming—yourself. It just takes a while to get there.
Every month, R2 runs a writing and art contest based on a prompt we decide earlier in the month. October's month was "Our Monsters," and we had to choose between some incredible pieces on a variety of topics. The winner of the contest was "A specimen of Bulimia nervosa, observed in captivity" by Sonia Hamer, and can be found in the Thresher this month, along with the winning art submission, "Can't Let Go" by Justin Bishop.
However, we'd also like to shed some light on two pieces we designated as runners-up. In no particular order, here are our two honorable mentions from this month: "Mawyer" and "Counting Sheep."
Your roommate beats his mother.
When you told me, I couldn’t picture
this polite, loving, red-cheeked
boy calling her a pussy-faced bitch and
punching her when he thought you weren’t
looking. You drank beer and
watermelon vodka, and sunburned on
Rehoboth beach; you ate his grandmother’s
bad cooking, bet on the World Cup;
you flirted with Scottish and Slovakian girls, all with him,
and you tell me all this over the phone as I lie in my
yellow dorm bed picking strands of dried grass from
the sheets. I hear your deep voice travel though
the air and radiate from cell towers
and I can hear you say that I too am a stupid bitch
for not knowing the definition of imbroglio.
You have turned into vinegar while I was gone.
I miss you baby, you soften. And I’ll kill him if
he touches you. Well, okay, I say. Well, okay.
It used to take my parents a good night kiss and a wind up music box to tuck me in. Now I've got it down to a game of make-believe in my bed or sometimes yours. I wish I could count sheep but instead I'm counting the ways you could be touching me and you're not.
The glow in the dark stars on my ceiling don't last all night. They fall asleep before I make it home, and the heavens don’t wait up for me anymore. So I leave the curtains open. Maybe some passerby will take pity and stand guard at my window until the war is won. It hardly matters one way or another. I'm here until morning, embracing a corpse and a tongue-scaled dragon all tangled up in my blankets. They come by the darkness like clockwork in my blood. That's why I sunrise in a sweat, raw-throated and panting against the wall.
I wish I could count sheep but instead I'm counting the years between us. It's a bullshit classification but then again, so are we and maybe that's what I fell in love with anyway. It's nice seeing you, I mean. It's been lonely with nothing but a quiver of splintering arrows and the basilisk in the mirror. The couch has padding enough for one last rally so I think I'll sleep here tonight. By sleep I mean it's four o'clock and I'd do it again, again.
What I'm saying is I wish I could just count sheep but instead I'm counting the footsteps of the demons that you loaned me and you know I guess it's what I donned the armor for but cardboard isn't enough against a lifetime of hellhounds and broken words and I think I could use another cup of coffee or maybe just a bedtime story.
I love ink. There’s something about words on a blank page that pulls me in as a reader, sparks my curiosity, makes me want to learn the substance of a story.
I just so happen to feel equally enthralled by ink on paper and ink on flesh.
I dream of a literary sleeve – one that runs from my shoulder all the way to my wrist, on my right arm (my write arm), the arm that, god willing, will one day produce stories of my own. I dream of making explicit on the surface of my body the density of ink that flows through my veins. Maybe one day, when I sit down to write, the words in my mind will flow through the blood of that arm, filter through all the stories that tore me down and built me back up again, the stories that made me the being of words and flesh that I am today. My stories will gain strength as they go. And out of my fingertips will be born new words. A new story to be read.
My literary sleeve is one tattoo in the making. The single word, “Moira”, in the international phonetic alphabet, embraced by brackets on my wrist. A reference to The Thirteenth Tale, a book about book lovers, a book that held my soul between its pages from first read to fifth.
It’s a remarkable thing when you can find yourself in a book. Find yourself, when you didn’t even realize you’d been missing. And bring yourself back.
In a blessed accident, I stumbled upon a website called The Word Made Flesh (http://tattoolit.com/), and the website’s wonderful and highly recommended (by me) book, The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide. If there’s one thing I love more than tattoos, it’s literary tattoos, and if there’s one thing I love more than literary tattoos, it’s people explaining why the tattoos are significant to them. The Word Made Flesh, both in its website and printed forms, is a photo album containing people’s personal stories and explanations of why certain quotes resonated with them. The artwork is often beautiful; the stories always are.
So now I see “that I have been putting off the essential,” to quote Margaret Lea, the narrator of The Thirteenth Tale: “it rather looks as though in forcing myself to overcome my habitual reticence, I have written anything and everything in order to avoid writing the one thing that matters.”
Margaret Lea, as you will discover in the book’s second chapter, if you happen to read it, discovers that the reason she has felt so alone in the echoing emptiness of a grand world is that she had a twin, and now she does not. Margaret’s twin died minutes after birth. Mine died in a miscarriage. I feel her absence every day.
I have never written a story that was not, somehow, about my twin.
If you go on to read The Thirteenth Tale, you will discover Margaret’s adoration for the IPA, you will discover how she habitually writes her twin’s name in its illegible, upside down and sideways lettering, keeps the scraps of paper always near her, always around.
Ink on flesh – a scrap of paper I will never lose, a proximity I will never forfeit.
This tattoo is my way of keeping what I lost close to me, of displaying on the surface that which dwells deep in my heart. My story, on the blank page of my skin. It is merely the first of what I hope to be many dozens of tributes to books in which I lost myself, books in which I found myself.
You can read me like an open book, if only you know how.
Written by Indigo V.
R2: The Rice Review
Rice University's undergraduate literary magazine. Here you can find event updates, monthly writing contest winners, and opinions by the R2 staff on what's new, interesting, or subject to discussion in the literary and arts world.