The Butter Dish, Friday November 21

Thank you, all, for being so supportive of The Butter’s first week. It has been a total blast and I can’t wait to see what this place becomes. I especially want to thank my colleagues Nicole Cliffe, Mallory Ortbeg, Nick Pavich, Nicole Callahan, and Maria Seiferle-Valencia. They made this week possible in so many ways. I also want to thank the intelligent, lovely writers who trusted their work to a new publication–Rion Amilcar Scott, Stacey May Fowles, Syed Ali Haider, Michelle Dean, Inda Lauryn, Alex Myers, Erin Zweiner, Lisa Wells, Laura Lippman, Trevor Dodge, Adrienne Celt, and Jessica Duncan.

I am surprised by how quickly fall came and went. One day, I looked out my window and enjoyed a bright shock of red and orange. Today, the trees are bare and spindly, skeletal.

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Quick Kills: An Interview With Lynn Lurie, Pt. I

Lynn Lurie is the author of Corner of the Dead, winner of the 2007 Juniper Prize for Fiction, University of Massachusetts Press (2008) and Quick Kills, Etruscan Press. We recently had a delightful conversation about her writing, which I am happy to share with you.

I’m sure you’re asked to talk about the framing of Quick Kills often, so I apologize if it’s become tedious, but the use of vignettes and the ordering of the vignettes is so vital to the book, how did the crafting take place for you? The choices are so clearly deeply intentional, I could imagine the book being utterly different with slightly different ordering.

Pieces of the story emerge and I don’t know if it’s a story or a jumble of sentences. Many times it is the latter. I heard Michael Ondaatje speak years ago and he said something like, “I could throw the chapters in the air and how they land would be the book.” I think he was making the point that no book can be ordered that way, irrespective of how it is written. For me, the ordering of memory differs from how I would order a story that doesn’t rely on the emotional content to move the narrative forward. This was the most difficult part of writing QK. It was important to be true to the emotion evoked by the remembering, which often meant not following a logical trajectory of events.

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Toast Points For The Week Of November 21st

This has been a hell of a week. The Butter exists now!

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Switch Burning: Flash Fiction

Every October, our father, smelling of cigarettes and Valvoline, would tell us to scour the five acres of land in front of our house for all the switches that had sliced our backsides throughout the year.

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Paintings That Wikimedia Commons Has Inaccurately Categorized As “Seduction In Art”

The “Seduction in art” tab on Wikimedia Commons is full of inaccurately categorized works of art. Here are a few examples:


This is not a woman who is being seduced. This is a woman who is being bothered while she is doing her job.


Here is another example of a woman who is not being seduced. She is pushing an old man away from her, while wearing a nice gown.

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“The White Marmorean Flock”: 19th Century Lady Sculptors in Rome

“The White Marmorean Flock” does not, as I initially thought, have anything to do with mammary glands or geese. It is a term, created by Nathaniel Hawthorne and then coined by Henry James, for a group of nineteenth century American expatriate lady sculptors working in the Neoclassical style: Louisa Lander, Harriet Hosmer, Anne Whitney, Emma Stebbins, Edmonia Lewis, Margaret Foley, Florence Freeman, and Vinnie Ream. Wikipedia generously divides them into the category of lesbians and non-lesbians and explains nothing else about them—which is really a shame because in an age where taking up drawing was considered an admirable means to charm your way into marriage, these women ran off to Rome and created big-ass sculptures with their hands, a chisel, and a literal ton of marble.

In addition to dominating a medium that even today struggles with being overwhelmingly masculine, the ladies of the so-called “flock” did scandalous things such as: living alone, living with un-married men, living and sexing with other women, living at all, modeling in the nude, encouraging men to model in the nude for them, and making Nathaniel Hawthorne feel uncomfortable. For all their awesome efforts, male American novelists lumped them together with the lame term “the White Marmorean Flock,” which despite its complete inaccuracy (they weren’t even all white! Edmonia Lewis was one of the earliest female artists of color in America!) is still used on the Met’s website.

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An Interview with Katie Coyle, Author of Vivian Apple at the End of the World

I first encountered Katie Coyle’s fiction in her story “Fear Itself” (published by One Story), which features teenage girls being stalked and emotionally abused by a possessed wax figurine in the shape of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This is not the kind of story one takes lightly: it’s creepy, it’s strange, it’s totally absorbing. And so I was thrilled to learn that Coyle’s debut Young Adult novel Vivian Apple at the End of the World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 6, 2015; published in the UK by Hot Key Books as Vivian Apple Versus The Apocalypse) would soon be released in the U.S. The book follows seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple and her best friend Harp on a post-Rapture (or, as Vivian suspects, post-“Rapture”) road trip across America, in search of some answers. It’s a satisfying follow-up to “Fear Itself,” full of mordant humor, well-drawn characters (who feel very real despite their unusual circumstances), and even a renovated wax museum. As I read Vivian Apple, all I could think was: More Katie Coyle. Always a good thing. This interview, conducted via email over the course of several weeks, proceeds from that idea.


Adrienne Celt: Just to calibrate us as conversational partners, I must first ask you to name your favorite incarnation of the Doctor from Doctor Who, and describe why.

Katie Coyle: I fell in love with Doctor Who via David Tennant, whose spiky hair and aggressive scenery-chewing I found hard to resist. But if I’m being completely honest—and I feel like this is a somewhat controversial opinion at this particular juncture—my favorite Doctor is without question the Twelfth and current incarnation, as portrayed by Peter Capaldi, who is the angriest sexiest skeleton of a stick insect I have ever seen. I like him because he’s kind of creepy and bug-eyed, which is my type in men, and he’s rude, which is also my type in men, and I am so charmed by Peter Capaldi’s documented history of outlandishly nerdy Doctor Who fandom. My one wish is that Steven Moffat would retire and let me take over. I feel strongly that I could write Doctor Who scripts that would do justice to the skills of this dreamy Scottish grasshopper.

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Raising the Tone: Etiquette for Picking Up the Tab and Editing Friends

Please send your etiquette-based questions to, subject line: “Ms. Proprietypants.” The archives can be found here.

I am a maid-of-honor who cannot afford to throw her best friend (the bride) a shower/bachelorette party. My friend is super chill and not really into all the trappings of a traditional wedding (I am the only bridesmaid), but she did express a desire for a karaoke bachelorette party (in town, no destination disasters.) I would love to host this for her.

However, I am very broke, and even more so after paying the associated costs of wedding finery, accommodations, car rental, etc. I assumed that an event like this would be pay-your-own way, but another friend of the bride’s got in touch with me to feel out plans for the party, and her note included the phrase, “whatever you think is best and works for your budget.” Now I am scared! Am I expected to cover the costs of karaoke for 10-15 people? Private room karaoke can really add up, and people have a habit of skipping out on the bill even during non-festive occasions.

The bride is also on a tight budget and it does not feel right to ask her for help. What should I do? Am I reading too much into a random and certainly well-intentioned email?

Oh, lovey! To be broke is not that fun, and it causes even more woe when it triggers social stress!!! Your bachelorette party, as conceptualized, sounds pretty great, as those things go! What will you sing?! I will be singing this; thanks for asking.

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