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I didn’t change my last name in some symbolic act of patricide; it never felt that radical. I’d been estranged from my father and his family for most of my adult life. Throughout my childhood he appeared like the occasional summer storm cloud in an otherwise blue sky — the kind that quickly accumulates in hot weather, brings momentary relief from the sun, and then, with the most incremental atmospheric change, explodes with lightning and crushing torrents of rain. If the idea behind a surname is to serve as a marker of the people you come from, the tribe you belong to, then mine should have always reflected my mother. Simple.

For years, I considered making the change to Sanderson, my mother’s maiden and current name, but the sheer pain-in-the-assness of it always got in the way. Switching the important stuff — social security card, driver’s license, passport, bank things — didn’t worry me. Everything else — social media accounts, Amazon Prime membership, upcoming event tickets, my dog’s name at the vet — worried me. It’s overwhelming, but in June of 2017, I finally decided to pull the trigger. More… “Navigating Name Change”

Victoria Sanderson holds and MFA in creative non-fiction from Oregon State University. Her work can also been found at Deep South Magazine, Flyway: A Journal of Writing and the Environment, and The Sonder Review.

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What do you do when a bizarre combination of birthright and computer convention means that much of the digitized world doesn’t believe in your existence? (Wired)

You can’t choose your death like an item off the lunch menu. But what if you could? Do you know what you would order? (Wilson Quarterly)

Imagine the dialogue of your first memory. Even if you don’t know what exactly was said, chances are you have a strong connection to the language that was spoken. The impression made on you by the words, the accent, and the timbre of the language is one that will likely never go away. (Nautilus) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.

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When protestors in Istanbul’s Taksim Square last year refused to back down to soldiers trying to remove them ahead of a massive government-sponsored construction project, more than a few people must have nodded to themselves: I know that place, where Galip and Kemal, protagonists of Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul novels, go to the cinema, hail a taxi, have tea and pastry. But far beyond documentation, over the years Pamuk has transformed Istanbul streets and corners and neighborhoods into a kind of powerful metaphysical landscape, a character itself. The city’s history and mythology haunt the other characters, the searching humans. 

Nathaniel Popkin‘s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard. He is also the author of Song of the City, and The Possible City, and is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and co-producer and senior writer and editor of the documentary “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment.” Most of his work can… More…

I have David Foster Wallace’s personal copy of Don DeLillo’s novel End Zone. It is in my hands. It used to be his, and now it’s mine, albeit temporarily and under careful supervision by credentialed professionals. It is teeth-chatteringly cold in this room and brain-fryingly hot on the street because it’s July in Austin. People are baking cookies on their dashboards, and they’re delicious. It will not rain until September.

I am relaying this information to you from the Reading Room of The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, which in addition to housing the most powerful air conditioner in North America, houses pretty much every literary archive that you could dream of having access to, including the David Foster Wallace Archive, which, along with Wallace’s manuscripts and correspondence, has about 300 books from his personal library, 250 of which contain copious annotations in… More…

No sports event in this country engages as many people over an extended period of time as the NCAA basketball tournament, better known as March Madness. This year, 68 teams of enthusiastic college kids have a shot at the championship. Fewer than half of the teams have a realistic shot, which creates the possibility of a tremendous upset. Perhaps, finally, a 15th-seeded team will make it to the Final Four. Maybe, for the first time, a 16th-seeded team, which always draws a number one seed for its first opponent, will advance to round two.

But for all the excitement, there is one thing that grates during March Madness, and that is the insipidity of most college nicknames. Most of them look like they were chosen by a committee of timid academic administrators. “We need something vapid,” I can imagine them thinking but of course not saying, “and to be extra… More…

The last section of An African in Greenland is titled “A True Greenlander,” but what a Greenlander is, well, that’s not easy to say.

 

In this final chapter, Robert Mattaaq — a native Greenlander and village elder at 63 —  tells author Tété-Michel Kpomassie the story of the souls of names. They sit inside Robert’s turf and stone hut, a rarity in Greenland by the time Kpomassie gets there, as all similar huts have long been razed and replaced with flimsy Scandinavian-style wooden houses built by the colonizing Danish. When a man dies, Robert explains, all his different souls leave the body through his mouth — all except for one troublemaking soul, the ateqata, the soul of the dead man’s name. This soul of the name clings desperately to the corpse wanting only one thing: to live again in… More…

Varna is a city in Bulgaria. The Black Sea lives here. It probably got its name from the old Turkish word Kara, which means both “black” and “north.” Because of the depth, the water in the middle of the sea does look black sometimes. Once you move out from the shores a few thousand meters, along a little shelf, the sea drops off into a fathomless abyss. It reaches the depth of around 7,300 feet at its center. It is black in another sense, too. Surrounded by countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Georgia, it is a sea less familiar to the West. It is, thus, the unknown sea. There’s a scale model of the entire Black Sea in a public park in Varna. You can play on it with your Bulgarian godchildren. The model is big enough that you have to use your hands to climb over the Caucus Mountains…. More…

 

I’m having a baby this year. What name or names would a poet recommend? — Ana

Well, a big congratulations to you!  I would say that, in general, poets consider the four M’s when deciding on a name: match, meaning, musicality, and meter, and not necessarily in that order. Let me explain.

Match:  This is a name matched with another poet’s name, or a character’s name from a favorite poem.  I’m fond of Sweeney as a boy’s name, from Elliot’s “Sweeney and the Nightingales,” who also makes an appearance in “The Fire Sermon” in The Waste Land. Of course, I think Sweeney would work as a girl’s name, too, but my favorite girls names matched with a poet or poet character are Emily, after Dickinson, and Margaret, after the young child in Hopkin’s “Spring and Fall.”

Meaning: … More…