Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Tuesday, Aug 30, 2011
The years spent as a reporter painting the scene in Parisian cafes and on tuna fishing boats in Spain sharpened Ernest Hemingway's ability to carefully, confidently build a story.

Between third class train rides and afternoons at the racetrack, Ernest Hemingway filed “Living on $1,000 a Year in Paris” with an editor at the Toronto Daily Star in 1922. After a stint as a cub reporter at the Kansas City Star—where he was inevitably “forced to write a simple declarative sentence,” he later explained— the young writer was offered a job at the Canadian paper in 1920. Hemingway then took on a correspondent role at their Paris office and moved to France after marrying Elizabeth “Hadley” Richardson.


In less than 600 words, Hemingway tallies in “Living on $1,000 a Year in Paris” the considerable lengths to which he and his wife could go with the Canadian or American dollar in France’s capital city at the time. It’s due to “prices not having advanced in proportion to” the dollar’s “increased value.” Meals are compared to the “best restaurants in America” in his piece, and the lodging is “comfortable.” These are indeed the spare declarative sentiments of a dry newspaper report, and it’s a bit short for what appears to be a meaty collection of nonfiction at Byliner.com, where “Living on $1,000…” was submitted for perusal in early July of this year. Part social network, part digital publisher, Byliner launched in June. It connects readers to writers, but also to other readers, who are free to browse the hub’s digital archives for worthwhile narratives as well as submit links to stories not already collected at the site.


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Tuesday, Jun 14, 2011
Two brief, random glimpses -- cautionary or otherwise -- into what happens when celebrity gets too close to the ragged edge of reality.

Every now and again I get sucked into participating in one of those blogger memes where you have to pick out your favourite book. The thing is, I maintain a LiveJournal, and frankly get just a little bored with trying to ensure my picks show me off as deep and sensitive to a community that includes feminist rants about Firefly.


Thus, charter member of the Junior Iconoclasts that I am, I recently decided to get cute and pluck out something like the most obscure or weirdest book I own.


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Wednesday, Apr 20, 2011
Borders liquidation sale turns up the S.E. Hinton novel Hawkes Harbor; proof of the maxim that if you don’t use it, you lose it.

The ongoing liquidation of Borders bookstores has offered ample opportunity to discover exciting authors and titles previously unknown. However, one such sale led to the rediscovery of a very well known name. When I stepped into the Borders slated to close on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue back in November, vulturous bargain-grabbing readers had already scavenged the vast majority of the desirable stock; 95 percent of the fiction titles had vanished, and what remained was likely stripped of their covers and hauled away to the recycling bin.


In the basement, however, the Sci-Fi and Fantasy section remained plentiful. Even with 75 percent off, those covers with turrets and space ships are impossible to move. Merged with these unpopular remnants was also the vampire subgenre from the young adult section, all awash in that flavorless nouveau-Gothic aesthetic made attractive by the Twilight series. Absently browsing, I happened across one such YA paperback, but carrying an author’s name which gave me pause: S.E. Hinton.


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Monday, Apr 4, 2011
Last year, David Remnick received huge attention for The Bridge, his biography of Barack Obama. Eschewing the conventions of the form, the New Yorker editor focussed not on Obama’s private life but his public rise to senator and eventually president of the United States. It is a trick he also employed in 1998’s King of the World, a biography of another African-American icon, Muhammad Ali.

Amongst the praise for King of the World came a perceptive comment from Toni Morrison. “By using the Clay-Liston battle as a pivot and placing Muhammad Ali in an accurate social context, Remnick constructs a narrative very much like Ali himself: astute, double-hearted, irresistible. He is so completely in charge of his craft that it becomes an art.”


Biographies are often shunned by criticism, regarded as a resort of easy virtue. There is undoubtedly craft to presenting one’s life in writing: accurate articulation of events and characters in the subjects’ life; understanding the subjects’ standing and importance in their profession. But it is rare for biographical writing to be considered ‘art’. So how does King of the World differ?


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Monday, Mar 21, 2011
Boxed in by bandage-colored cubicle walls in downtown Manhattan, my thoughts drift to sweet days in Florence and Rome, and to lines in Ray Bradbury’s ‘Dandelion Wine’.

While climbing the steps from the Broadway-Lafayette subway stop in Manhattan last August, I dug for change in my pocket to buy breakfast from the fruit vendor on the corner. There was only a receipt in my jeans. The date on the slip marked the previous Sunday’s lunch, one of the final meals I shared on a trip to Italy with my girlfriend before we headed back to the States.


At an outside market in Florence’s Piazza Santo Spirito that Sunday afternoon, we flipped through books, ornate and dusty kitchenware, and even some old Italian 45s. We took a table for lunch at one of the handful of restaurants bordering the market. Over pasta dishes and cold bottles of beer, there was talk of all that we’d seen in the moments leading up to that meal, about how much of our trip to Florence and Rome we’d spent outside.


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