The Best Holiday Present Ever

As the first snow hits, the radio stations turn to Mitch Miller’s “Must Be Santa” on repeat, and peppermint descends on all things edible, I begin to panic. Not because I don’t love Advent, Christmas, the whole holiday season, but because along with good cheer and tidings of comfort and joy we must find something to give those who bring us so much of it.

Personally, I don’t need much this holiday season–maybe some warm socks, a bar of dark chocolate, the time to take long silken naps–but books always come to mind. There is nothing quite like curling up with a shimmering set of poems or a riveting novel to make a winter day merry and bright. As I day-dreamed of my favorite afternoons (I’ve loved these days since I was oh-so little) it struck me–the perfect present–subscriptions to Indiana Review!

Jam-packed with positively stunning poems, short fiction, creative non-fiction, book reviews, even, that inspire, what better gift to give the loved ones? You’ll support what we do (which brings us cheer) and spread the literary bounty throughout the year. To order, click here. A single issue is $9, and a year-long subscription, $17. Shopping: done. So easy! Now you have time for a square of chocolate and the pre-Christmas nap…

It’s a Major Award!

Image: Falkenblog

Congratulations are in order for the recipients of creative writing grants (in prose) from the National Endowment of the Arts in 2012. Several recipients also happen to be past IR contributors, and we’d like to give them a shout out:

Katherine Leonard Czepiel “Wendy as Elsa,” Issue 33.1 (Summer 2011)

Carolina De Robertis “42 Poorly Kept Secrets About Montevideo,”  Issue 28.1 (Summer 2006)

Richard Holeton “Thanks for Covering Your Lane,” Issue 28.2 (Winter 2006)

Benjamin Percy “Refresh,” Issue 30.2 (Winter 2008)

Ted Sanders “Obit,” Issue 30.2 (Winter 2008)


Well done!

Dialect and Bias

“Well… yawl have looked long enough. What you think about them?”

“We been watching… who they now?”

“Displaced Persons…. Well now. I declare. What do that mean?”

“It means they ain’t where they were born at and there’s nowhere for them to go—like if you was run out of here and wouldn’t nobody have you.”

“It seems like they here, though… if they here, they somewhere.”

The above is excerpted from Flannery O’Connor’s story “The Displaced Person,” published in 1953 in the collection A Good Man is Hard to Find. Since O’Connor’s death in 1964, the way we use dialect in fiction has changed significantly. The dialect in which O’Connor wrote her characters’ dialogue was complex enough in the 1950s. Sixty years later, it seems to me that the use of dialect is a dying practice—not least because with each passing decade it’s become increasingly racially, politically, and socioeconomically problematic. Dialect can also signal the contemporary reader to read a character as ‘other,’ which in turn can take that reader out of the story and discourage identification with the character.

But dialect can also be powerful. Nothing conveys a character’s voice and tone with as much immediacy. And in a time when reading has become an essentially visual experience—the text we read online and on our phones is compressed, abbreviated, translated into symbols—dialect can encourage the reader to connect with the written word on an aural level.

Visitors to the site The Dialectizer can input text and have it translated by a computer program into a number of dialects, including Jive, Cockney, Elmer Fudd, Swedish Chef, and even Hacker (the last of which I suspect isn’t a dialect at all, since it’s only ever typed, not spoken…). Imagine reading the following in a story, a familiar joke I ‘translated’ into a dialect the site calls Redneck: “Whuffo’ did th’ possum crost th’ road? To git t’t’other side.” In the work of a contemporary author, I imagine that little line would come off as satirical at best, offensive at worst. For the writer, though, particularly during an era when creating dialect is as simple as inputting text into a Web site, it can read as lazy characterization.

Ultimately, I suspect that the problem of dialect is just one facet of a much larger one: Good dialogue—like a good man—is hard to find.

What’s your opinion of dialect in fiction? Is it an outdated practice? Or can it be used wisely? We’d love to know your thoughts!

Inside IR: Meet the Editors

Welcome to the first installment of our “Meet the Editors” series, in which we get to know the people behind the scenes who make IR happen!  First up, our fearless and visionary leader, Editor Deborah Kim.

Where are you from?
San Diego, California, though I’ve lived in many other parts of southern California. I miss the constant sunshine the most.

Favorite issue of IR?

Our upcoming Winter 2011 issue, 34.1 — which is maybe a boring answer, I know! It’s hard not to be biased toward something you’ve worked on for so long; I remember fighting hard for a lot of the work. We hope every issue is compelling and ambitious, but for me, this one especially is amazing. And the cover artwork!

Favorite non-IR journals?

Annalemma publishes both print and online content and this magazine is newer than others, but a gorgeous artifact in both mediums. Lucky Peach only has two issues out so far, but it’s a wonderful, clever, absolutely fun magazine about food, and I’m totally in love with it. GRANTA is also so so so good. Every issue is dense and put together so cohesively. Finally, I also admire (among so many others!) the work of Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast, Hobart, Ninth Letter, [PANK], and Fairy Tale Review.

What/who is on your reading wishlist right now?

Stuart Dybek’s collections, Lydia Davis’s Collected Stories, Chris Adrian’s The Children’s Hospital, Jennifer Egan’s The Keep, just to name a few.

Okay, so imagine you have a whole afternoon at your favorite coffee shop to read all those books. Where are you and what do you order?

Oh, probably Sweet Claire’s [in Bloomington]. Raspberry-chocolate coffee and a fruit brioche. It’s a cozy place with the most wonderful staff and also spectacular pastries.

Mmm.  Thanks, Deb!