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"I am not smart, I am not pretty." This is what Kiyoshi Toyoda's sister had written before leaping from the top of their twelve-story apartment building some time before dawn, leaving her body to be discovered by an old man on his early morning walk. Kiyoshi woke to the sudden commotion of wails and pounding feet, the heavy clang of their apartment door opening and slamming shut. They did not find the note until several hours later; Mai had propped it up on her desk, next to a box of tissues. She had been fifteen years old.

Contributor’s Notes

John McNally was born in 1965. After attending a famous writers' workshop in the Midwest, he worked as a short-order cook, bouncer, grave digger, lumberjack, carnival barker, florist, disc jockey, and busboy. Most recently, he was employed as a groun [...]

A Private Experience

Chika climbs in through the store window first and then holds the shutter as the woman climbs in after her. The store looks like it was deserted long before the riots started; the empty rows of wooden shelves are covered in yellow dust, as are the metal paint containers stacked in a corner.

Lima, Peru, July 28, 1979

This story has three characters. Three important ones, that is; three worth mentioning. Others may pop in here and there, but they don't mean anything. There is the police officer, pointing his gun at me. Manolo Carrión, or so he told me from the barrel of his gun; he had a small mouth touched with a wisp of a moustache and dark eyes hidden beneath a heavy brow. He frightened me. I can admit that now.

It Couldn’t Be More Beautiful

It is Thanksgiving, the great day of dinner, of Dockers and dress shirts and marshmallow-sweetened squash. This year we are forgoing our standard slow graze on the home front to spend the day with my sister and her boyfriend's family, meeting them for the first time—on this, a National Holiday. The whole situation has got my parents up in arms. My mother likes to do the cooking herself, and my father has been ranting about the traffic the whole way out to Long Island. I know the truth is that my sister is only home from college for the weekend and my parents would rather we have Carly all to ourselves.

Can Stories Matter?

This issue owes its origins to Michael Chabon—though I'm sure he doesn't know it. Chabon stirred controversy last year by confessing in his introduction to McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales that he had grown bored with "the contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story."

The Immortals

In Chicago, while taking the El from Wrigley Field to Evanston, Rudy O'Hara was certain he recognized the woman sitting across the train's aisle, but he couldn't place her.

A Soap Bubble Hovering Over the Void: A Tribute to Carol Shields

I began reading Carol Shields' books many years ago, with The Box Garden. In that novel there's a passage that made me laugh so hard I thought I would do myself an injury. It's the chapter describing a mother with scant taste but a lot of energy, who spends her time like a down-market and rather crazed Martha Stewart, relentlessly decorating her modest house—papering and re-papering its walls, hand-painting its lampshades, dyeing its scatter rugs—much to the alarm of her adolescent daughter, who never knows what new, ferocious colour the house will be when she gets home from school.

Notes on Current Books, Autumn 2002

For more than two millennia, the history of ancient Egypt was known to us through ancient Greeks. Two centuries of study of ancient Egyptian sources has produced a different picture. History and literature are powerfully influenced by point-of-view. [...]