The Sewanee Conglomerate

Named for the uppermost rock formation in Sewanee's corner of the Cumberland Plateau, the Sewanee Conglomerate is the magazine's blog. Check here for short pieces about books and current events written by SR staff and guest contributors.

August 2019

Anna Burns’s Milkman is outwardly a novel about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. But this scene, in which the unnamed heroine stumbles across a cat’s head in the rubble of a bombed-out building, unites the political with the deeply personal. Here, we see an eighteen-year-old girl caught up in the building pressure of an ethno-nationalist conflict—a war—threatening to erupt at any moment. On impulse, she picks the head up.

August 2019

Dreaming, she must both “view the body” and “be the body,” an impossible unity of perception and experience. Never before seen, never before photographed. The novel shatters into incomplete, broken lines, its narrator no longer interested in a complete, orderly description of memory.

August 2019

At the time, I didn’t know what a Linzer torte was made of, but I liked the taste.

July 2019

I opened with them arguing about the meaning of Gatsby because of course they’re not arguing about literature at all. Literature is a cover. Once a marriage passes the point where two people can sit alone in a room with no things—the marriage is over. At least in my experience.

July 2019

Children are always seeing what adults don’t—they immediately recognize the sheer beauty of these discarded items, or the opportunity to repurpose them. In both stories, the discarded objects become talismans. I’ve always been interested in precocious children who act like seers in literature, from Dickens’s Jenny Wren to Capote’s Miriam, and far too many in Joy Williams’s work to mention.

July 2019

An open interval has no end points, and this poem meditates on distances—celestial, relational, linguistic—pointing to the inevitable gap between what we say and mean. Since RR Lyrae—a star cluster in the Lyra constellation—pulses, it can be used to measure distances.

July 2019

In On Beauty, Zadie Smith loosely retells or reinvents E. M. Forster’s Howards End, a novel best remembered for the dictum, “Only connect!” On Beauty, though, takes less interest in connection than in its failures, which Smith’s omniscient narrator describes with heart-stopping precision.

June 2019

Our Summer 2019 issue publishes online Monday, July 1, with the print issue following on July 9. The keen reader will notice rabbits abound in Summer 2019—in Michael Hawley’s “Somerville,” Anna Caritj’s “White Angora,” and Graham Barnhart’s “Collateral Rabbits.” What to make of all of these bunnies?

June 2019

If Bellow can’t really see the black neighborhoods that surround Hyde Park, if he depicts black men in his fiction only as sexual signifiers there to play upon the psyche of white characters, then Staples will write those omitted scenes. He’ll render the people and spaces in their complicated glory and failure. He essentially out-writes Bellow. It’s brilliant. Along with, say, the work of Eula Biss, it’s as good a Chicago personal essay as there is, and I aspire to that.

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