Just read a lovely experimental essay about immigrant identity and longing. It’s a piece by Anna Prushinskaya up at The Millions. An excerpt:

I set alarms to call my grandmother. I don’t call her for weeks that add up to months, and when I finally call her, I tell her that I will call again next week. I don’t call her next week. I think about calling her each time that I say I will call her. When I call her, I can hear the background noise of the street. She says regular things like that she misses me. She asks for great-grandchildren.

I read something recently that described stealing as lack of faith. We steal when we don’t have faith that the things we need will come. When I don’t call, I think I am stealing time. I do not have faith that at the end of the conversation about the weather there is something that turns out to be love.

It’s a day of reading Russian stuff. So then I read some ruminations about Russian language from a piece up at Jewcy:

I love Russian. I love how the phrases resonate with innate lyricism; how the constants punctuate speech with that distinctly Slavic bite[…]But I especially love how speaking the language makes me feel – like an edgier, snarkier me, with a stockpile of one-liners and wit that rarely makes its way into my English-language conversations. For these reasons and more, I’ve incurred countless raised eyebrows from fellow Russian-speakers when answering that obligatory question – where are you from? Because I’m not from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Baku, Tashkent, or some variation thereof—I grew up right here, between Brooklyn and Jersey.

The author, Samantha Shokin,  goes on to say:

My bilinguality was always the defining characteristic I shared about myself, and eventually kids started accusing me of sporting a foreign accent. I relished having a unique background that set me apart from the rabble, but hated the exclusion that came with it. In truth, my pseudo-immigrant pride was really a defense mechanism used to cope with a general feeling of “otherness” that I could never quite shake.

I resonate wit this a lot, though it was less a true bilingualism for me and more of a biculturalism, that I had knowledge of this other country, this other world, and place. I had a strange nostalgia growing up for a place I’d never been to, a country that no longer existed.

The author goes onto meet some newer Russian immigrants:

These friends were creative, exotic, and spoke Russian so beautifully that even expletives fizzled in my ears with charming effervescence. To them, I was a novelty; a bridge between cultures. I laughed at jokes I didn’t understand because I wanted so badly to. Soon I found myself wondering, would I be like them if I’d grown up there? If my parents had never left?

I ask myself these questions a lot. Who would I have been if I had been born in Moscow?

Screen capture of Nick Ripatrazone's essay at The Millions

Nick Ripatrazone writes “On Getting Paid: Literary Magazines and Remuneration” over at The Millions. He doesn’t say very many new things about making a living as a writer, or about the struggles of a literary magazines and a larger system that is not financially sustainable, but there were a few choice quotes, especially in the comments. Allow me to be your summarizer and highlight what was awesome, in case you didn’t get a chance to read:

  • David Lynn (of The Kenyon Review): “Many authors today hold academic positions… promotion in the academy often depends on generating vitae with lists of publications that otherwise have earned them little beyond the price of a meal or two…”
  • From “John” in the comments: “Only on rare occasions do my individual poems ‘make’ money, and when they do, it’s usually $30-$60 that I receive 3-6 months after publication. In other words, it has little impact on my lifestyle, but a huge one on my confidence…One payment of $30 could help offset costs of printing paper, envelopes, and stamps. An additional $30 would buy me a printer ink cartridge. It sounds frivolous but these expenses add up. If 2-5 poems published a year brought in on the average of $50 a piece, I would probably use that money to fund book contest fees (which are high), thus the money would be recirculated within the industry…”
  • Comment from Roxane Gay (awesome contributor to HTMLGIANT, among other things): “Part of the problem is saturation. There are 2,800 literary magazines because there are too many people who want to be an editor instead of a member of an editorial team. There are too many people who think, ‘I have a literary vision that must be shared with the world,’ and not enough people who find ways to get involved with existing magazines…Magazines, even small ones, receive 8,000-15,000 or more submissions a year because writers would rather be published than subscribe to those same magazines. We have somehow spawned an environment where we equate publication rather than subscription with participation in literary culture because there are so many magazines and it is so easy to get published.
  • Nick Mamatas: “The comments about editorial imagination are spot on. People can huff all they like that editors do try—but clearly the overwhelming majority of them don’t. That’s why there are endless identical-looking print journals out there, often named _____ Review. The few exceptions: McSweeney’s, Black Clock, etc. look different, feel different, and have a different quality of reading experience. And they likely are more financially stable.