“Buttony” Write Up by Audrey Deigaard

In the short story “Buttony” by Fiona McFarlane, an elementary school teacher named Miss Lewis takes the class outside to play a game of Buttony, in which one child would go around to the circle of children and give one of them the button. The children then take turns guessing who has the button until the holder is revealed. This child now has to give the button to someone else and the game repeats. Before they start the game, Joseph, shown as Miss Lewis’ favorite student, kisses the button, something no student has done before. He then continues the game as usual, picking Jyoti, who is described as inferior to Joseph in appearance. The children eventually guess Jyoti, and the game repeats several times, with Joseph being the one chosen every other round. After a few rounds, instead of giving the button to one of his classmates, Joseph this time places it inside his mouth. The children try to guess who has the button, but become furious when they realize that the final person they guess, Jyoti, does not have the button. The students throw temper tantrums, angry that their game has been ruined, before turning on Miss Lewis, believing she has the button. The story then ends with Joseph running towards her with another teacher to save her from the children tackling her.

Throughout the story, Miss Lewis and Joseph’s strange personalities and relationship fascinated me from start to finish, which is why I chose to track Miss Lewis’ references to beauty as well as her characterization. Although most people share an appreciation for anything aesthetically pleasing, Miss Lewis’s character is borderline obsessive in the way she reveres Joseph’s beauty, constantly pointing out his clothes, the way he carries himself, his parents, the way he runs, etc. etc. However, while she is appreciating this beauty, at the same time she seeks to punish it. For example, at the beginning of the story, after admiring and having the other children admire Joseph for getting the button, she then delights in having him perform a mundane task. However, although she decides to punish Joseph’s beauty multiple times throughout the story, why do you think she doesn’t take any immediate action when he hides the button in his mouth? Miss Lewis’ chronic tension throughout seems to be these two desires, while the acute is Joseph hiding the button and what follows after. Miss Lewis also notes from time to time that she “isn’t old yet,” which leads me to believe that one of the reasons for her love for and need to control beauty is a byproduct of her inability to control her own slowly aging appearance. This is in addition to her desire for power, as when she delights in the children clapping and being quiet when told, and how they open their eyes when instructed to do so. However, by the end of the story, Miss Lewis’ desire for both beauty and power becomes her fatal flaw when Joseph utilizes his power as her favorite by hiding the button. This results in Miss Lewis’ loss of power and beauty, as the children turn on her and and attack her.

Additional Questions:

Why do you think that Miss Lewis doesn’t tell Joseph to take the button out of his mouth immediately?

Why did Joseph put the button in his mouth in the first place? Why did he kiss the button at the beginning?

Olive Kitteridge’s Influences

Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel-in-stories Olive Kitteridge bears some striking similarities to Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio and might well have been called Crosby, Maine, where all but one of the stories are set. Anderson’s novel-in-stories is centered both on the setting but also the influence of the main character George Willard; in the same vein, Strout focuses both on the changes in Olive’s life but also on the influence of Olive on others’ lives. A major difference between the two books, though, is that George is a young aspiring writer, at the beginning of adulthood, while Olive is a retired math teacher at the end of it.

  1. “Pharmacy”: close third-person, Henry Kitteridge

The chronic tension is actually so foregrounded in this story as to present itself initially as the acute tension, but later in the story it’s revealed that there’s been a particular acute tension event that has led to Henry’s  reminiscing about the chronic tension incident:

Acute tension: Henry has not gotten his usual Christmas card from Denise, the woman who used to work for him at his pharmacy years ago when she was just out of college. After the whole chronic tension story of their unrequited love is rehashed, her card does come, in which she tells him she had a scare where she thought she had some life-threatening disease but she didn’t, changing her outlook on life, and she signs the card “Love” for the first time–the first time their love is expressed outright.

Chronic tension: Henry and Denise were in love with each other but never did anything about it. When Denise was working for Henry at the pharmacy, her husband, also named Henry (and whom Henry K was very fond of), was shot and killed by his best friend in a hunting accident, after which point Henry K’s love for her intensified, but when the moment of truth came, he told her to go marry Jerry, the overweight delivery boy who had a crush on her (and whom from future Christmas cards it’s clear she doesn’t wind up entirely happy with).

If you look at this as the acute tension (since it takes up the bulk of the narrative), the chronic tension could be the state of Henry’s relationship with his wife Olive, who’s depicted in this story as pretty much not seeing eye to eye with him on anything (particularly church issues and how other people see them, and about Denise herself–the quality of her personality). Olive is also revealed near the end to likely have had a similar emotional entanglement with a guy she taught with as Henry had with Denise.

  1. “Incoming Tide”: close third, Kevin (no last name given); with brief scenes that also go into close third of Patty Howe

Acute tension: Kevin has come back to his childhood town to kill himself. Kevin is sitting in his truck staring at the bay with his shotgun in the backseat, ready to go (kill himself) after he’s revisited the house where his mother killed herself (which he seems to want to kill himself in front of?). Olive Kitteridge, his seventh grade math teacher, suddenly appears and gets in his truck uninvited and starts talking to him; at one point they directly discuss his mother’s suicide when Olive tells him her father killed himself. She also tells him her son Christopher is depressed. As Kevin is listening to her, at first he wants her to leave but then finds himself wanting her to stay. He watches as Patty Howe comes out of the restaurant and walks toward a cliff he thinks she must know is there (she’s going to pick some flowers). After Kevin wants Olive to stay–basically his transition to wanting to continue to live, or approaching that–they see that Patty has fallen into the bay (whose choppy violence Kevin has been observing, reflecting his mood as he listens to Olive (but also doing more than reflecting mood, coming to play a direct role in plot)) and Kevin runs out and jumps in to save her.

Chronic tension: Kevin’s mother killed herself when they lived in this town. Since then, Kevin has not felt loved by anyone and feels like he has no place in the world.

  1. “The Piano Player”–close third, Angela O’Meara

Acute tension: Angela’s ex Simon has come into the bar where she works to watch her play piano in the lounge, causing her to call the guy she’s been having an affair with for 20 years at home for the first time to break it off.

Chronic tension: Angela’s stage fright has caused her to develop a drinking problem. Lately the booze has quit working as well on her nerves. She’s been having an affair with a married guy she’s in love with for over 20 years. Simon was her only serious relationship before that, who broke it off with her because she was too entangled with her mother.

As it plays out, when Angela sees Simon in the bar she goes to call Malcolm to end it with him. Then we get the backstory about Simon, particularly about how they were both pianists, but he could never play with feeling. After she’s called Malcolm and finished her set, he comes up and asks her if she ever married, and she says no, and she asks what he does now; he’s a real estate lawyer. He tells her her mother came to visit him after they broke up and intimates she propositioned him for sex (Simon’s the only guy she ever told her mother slept with men for money). He then tells her he’s pitied her all these years, and leaves. Angie leaves the bar drunk, and walks home, and when she gets there her now ex-lover Malcolm is there, pissed about the phone call, and tells her not to do anything like that again. She thinks that some people might think her life is pathetic, but it’s not anymore pathetic than anyone else’s, certainly not Simon’s or Malcolm’s.

The Kitteridges only have a cameo in this when they walk by the lounge and Angela plays Henry’s favorite song because she likes Henry. Neither seems to have any direct bearing on the plot here.

  1. “A Little Burst”–close third, Olive Kitteridge

Acute tension: Olive’s son Christopher has just gotten married; Olive is lying down to rest for a minute in her son and his new bride’s master bedroom in the house she and Henry helped Chris build. Olive in the master bedroom can overhear people talking in a little cigarette-smoking garden alcove just outside. She hears Suzanne’s friend ask how she likes her new in-laws, and Suzanne says Henry’s a doll, then makes a comment about how she couldn’t believe Olive wore that dress to the wedding (which stings; there have been several references to how much Olive likes this dress) and that Christopher’s growing up as an only child sucked for him because of his parents’ expectations. Olive is infuriated, and takes a magic marker and marks a line down the back of one of Suzanne’s beige sweaters from the closet and folds it and puts it back, and steals one of her bras and one of her shoes later to steal so she can throw away and make Suzanne think she must be losing her mind a little bit.

Chronic tension: Olive is uncertain about her new daughter-in-law, though she’s also been worried about Chris winding up alone, so she wants to think this marriage, though very rushed, is a good thing.

  1. “Starving”–close third, Harmon (with a brief foray into Daisy’s close-third POV)

Acute tension: Harmon keeps seeing a young couple around town, and hears that the girl has a disease (anorexia, to the point of giving her heart problems). One day the girl, Nina, shows up at Daisy’s, the woman Harmon is having an affair with, because the guy dumped her when she got skeleton-sick and she had no place to go. They both try to convince her to eat but can’t. Olive Kitteridge shows up canvassing for some charity and when she sees the skeleton-like figure of Nina starts crying and says you’re breaking my heart. She’s able to convince Nina to get back in touch with her parents and get help. After this, Harmon’s discontentment with his life with his wife Bonnie intensifies. Though it briefly appeared she was getting better, Nina dies of a heart attack after taking laxatives to avoid putting on any weight. After hearing this news, Harmon declares his love for Daisy. The story ends with the question of whether Harmon will be able to survive the severe fracture in his life of leaving his wife.

Chronic tension: Harmon’s wife has stopped having sex with him and all his sons are grown and gone, leaving a chasm in his life that he starts a “fuck buddy” affair with a woman named Daisy to fill.

Craft elements: Harmon’s interest in the literally starving Nina reflects his figurative emotional starvation in his current life with his wife. His inability to get Nina to eat prefigures his potential inability to emotionally eat himself (that is, leave his wife for Daisy). That Olive can get her to eat would seem to signify Olive is capable of changing her own life, but this prospect is shattered when Nina dies anyway, despite the success of Olive’s initial efforts, foreshadowing that Olive might not be able to change her own life either.

  1. “A Different Road”–omniscient, but close to Olive Kitteridge

Acute tension: Olive bumps into someone who references the recent bad incident that happened to her and Henry, then she revisits the hospital where she and Henry were held captive one night. She goes home to Henry and tries to explain why she said the terrible things she said when they were being held captive, and he points out she’s never apologized for anything. He says they’ll get over that night and the things they said, but she realizes they won’t.

Chronic tension: One night Olive and Henry are held captive by a gunman in a hospital bathroom; Olive insults Henry’s mother trying to explain to the gunman why Henry said he didn’t need to talk so filthy, and Henry defends a praying nurse being held with them, prompting Olive to say even more terrible things about his mother, and she accuses Henry of being responsible for Christopher leaving because Henry was so pious and Christopher married a Jew (this is the thing that gets said that can’t get unsaid). (So this could also be the chronic tension for the acute tension of getting held captive, that Olive secretly blames Henry for Christopher’s leaving and the acute tension of being held captive brings it to the surface.)

  1. “Winter Concert”–close third, Jane Houlton

Acute tension: Jane and her husband Bob go to a symphony concert being held at a church (because the concert hall’s roof fell in–which is symbolic) where they run into some friends who randomly mention a time a couple of years ago they ran into Jane’s husband at the Miami airport. When Jane presses her husband about this he confesses he went to visit “her” when she called after years out of touch and told him she was dying of cancer. This changes the way Jane sees them and their idyllic retirement together, but she ultimately decides to stay with him because he’s all she has. (There’s a brief cameo by the Kitteridges at the concert before the Houltons run into the friends who mention Miami–Bob says how can Henry stand Olive, and Jane, seeing the expression on Henry’s face as he’s talking to Olive, says it’s because he loves her.)

Chronic tension: Jane and her husband Bob seem to be enjoying their retirement together after having put an affair that Bob had behind them–or Jane thought they’d put it behind them. Jane also knows things other people don’t know–like the daughter of the friend who mentioned Miami got an abortion that friend never knew about. In the church she wonders if there are people there who know things about her she doesn’t know. Turns out there are.

  1. “Tulips”–omniscient, then close to Olive Kitteridge

Acute tension: Christopher tells Henry and Olive his wife is divorcing him (after a year) but that he’s staying in California, where they’d moved, and that they shouldn’t come visit. Shortly thereafter Henry has a stroke that leaves him blind and mute and pretty much unable to comprehend anything. Christopher comes to visit only once. Olive goes to see Louise Larkin when she sends Olive a note, potentially hoping to comfort herself with the suffering of someone who’s better off (“a healthy dose of schadenfreude” as Louise calls it), but this is apparently a mistake, in that it doesn’t make her feel better; Louise probes at her wounds, like the fact that Christopher’s only visited once, which Olive denies, but Louise knows the truth from the nurse at the hospital. Olive tells Henry it’s okay if he dies, but then realizes this won’t actually do anything, and it’s up to her to decide “whether or not to plant the tulips, before the ground was frozen.”

Chronic tension: The Larkins’ son Doyle stabbed a woman twenty-nine times. Henry and Olive’s increasingly distant relationship with their son Christopher.

  1. “Basket of Trips”–omniscient, then close third to Olive Kitteridge

Acute tension: Olive attends Marlene Bonney’s husband’s funeral, helping with the setup (mainly doing so out of obligation to Henry), then feels alone amid all the woman (a former student)’s family, but can’t leave because her car’s blocked in. Marlene’s hard-luck cousin Kerry, whom Marlene took in, gets drunk and passes out, and Olive finds Marlene at Kerry’s bedside, where Marlene tells her she was thinking of killing Kerry, that Kerry told Marlene and her son that she, Kerry, had slept with Marlene’s now-dead husband. Marlene asks Olive to do her a favor, to throw out the “basket of trips” in her bedroom–a basket of brochures for trips to places Marlene and her husband kept saying they’d go on, even after he was diagnosed with his illness; Marlene is more embarrassed about this than about contemplating killing Kerry. Olive thinks everyone has their basket of trips, that hers and Henry’s was believing Christopher would give them grandkids who would grow up nearby, etc.

Chronic tension: Olive is completely alone after Henry’s stroke and Christopher’s not coming to help. She has found herself at this late stage in life in a complete state of isolation.

  1. “Ship in a Bottle”–close third, Winnie Harwood

Acute tension: Winnie, a momma’s girl, comes to realize her mom is crazy when her mom shoots at her older sister’s ex-fiance when he tries to come to the house. Then her sister Julie tries to run away with the fiance again, asking Winnie to cover for her, which Winnie does. But then her mother finds the note, realizing Winnie covered for her sister and chose to be loyal to the sister over her the mother, fundamentally altering their relationship, and Julie gets spotted at the bus station by an uncle and brought home anyway, so Winnie’s choice is made moot–or it having an actual effect is anyway. The choice itself still has an effect–see the fundamentally altered relationship with mother. Winnie’s stepfather, who’s consistently referred to as “her father,” is building a ship in the basement he’s claimed he’s measured and that it will fit out through the door when the time comes, but Winnie by the end is dubious that it will actually get out.

This is Olive Kitteridge’s most peripheral cameo yet–she does not appear physically in the story. Julie mentions having had her as a teacher and how she used to say intense things to the kids sometimes; she quotes: ‘Don’t be scared of your hunger. If you’re scared of your hunger, you’ll just be one more ninny like everyone else.’ This seems to be part of Julie’s motivation in trying to seize the day and run off with her fiance and get out of Crosby.

Chronic tension: Winnie thought her mother was someone to be admired, that their lives as a family were normal. Julie’s fiance tells her he doesn’t want to get married the day of the wedding.

  1. “Security”–close third, Olive Kitteridge

Acute tension: Olive visits New York to help out with Christopher and his new wife, meeting the new wife, Ann, for the first time. Where the first wife was “mean and pushy,” Ann is “nice and dumb.” They have a fundamental Christian living as their tenant above them named Sean O’Casey; Olive asks if he’s related to Jim O’Casey, a guy she used to teach with, and Chris says he doesn’t know, then says he is, then says he’s joking. Olive meets Sean in the dog park and doesn’t like him (but wonders if it is really Jim’s son and if Jim’s accident is what caused him to become a fundamentalist Christian), nor does she much like Chris’s new wife (who smokes and drinks while pregnant) and stepkids. She finds out Chris lied about Ann getting sick during the pregnancy as the ostensible reason for asking her to visit, which makes her feel better, like he misses and needs her, but when they go out for ice cream and she sees later that neither told her about a big spill down her front, she decides to leave. Her sudden departure prompts a confrontation with Christopher about her “capricious moods,” which turn out to be the reason he hasn’t really communicated with her for years. He stays calm during their confrontation while Olive weeps, hurting her even more. Chris gets her a car service for the airport, and when she refuses to take her shoes off at security (because her pantyhose, which she only brought one pair of, are shredded) she’s led away.

Chronic tension: Christopher has effectively cut his parents out of his life for several years, something that became even more painful after his father’s stroke, and didn’t even tell his mother he was getting married again until he already had. And, Olive’s love for Jim O’Casey, whom she almost left Henry for before Jim plowed his car into a tree (mentioned in “Pharmacy”).

Craft elements:

The climactic confrontation scene here is especially well done–ironically, with summary. Then, when Olive is in line at the airport, that’s when we get snippets of the actual conversation. This is true-to-life–we don’t process things in the moment; it’s when we get a quiet moment to reflect afterwards, or the first quiet moment we get after such intense moments, that the conversation from the intense moment replays itself in your head, whether you want it to or not. We’re shown the scene of her processing, in the airport line. The processing is the important part, which is why the story ends right after that happens.

This is a story that really shows the power of the novel and the story–but perhaps the novel more so. This story by itself would be good, but it’s better if you’ve read the rest of the stories–it’s better if you know Olive better, and your feelings toward her are more complicated (and most likely, more sympathetic). We’ve been shown the ripple effect of Olive’s personality, how she’s changed people’s lives in ways Christopher could never have any idea. This seems to be the plot of the book, which is kind of tragic–the more Olive seems to be shown the cons of her headstrong take-no-nonsense personality, the more the reader understands the positive effects that even Olive herself can’t know it’s had. The tragedy is her believing it’s a bad thing when we also know it’s a good thing, though the classification of the effects as positive or negative is debatable/ambiguous–as in “Ship in a Bottle”–is it good Julie ran away with that guy?

-As they’re getting out of the car before Olive is about to see Christopher’s house for the first time, Chris calls Theodore “a little piece of crap,” and then when Olive gets out of the car, she steps in dog shit. This is perhaps indicative of her about to step in (as in be forced to confront) her own role in Christopher himself being a little piece of crap.

  1. “Criminal”–close third, Rebecca Brown

Acute tension: Rebecca Brown steals a magazine from the doctor’s office to finish a story about a guy who’s initially happy with routine but whose wife eventually leaves him because of that routine, then sees an ad for a hand-sewn shirt she orders for her boyfriend David (she’s quite taken with the saleslady on the phone she orders it from). She lights the article from the magazine on fire as she orders the shirt, then lights the rest of it on fire the next day when she calls to correct the order; the flame is bigger then, but goes out. When the shirt arrives she realizes it’s a shirt meant for her ex-boyfriend Jace, and that her current boyfriend David, who treats her extremely condescendingly and is a vain asshole, would not like. After she hears a guy get arrested at the bar outside their apartment, she takes lighter fluid out to potentially get arrested herself.

Chronic tension: Rebecca’s mother left the family for LA, where she joined the Church of Scientology and never looked back. Then Rebecca’s father, who raised her so strictly after her mother left that she wanted him to die (and even plotted to kill him by overstuffing him with butter), also died. But the real chronic tension is that she felt worse when the guy she was in love with, Jace, dumped her for another woman.

Craft elements:

-Olive’s cameo in this is also peripheral, as in “Ship in a Bottle”–Olive was Rebecca’s teacher. Though “Ship in a Bottle” is possibly more peripheral, because the narrator didn’t even have her for a teacher; her sister did. But in that story Olive’s influence is more direct, as Julie seems to have Olive’s advice in mind as part of the motivation for the action of her running away, putting Winnie in the position of making the choice…in “Criminal,” this is all there is about Olive:

Besides, her Aunt Katherine made her anxious, the same way her math teacher, Mrs. Kitteridge, did. Mrs. Kitteridge would look at her hard sometimes, when the class was supposed to be working. Once she had said to Rebecca in the hallway, “If you ever want to talk to me about anything, you can.”

Rebecca hadn’t answered, had just moved past her with her books.

Maybe this is symbolic of what most of the town does with Olive…

-The Maalox: this is the medicine Rebecca takes for her upset stomach, the kind that requires a special spoon (that’s mentioned several times): “Maalox sticks to everything. You can’t put the spoon in the dishwasher because even the glasses come out flecked with white.” This is basically a symbol for her chronic tension, the loss of her mother–this flecks everything in her life, and has led to her being in the situation she’s in now–with a guy she obviously shouldn’t be with. The story begins with her at the doctor, and doesn’t reveal the reason she’s there; you might intuit the Maalox has something to do with it. Near the end of the story she returns to the doctor and tells him the Maalox isn’t working and he tells her there’s nothing wrong with her, her stomach pain is just stress.

  1. “River”–close third, Olive Kitteridge

Acute tension: Olive runs into Jack Kennison, a man she vaguely knows from around town, collapsed on the walking trail, and helps him up. His wife has recently died and they start dating. When Olive tries to express her misgivings about Jack’s character to her friend Bunny and son Christopher and neither seem to side with her concerns, she gets upset with both of them. She goes for a while without seeing Jack, then communicates with him via email about the mistakes she’s made with her son while he talks about the mistakes he made with his daughter. He invites her over and she goes, and he’s lying on his bed; he admits he’s scared.

She almost said, “Oh, stop. I hate scared people.” She would have said that to Henry, to just about anyone. Maybe because she hated the scared part of herself—this was just a fleeting thought; there was a contest within her, revulsion and tentative desire.

She thinks how you squander days and love when you’re young, and realizes she doesn’t want to leave the world yet.

A shorter summation of acute tension: How the development of Olive’s relationship with Jack, someone she’s both disgusted by and has desire for, helps her confront the role her own personal shortcomings played in the state of her life now.

Chronic tension: Henry finally died about a year ago in the nursing home.

The line from “Pharmacy” about something being wrong in the Kitteridge household offers the hook that subconsciously keeps the reader reading: the real plot here is figuring out what that something wrong is, and how much of a role Olive herself plays in it.


“Mastiff” Write Up by Kassius Littlejohn

“Mastiff” by Joyce Carol Oates is a compelling story because of the extremity of the descriptions used in the piece as well as the  increasing intensity. I felt interest in the fact that the story focused partly on a breed of dog i also happen to be very fond of, and the dramatic events that branch from it. After reading the story, I feel that I should include more description that differs from he readers expectation, and using more unique words that the average me wouldn’t normally use to describe a certain something.

The story was definitely separate from my interpretations. It did include the actual dog, but it wasn’t the main focus. Instead I was very surprised just what kind of story this was. However I did like Oates transitions between the dog and its owner and the events that went on between the man and the woman , as they are called by in the story, it certainly adds a certain “spice” to the story.

Even though I don’t make reading romance stories an exact habit for me (though I do end up reading them due to title matters), the realistic and detailed events in the relationship between the man and the woman made the story slightly more enticing to read, and I feel that I can imitate this in my own writing by having my story differ from the reader’s expectations.


.What did you think about the fact that the story wasn’t actually about the Mastiff? Was the story more enticing to read?

.Do you believe there  is a double meaning behind the title, or do you think it applies to the dog only?

.Did you think the dog’s role played a significant part in the story, besides the title, or do you think it would have been better off without the dog?

.Lastly, if you finished the story, what were your thoughts on the ending? The last sentence of the piece?

“Who the Hell is Lil Yachty, and Why Do Kanye West and Drake Care About Him?” Write Up by Mitchell Watson

Winston Cook-Wilson’s article is focused on a topic so specific and current, that hardly anyone knows about its subject matter. This is a “raise-awareness” article; its main purpose is to popularize the subject at hand, while also analyzing Lil Yachty’s personality, predicting his success in the near future.

The title of this article is a question, as it should be. It’s eager to find out who, what, when, where, and how; it carries the same excitement and energy as anyone does when they first come upon a viral trend that all of their friends are crazed about. There’s a good chance anyone who reads the title will click on it to read the article. That’s good journalism if I’ve ever seen any. Who is Lil Yachty???

Wilson uses clever “insider” terms to reference or describe other bits of the piece. Inventive adjectives like “Makonnen-esque” (referring to the similar artist I Love Makonnen, also from Atlanta) are utilized for lack of a better description in today’s quickly changing world of hip-hop. This definitely adds a touch of confusion to readers who are not completely familiar with au courant rap, but assuming that the readers of the culture section in inverse.com are an audience fairly educated in the field of modern hip-hop, the article doesn’t spark too many problems here. I totally enjoy Wilson’s method of using other current cultural happenings to describe the subject of his article.

An interesting aspect about this piece is that it’s analyzing history (or maybe just over-hyped trash? I guess we’ll find out…) as it happens. As dictated by past attempts, it takes serious skill to try to make sense of the present. Most interpretations of current events are always blurry at first, and then, within either days or decades—depending on the size and complexity of the situation—our views of these events become clearer and simpler. The common phrase rings true: “hindsight is always 20/20.”

This article is a perfect example of a reaction to the present; an analyzation of something that hasn’t been fully heard, or better yet, understood, by the entire world yet. This has happened with countless movements and events. Journalists and musicians alike had no idea how to react to jazz when it was first introduced to America in the 1920s. When the news of the 9/11 terrorist attacks first hit civilians, articles flew at breakneck speeds onto the web, getting completely lost in the chaos of everyone simultaneously trying to make sense of it all.

Now I’m definitely not saying that Lil Yachty’s overnight breakout into stardom in the rap world is as influential or important as Jazz or 9/11. I am saying that Wilson is participating in immediate journalism. He’s not waiting for the publicity and Soundcloud comments to die down; he’s hopping on the over-crowded hype train and riding with the wind. I assume this is so because, well, it’s his job.

And if I were to steal anything from this article, it would be the risks it takes in almost predicting Lil Yachty’s personality—through his music and his other various interactions in social media. Wilson analyzes the sound and style of the Yachty’s tracks—the general feel of “newness” to them—and makes assumptions based on history about his future.

“Atria” Write Up by Casey Edeiken

So a big thing that interested me about this Ramona Ausubel’s “Atria” was the depiction of Hazel’s youth coupled with her coping with her youth and coping with the rape. That’s why I followed 2 things that ultimately supported the same thesis: both of these threads are coping mechanisms. However, they exist to cope with different things.

Yellow: This is how Hazel’s age and how she copes with being this age are illustrated.

I chose to highlight both how we see her age and how she copes with her age because they go hand-in-hand. You can really see her immaturity in her decision to rebel against her mother’s perception because she goes about that rebellion in the worst possible way. However, Hazel also seems wise because she is able to remove herself from most of the teenage garble and glitter. I thought that was really interesting because she was able to remove herself from that situation by telling herself that she would grow up just as her mother wanted her to, but it’s in that “growing up” that she makes a fatal mistake and wanders into a situation of rape.

Turquoise: This is how Hazel coped with her pregnancy.

You can really see how young she is here because she never even acknowledges that her baby could be a human. She constructs these elaborate fantasies of it being an animal in order to make the whole pregnancy bearable. She is often too focused on the animals growing inside her to really care about the way other people perceive her. She has these two secrets (Johnny, the animal baby), that she keeps very quiet, and it is protecting the secret of the animals that enables her to get through the pregnancy.

“These Are the Fables” Write Up by Emily Switek

In “These Are the Fables” by Amelia Gray, the main character tells her boyfriend, Kyle, that she’s pregnant outside a Dunkin’ Donuts in Beaumont, Texas. The Dunkin’ Donuts is on fire and they have to leave before the police get there because there is a warrant out for his arrest. They start driving to the Rio Grande but have to stop at a Days Inn in Corpus. The woman goes to get ice machine but gets stopped by a young woman who is looking for the room that the singer Selena was murdered in. She goes back to the room and goes to sleep. The acute tension is all the chaos in the scene, them needing to get away before the police find Kyle, she tells him she’s pregnant, and she is vomiting. The chronic tension is that they are 40 something, have different addictions, and can’t seem to take care of themselves.

The two things I highlighted were actions and thoughts. I highlighted actions because it shows the two main characters’ relationship. The actions show how Kyle reacted to the news of her pregnancy. I also highlighted the main character’s thoughts because they show what she is like and how she thinks.

Something I would like to imitate in my writing is how chaotic and real the story seems. I also like how the title was a quote from the very end of the story.

  • What does the Dunkin’ Donuts catching on fire add to the story? The Days Inn?
  • How do the settings affect the story?
  • What does the long list of things Kyle lists add to the story?

“Flowers for Algernon” Write Up by Jackson Hassell

Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon” is a story detailing the arc of someone who undergoes intelligence-expanding surgery, but gradually reverts to his earlier, child-like state. While the story is not particularly subtle about what is going to happen – a lab mouse, Algernon, gives away all the twists – it does what it does extremely well. Through masterful use of the journal format and an intense focus on how Charlie judges those around him, the author is able to dissect how much of the human condition is dependent on intelligence in an extremely evocative way. So, the story is written as if it is a journal penned by Charlie himself. This allows the author to do all sort of tricks – like misspellings and increasingly complex vocabulary – to show Charlie’s intelligence without giving us his IQ on every entry. Early on, it’s painfully obvious how childish Charlie is through his writing. But even later on the style is doing work, contrasting Charlie’s childlike ability to understand others with references to high-brow academic papers to show that, while intelligence is certainly very important, it is not everything, and is most certainly not a key to happiness.

The second way the author shows Charlie’s intelligence is how he views those around him. Pre-surgery, Ms. Kinnian is an angelic figure, but when Charlie is at the height of his powers she seems like nothing more than a Romantic heroine. A similar transformation occurs with his coworkers. Even though it is obvious to the reader that they are bullying Charlie, he doesn’t seem to realize it until he gains his intelligence. But more importantly, he forgets that realization by the end, signalling that he has travelled full circle.

The story isn’t perfect – namely in how it foreshadows Charlie’s death with Algernon’s, implying that he really should have died by the end – but that doesn’t invalidate all that it does well. It is amazing at showing, rather than telling, despite its rather technical nature, and delivers a treatise on the nature of human intelligence while also chronicling the personal difficulties of one human who must deal with a fluctuating intelligence – something even the masters of the science fiction genre struggle to do.

“Hills Like White Elephants” Write Up by Maggie Hill


The story opens with a description of the setting, which is hills and barren valleys and finally, the train station, where the story takes place. The American, or the male character in this story, sits with his girlfriend at a table right outside the station. They are waiting for a train to get to Madrid. The man orders two beers. His girlfriend makes an observation about how the nearby hills look like white elephants. Her boyfriend says that he has never seen one, and orders more drinks as they begin to argue about alcohol. The girl says that the hills no longer look like white elephants. As they order more drinks, the man talks to his girlfriend, who he now calls “Jig”, to have an operation. The specific operation is not mentioned. He says that the operation would be simple and quick. The girl doesn’t respond right away, but then asks about what will happen after she’s done with the operation. The man talks about how he knows plenty of people who have had the operation and are still happy. His girlfriend disagrees. She then agrees to do the operation as long as her boyfriend will still love her. The American says that she doesn’t have to have the operation in an attempt to be somewhat sympathetic, but he doesn’t sound sincere. They argue until the girl gets tired and pleads her boyfriend to stop. The train arrives and the couple walks to the train station. The American asks his girlfriend if she’s okay, she says she’s fine and that nothing is wrong with her.



I highlighted drinking because the couple drinking serves as a reason for the couple to not talk about their problems, and their specific problem at this time. When they talk about the hills looking like white elephants, the girl starts to order more drinks in order to not discuss the operation. When the girlfriend asks about how they do nothing but try new drinks means that they keep looking for ways to not talk about their relationship. At the end of their discussion, the girl drinks alone and the man leaves, signifying the possible end of their relationship. You also cannot escape the fact that drinking kills or deforms children, and so the drinking symbolizes that there is not a lot of care for the child.

White Elephants

The common phrase “the elephant in the room” is the main idea of this story, and making the comparison to elephants is the most clever reference to what this couple has to discuss. The elephants symbolize the unborn child that is in jeopardy of losing its life.The comment at the beginning about the hills resembling white elephants is a sign about discussing the child and operation with her boyfriend. She later retracts her comment, saying that the hills do not look like white elephants, hinting that she doesn’t want to have the operation. Her first comment about the elephants serves as a starting point in their discussion, and the second time it serves as a contradiction to what she said before.


Images go hand in hand with the elephants, but the description of the train station and the area around them is so detailed and symbolic (I’ll ask a question about what it represents later). Some area around them is green, or fertile, and some areas are barren, signifying life and death, the possible outcomes for the child.


The American in this story represents the author’s perception of masculinity. He’s a man who travels, knows well, and controls himself and others in his current situation. He wants to not discuss the issue with his girlfriend, but once she makes it known that it is in fact a problem, he faces the situation and attacks it. He pushes for what he wants, and he doesn’t provide comfort for his girlfriend.

On the other hand, the girl acts persuasively, but also undecisive. The girl relies on her boyfriend, which is evident in the part where she can’t order drinks because she doesn’t know Spanish. The part of this character that makes her personally and situation incredibly unfortunate, is her constant want to make her boyfriend happy, but her knowledge that their relationship is over. She understands that even if she does get the operation, her boyfriend and her will not have the old relationship they used to have.

What would I like to mimic in my writing?

I would like to mimic Hemingway’s dialogue format in my writing. My writing tends to be long and and get a little wordy, and in contrast, Hemingway gets the point across quickly and vividly, while still having imagery and meaning in the story. I find this concept quite difficult but enjoyable, because adding all the details that I want into dialogue without making it sounds corny or obvious is a challenge, but one that I have started to immerse myself in.


-Is it difficult to find out that the operation is an abortion because of the dialogue?

-Does the train station represent anything in the story?

-”But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?” what does this quote mean?

-what is the future of this couple’s relationship?

-What did you make of the last lines of the story?



“I Stand Here Ironing” Write Up by Catherine Anderson

I Stand Here Ironing” is a short fiction piece about a mother being questioned about her daughter. Except it’s not an interview- we don’t ever hear the questions that prompt her responses. Instead, we see the mom’s unfiltered brain jump from memory to memory concerning her raising Emily. This story is interesting because we don’t see the full picture, we only see the bits mom chooses to remember. Surely there are so many more memories in her head, why are we shown these specific ones? What significance do they hold? Ah, slice of life stories.

There are several integral parts to this story that make it compelling to read:

  1. The mothers questioning of herself; this is an excellent vessel that you can utilize to characterize how a person thinks of themselves in the piece. In “I Stand Here Ironing”, it helps emphasize the mothers neurosis towards the particular daughter, Emily, in question.
  2. This is frequently overlooked in fiction but attention to tenses can really play an important role in a story. Almost all of this story is presented in past tense. But there is one scene near the end where the mother is called back to reality by her crying son. This moment is jarring, but I liked it a lot. It was such an abrupt jolt from the mom’s dream like state.
  3. Comparing. Not directly in the story, but the mother does it. Which is enjoyable for the reader to watch as she struggles with her past decisions on how each kid of hers was raised. All of them are compared to Emily.
  4. One thing I personally really liked ( I know it drives some people crazy) is the lack of new speaker, new paragraph. I know its generally a formality, but here it was a stylistic choice. It changes how the writing is read! For me, it made the actual dialogue less important, and instead emphasized tone of the dialogue and what what was being said means to the narrator.
  5. Another thing that really struck me was the ever present opinion of others surrounding the mom. We get opinions form an old man, pregnancy books, day care people, school workers and officials as well as other parents. And we see how these things change her actions.

“The New Commandments” Write Up by Cyrus Pacht

Even now, after the angsty vitriol of middle school atheism has worn off, I still find myself returning to the essays and videos of Christopher Hitchens.  Some of this may have to do with his machismo – he is unquestionably the James Bond of letters, a status which for whatever subconscious reason seems to me worth pursuing – but also, Hitchens’s erudition, wit, and courage (and perhaps, to a degree, meanness) guarantee a certain journalistic legacy and romanticize the writer’s life and moral purpose.  I chose to review “The New Commandments” because (although it may lack some of the nuance and originality of his literary criticism or his geopolitical essays) I think it is the quintessential, most hypocrisy-demolishing, Hitchiest essay of the Hitch.

An important lesson to be gleaned from the essay is that it is possible to make concessions without giving any ground to one’s opponent.  I have highlighted in the piece numerous instances where Hitchens says, “Okay, maybe that’s not so bad,” but goes on to prove what about a commandment is so bad, tangential to the previous concession, without losing any momentum.  The dry sarcasm reflects a defiance toward any authority, be it (as in this case) God Himself, or the gods of the Left, like the Clinton family and (say) Mother Theresa, or those of the Right, like Ronald Reagan and Henry Kissinger.  Yet, with attention to details like the capitalization in the King James Bible of “God” or the implications of the four verses of the fourth commandment (that this prescription applies only to “people who are assumed to have staff”), Hitchens shows that irony can be powerful artillery with which to wield one’s sincere opinions.

As important as style is to the writer, it is also necessary to be a good scholar.  Hitchens clearly knows the Ten Commandments as well as any Christian, Muslim, or Jew, and with this force of knowledge and memory, the easy construction of arguments becomes inevitable. He starts with the general knowledge of the “written in stone” cliché, advances with information about the three or four “wildly different” iterations of the Big Ten, cites specific passages from Exodus and Deuteronomy, and alludes to Joseph Smith and the origins of Mormonism, all before tackling the Ten Commandments themselves (which – need I even add – are gently padded with abundant commentary and facts, from iconoclastic Islam to the Haymarket affair, Congressional swearing practices to midrash).

After a keen display of erudition, the Hitch is not afraid to make his argument more explicit (i.e., less ironic in nature).  He concludes that the Ten Commandments were derived from “situational ethics” – they were sufficient for a previous era, but we can do better.  His rhetorical prowess thus far has forced us to trust his analysis, and we are ready to believe his “pruning” and “amendments.”  That is, because he has done the hard work already, now he has earned the right to amusingly, breezily excise the first three commandments outright, and decelerate only slightly from there.  Following a scholarly (but not humorless) teardown of the Sinai edifice, his humorous editor’s remarks are welcome.  Finally, now that such suspense has been built, he gives us satisfactorily what we have long been expecting: the New Commandments.