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After World: AI and the Act of Writing

- By Helen McColpin

A Review of After World by Debbie Urbanski (Simon & Schuster, 2023)

Artificial Intelligence is the narrator is Debbie Urbanski’s novel After World—a relevant theme since the debut of Chat GPT in late 2022 and the broadening discourse about AI in writing. Urbanski’s consideration of AI predates the controversies over students using Chat GPT to write their assignments, and she isn’t as worried as one might think. While writing After World, Urbanski utilized Chat GPT and GPT-4, even participating in an interview conducted by an AI interviewer to promote this novel.



Haunting. . .

- By Jim Hicks

At long last, I’m finally sitting down to write a piece that I promised ages ago. This will be an admittedly partisan review, responding to the latest book by Tabish Khair, who is both a friend and on the MR masthead. Yet, given that it’s Hallowe’en today, on several levels it does seem the perfect moment to tell everyone why they should read Namaste Trump & Other Stories (Interlink Books, 2023).

The worldwide expansion of a holiday where children traditionally transvest as monsters, witches, and ghosts seems innocent enough—surely a form of what Joseph Nye, more than three decades ago, called “soft power.” That this year...


Divine Blue Light

- By Michael Thurston

A Review of Divine Blue Light (for John Coltrane) by Will Alexander (City Lights (Pocket Poets Series, 63), 2022)

Some poets, the best among them, make you learn to read their work. Sure, some structures and narratives inform their poems, but these are not familiar ones (the pentameter line, the regular stanza, the myths of Greece or Rome). The rules must be intuited then tested, confirmed in confrontation with the texts. A certain stubborn humility is required, but this attitude is also invited by the shimmering verbal surface, by the promise of some understanding to be wrought in the poem’s collaborative communicative act. You come, let’s say...


Beers for a Sober October

- By Marsha Bryant

I hear you’re having a sober October?
That option, for me, is a Noper.
But for you I’ve pursued
An assortment of brews
So your boozeless pursuits can be proper.

Translucent, refreshing, and light
Is this Upside Dawn Golden. So bright-
ly concocted it zips
As it passes your lips
With a fizz on your tongue that delights.

Just the Haze is a near beer that’s fruity,
With citrusy sweetness and beauti-
ful deep yellow hue.
And the hops that come through
Give some heft to this thirst-quenching brewski.

Sober Carpenter’s ale, Irish Red,
Has a frothy and beige-colored head.
It’s malt-forward. A trace...


Calvino fa la conchiglia

- By Domenico Scarpa

(Fossilized ammonite mollusk. Photo by Adrien Vieriu)

Calvino fa la conchiglia

[Calvino/Italo Calvino

La costruzione di uno scrittore

[The making/building/construction of a writer]

Editor’s note: To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Italo Calvino on October 15, 2023, the journal California Italian Studies has published a special issue, edited by Anna Botta and Lucia Re, titled...

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