Searching for Souvenirs at Dollywood

Souvenirs are, in many ways, generic, particularly the mass-produced variety you buy at a theme park, as opposed to a seashell you might bring home from a trip to the beach. But, like Dolly herself, souvenirs can embody contradictions. If they are seemingly impersonal, they can also be personal. They can be material memories. There is something talismanic about them. And something ineffable, as if they might have powers that language does not. Once you’re home, a souvenir might be the only thing that remains from your trip, a reminder of the irrecoverable. Souvenirs try to transform an experience into an object.
Racked National Link to Story

Going Through Blanche DuBois’s Luggage

There is no piece of luggage quite like Blanche DuBois’s trunk in A Streetcar Named Desire. This object contains the life, or the life traces, of one of Tennessee Williams’s most enduring characters. Actors love Blanche for the same reason that they love Hamlet: she is an actor, and she understands what actors understand—that artifice is not the opposite of truth but a means of achieving it.
The Paris Review Link to Story

How to Read Caves

When I was a kid, I went on a class trip to Moaning Cavern in the Gold Country of California. Moaning Cavern. The name was horrifying: the sense that this place moaned, that it had a voice. We had to walk down into the earth, down a metal spiral staircase that was enclosed like a cage, and I was sure that the stairs would collapse, and I would fall, just like Alice in the rabbit hole, her pale blue skirt billowing out into a parachute, into nothing.
Literary Hub Link to Story

In Praise of the Book Tower

“I don’t think book towers would work for me,” wrote one reader. “I would go completely bonkers with the books stacked everywhere,” said another. Bonkers, I thought. I have driven this woman mad. I was reading the comments section of the “House Tour” of my North Carolina home on the design site Apartment Therapy.
Literary Hub Link to Story

The Retreat

Last year, I opted out of Thanksgiving. I had never failed to celebrate a major holiday before. When I used to live in New York City, I was accustomed to spending Thanksgivings with friends and their families as my own family was far away in California.
The Morning News Link to Story

Notes Concerning the Objects That Are On My Front Porch

It was a careful process, and sometimes I put things out there and thought about it for an hour, or a day, and then brought them back inside and stuffed them in a closet or a drawer.Sometimes they were not right; they seemed to push back against the universe. But then other things were right, and they knew that they should be out there on the porch, in the night air, and they tucked themselves into this world and stayed there.
The Bitter Southerner Link to Story

Your Friendly Trader Joe’s Cashier Inquires About Your Plans

“You have any plans for what you would do if you inherited a million dollars?”. “You have any plans for what you would do if you got gravely ill?”. “You have any plans to have kids or just like one kid if that is all you want?”. “You have any plans to take out a second mortgage on your house?”. “You have any plans to travel to the Great Pyramid of Giza?”.
Queen Mob's Tea House Link to Story

How to Decorate Your House Like Victor Frankenstein

Electric Literature Link to Story

A perfect evening alone in Las Vegas

Some people do not care about Las Vegas. Some people hate Las Vegas. Some people like Las Vegas ironically. And then some people love Las Vegas. So I’m happy to find myself at the El Cortez Hotel and Casino for one night, by myself, before my sister Katharine comes to meet me tomorrow. The El Cortez is the oldest continuously-running hotel and casino in the city.
Roads & Kingdoms Link to Story

The Little River

End of summer on a river.
The Common Link to Story

Last Things in Tennessee

The sky shifts against dark rumblings. This is the last storm of summer, and the cicadas seem to chant its coming. In the motel’s pool is the last beach ball of summer, floating in the fading light. The smoke of the campfire that the owner has just made is the smoke from the last campfire of summer, giving the mountains their name.
The Brooklyn Quarterly Link to Story

Even More Alternatives to Resting Bitch Face

You Appear To Have a Shockingly Inflated Sense Of Your Own Importance Face. You Seem To Know A Lot About My Job For Someone Who Knows Nothing About My Job Face. I’m Going To Tell You I Need To Walk My Dog To Get Out of This Conversation Face. I Would Rather Gouge My Eyes Out With a Dull Spoon Than Do That Face.
McSweeney's Internet Tendency Link to Story



Susan Harlan is a writer based in Winston-Salem, NC, who is particularly interested in the relationship between place, memory, and objects. Her essays have appeared in publications including The Guardian US, The Paris Review Daily, Guernica, Roads & Kingdoms, The Morning News, The Awl, Curbed, Racked, Atlas Obscura, The Common, The Toast, Nowhere, Literary Hub, The Bitter Southerner, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Brooklyn Quarterly, Avidly, and Public Books. She also writes about feminist issues for venues such as Jezebel, Literary Mothers, The Feminist Wire, DAME, Skirt!, The Hairpin, The Establishment, Queen Mob's Tea House, The Belladonna, The South Carolina Review, and The Manifest-Station. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from New York University and an M.A. in English Renaissance theater history from King’s College London and teaches English at Wake Forest University. Her book Luggage was published in the Bloomsbury series Object Lessons in March 2018. Her book Decorating a Room of One's Own, a humorous mash-up of home design reportage and literary homes based on her column for The Toast, will be published by Abrams in October 2018.

She is represented by Jim McCarthy of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret Literary Management.

Photo credit Sarah Torretta Klock.



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