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Home: The Toast

Mallory is off for the next THREE WEEKS (!) and Jaya and Matt will be filling in for the first two of those weeks, and staying at my house for some of that time! (paces back and forth waiting for them to arrive) Please offer them the fealty you show to Mallory and myself.

I do not know if you have read the profile of the two ex-convicts who help get recent parolees used to life outside prison, but please please do, and if it moved you as much as it moved me, you can donate via the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and see what you can do in your area, just by googling “prison volunteering.” For example, there is this incredible program at one of my local correctional facilities called “Bedtime Stories,” where once a month female inmates meet with volunteers who bring story books and tape recorders so that the inmates can record themselves singing lullabies or reading bedtime stories for their kids and grandkids to listen to. The idea of that literally brought me to my knees.

Anyway, please read the profile (and email me if you’re out of free articles, I’ll send you a pdf or something):

Carlos shouted, ‘‘Welcome home, Mr. Hammock!’’ Roby shouted, ‘‘How are you feeling, Mr. Hammock?’’ They introduced themselves and hurried to collect his few possessions — a brown paper bag and a pair of work boots — moving as if they’d done this exchange dozens of times, which they had, while Hammock stood between them, looking stunned.

Carlos handed Hammock the key and asked if he wanted to pop the trunk. But the key wasn’t a key; it was a button. After squinting at it for a second, Hammock handed it back and said, ‘‘I wouldn’t know what to do with that.’’

He’d been in prison for 21 years.

The portion of this essay called “On Sex and Manipulation” is one of the best explanations of why it’s wrong to sleep with your students I have ever seen:

I will not make the dumb mistake of theorizing about what young women want (again, as a Young White Heterosexual Male, I am the least equipped to do this, as much as I am intimately equipped to tell you Just How Horny We Are). I can totally fathom how some young women will want to have sex with their male teachers; they might seem to desire a bit of extra attention all the way to a full-blown relationship. Sure. Why not? All is possible! I feel queasy about Kipnis’ claim that discouraging student-teacher relationships is akin to an insulting restriction on women’s choice and mature, adult relationships, but there are extreme reactions on either side of the spectrum. I can see some of her points. I suppose if you are approximately the same age as your pupil, and there is nothing to be gained or lost in the sex — a grade, a position, a publishing contract, a spot on an editorial board, or even entry way to a social circle with clear pyramids of power — and if you are both really, really aching for it, and you tick all the necessary boxes of consent and know no one’s making a rushed or silly choice because of liquor or drugs and you are still aching for it, then okay, okay, okay, but then you can still wait until class is over, right? What’s another month or two? Or are you too much of a boner machine (or selfish creep) to wait? Are you too used to wielding power like a massive phallic bludgeon? I’m not kidding.

One thing that Kipnis seems to think is that if women refuse the sexual advancements of authorities, nothing’s lost. She literally poses the question: “What sorts of repercussions can there possibly be if the student refuses?” Healey touches on this exact notion of consequence, saying “The influence [professors] wield may seem insignificant to those in their community who have moved beyond their reach, but for those who haven’t, it is more than enough to frighten or threaten or silence.” One situation, opposite reactions. Given the choice between believing someone like Kipnis, a tenured, mature professor who can’t understand why someone might be intimidated, and Healey, a young woman articulating her own experience of intimidation, I feel it’s imperative to believe, and listen to, the latter. Moreover, creative writing drops students into a world where the border between classroom and social scene often becomes porous. It means that grades and ‘favour’ aren’t the only things jeopardized by not flirting, or accepting a touch or grab, or ‘hooking up.’ If you can’t understand this, then you’ve got a long way to go before you understand how publishing works.

One of my very favourite pieces of short fiction we’ve ever run is Helen McClory’s “Pretty Dead Girl Takes a Break”, which is SO short I encourage you to read it again right now and share it with your friends. Anyway, as sometimes happens to our authors (quite frequently, actually, to my GREAT pleasure) Helen got approached by an agent who reads The Toast and now her first collection of short stories (including “Pretty Dead Girl”) is out! Go pre-order it, and be happy for Helen, and also she’ll be doing some readings in NYC and Edinburgh, I’ll let you know when!

this dang love story slayed me:

It was a chilly day. Wind whipped across the sand. A photo shows Selma in Bucky’s fatigue jacket, several sizes too big, his dress cap askew on her head. Her smile lit up the beach, her eyes creased with joy.

Though they had been apart for months, she would not allow him more than a nuzzle in public.

“I felt my father’s eyes were on me,” Selma said.

Bucky was patient. “I figured that was my girl, and if everything eventually falls into place, I’ll marry her.”


Joseph Sledge went free. He was embraced by his sister, his brother, a nephew he’d never met, and by his lawyers from the Center on Actual Innocence. They took him out for oyster stew. He’s due $750,000 for 36 years in prison. I want him to live happily ever after.

David’s apology is a good precedent, but not a good apology. It’s not a performative utterance, in that he says he’s apologizing to Mr. Sledge, but doesn’t actually say “I apologize, Mr. Sledge” or “I’m sorry, Mr. Sledge.” There’s too much about the suffering of prosecutors.

‘What happened to you was awful. We totally hate when that happens, worse than anything! Hate it! It hurts us here.’

Jessica Machado on shame:

I’ve spent the last eleven years since that day in Denny’s wrestling with the idea of shame. At first, I dismissed my stepdad’s explanation as trite and cliché. I was befuddled that a pregnancy from more than thirty-five years ago had consumed my mom during her last moments on earth. I didn’t get why my mom, who had raised me in the diverse, accepting breeziness of Hawaii, during the era of “Like a Virgin” and Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls,” thought her liberal daughter with a history of sad-sack relationships would judge her for—for what, exactly? For having sex in college? It was easier for me to believe that my mom, who’d always held her emotions close, was using shame as an excuse to hide herself from me yet again.

Then, during the last presidential election, it struck me how spoiled and ignorant my perspective had been. Shame is indeed a very real, very powerful and very prominently used political tool in places I am lucky to have never lived. My mother was born in 1944 in Shreveport, Louisiana, and nearly fifty years after she gave up a child for adoption, forty-two years after Roe v. Wade, Louisiana essentially remains the <target=”blank”>worst state to live in if you’re a woman: There is only one ob-gyn for every 13,000 women; it has one of the highest maternity mortality rates in the country; and abortion isn’t legal without a counseling session and an ultrasound. Even if you aren’t interested in getting an abortion, these laws demonstrate the attitude that, unlike men, women aren’t allowed to have sexual desires, that their bodies are not worthy of care or protection. They are instead vessels for procreation, most admired for their chastity and primed for deference.

Would You Rather (Josh or Travis from Clueless edition):

Tyler: Joel, Clueless was my favorite movie even before I finally got to watch it on video. Naturally, no one would take me to see it in the movie theater that summer. What movies did my parents take me to instead, based on my limited memory and what Wikipedia tells me also came out that year? Apollo 13. Batman Forever. Fuckin’ Babe, which I’ll now admit is a fantastic movie but I was furious that I had to sit through it at the time. I had to wait months and months before the film was released on video, and I went to the damn Movie Gallery in my hometown every afternoon to find that the two copies of it (ONLY TWO!!!!!) were always rented. And then when I finally saw it, everything about it was perfection. The clothes. The colors. The slang. The boys, even if I wasn’t exactly sure they were who I was focusing on quite yet. I did know, however, that Cher Horowitz was my hero.

Joel: I think I probably dreamt for almost a full decade about getting a jeep as my very first car.

Tyler: ME TOO! Mine was a Chevy Corsica. You can’t turn that into a euphemism for sex.

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