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SUSAN HARLAN

WRITER/ENGLISH PROFESSOR

WINSTON-SALEM, NC

SUSAN HARLAN

OBJECTS. PLACES. MEMORIES. FUNNY THINGS.

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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
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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
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The Little River

End of summer on a river.
The Common Link to Story
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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
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Where Lost Luggage Goes to Be Found

I pull into the parking lot of the Unclaimed Baggage Center on a gray afternoon befitting a temple of lost things. Lost things come to Scottsboro, Alabama. Well, not all lost things, but lost things in lost luggage. But I am not lost. I have driven through mountains, by fireworks megastores (each one always the “last” and “biggest”), past dead dogs rotting on the side of the road, to Scottsboro, and one of Alabama’s top tourist attractions.
Guernica Link to Story
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The Pleasures of Reading Alone in Paris

For those of us who work on an academic calendar, the beginning of the summer is filled with promise. This promise is never completely realized, and there is something a bit scary about it, but it’s still there. Summer is a time to sit and read. So I have been sitting and reading on my front porch, and as I look out onto the street and smile at the dogs that walk past, I have been thinking about sitting and reading somewhere else.
Literary Hub Link to Story
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The Last Day of the Off-Season

Tomorrow is Spring Break – Monday, the start of the season – and kids and families and everyone will come. But tonight it’s still quiet (has been since the day after Thanksgiving), and I have the motel and the campfire and the geese all alone. The trees say nothing of spring. They speak only of winter, with their bark and branches.
The Common Link to Story
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The Pennies of Corsicana

So say the bricks, cut within an inch of their lives, and the wet leaves like beetles’ wings, caught in the cobbles. We are the bricks’ leaves, they say, under my feet. The color of the leaves is the color of the rusty railroad spikes that I gathered in the rain. Illegally, it would seem. Property of the train company, I’m told – possessed by others.
The Common Link to Story
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Fire in Tennessee

Today was on fire. I drove under a mountain on fire, the sun red in winter trees. The cars on the two-lane highway stopped to watch the sun and smoke. In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the traffic usually just stops for bears, which you might see far off, a black rustle in leaves or branches, or not at all.
The Common Link to Story
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Summer at the Brooklyn Army Terminal

This July and August, I stayed at my friend Sarah’s apartment in Brooklyn while she and her family were in Vermont. The original plan was that I would cat-sit their black cat Buster, but they had a mouse problem at their Vermont place, so after ten days or so, they drove back into the city to reclaim Buster and put him to work.
The Common Link to Story
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Forget Punxsutawney Phil: the woolly worm predicts the winter weather

I’m standing in line to buy my ticket for the Woolly Worm festival in Banner Elk, North Carolina, and the air smells of cotton candy and roasting meat. Hordes of people pass by in baseball caps covered with woolly worm pins made of furry pom-pom balls. The man in front of me adjusts the worm-carrying case that is strapped to his wrist like a watch.
The Guardian Link to Story
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Dirty Dancing lake had the time of its life, but now it's all dried up

Seven miles up a winding road in Pembroke, Virginia, sits the Mountain Lake Lodge, an imposing 1930s stone building that looks out over a manicured lawn peppered with cabins. The hotel is instantly recognizable to fans of the 1987 film Dirty Dancing as Kellerman’s Resort, the luxurious summer retreat where the precocious Frances “Baby” Houseman meets hunky dance instructor Johnny Castle and romance ensues.
The Guardian Link to Story

About

SUSAN HARLAN

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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www.susan-harlan.com

Skills

  • Teaching
  • Writing