"Improbable Cargo" follows the "frozen-water trade" connecting India and the northeastern United States--from a personal perspective. Vijee Venkatraman muses on her life at each end of this journey of blocks of ice across oceans, and on how something as transient as ice could create a bond that lasted centuries. A version of this essay appeared in the Harvard Book Store's essay collection Paige Leaves.
In "Assailing Otherness," Katrina Grigg-Saito confronts the ultimate food taboo and survives to tell the tale. Grigg-Saito's essay explores the limits different cultures draw around what's approved and what's beyond the pale. Her experience of learning to cook in Laos begins with the desire to get to the heart of a culture and ends with a discovery about her own assumptions and willingness to set them aside.
In Sandra Jensen's "War", a young South African girl wrestles with her emerging sexuality and with the political, familial, and cultural conflicts taking place around her. Learning about the Boer War in school, Kimberly thinks instead of the more immediate aggression in her mother's relationship with her boyfriend. Attraction and repulsion, love and violence, mingle in this rich story.
Over the course of a slightly chaotic supper, Kay, the protagonist of Vicky Grut's short story "Debts" confronts her social, financial, and emotional obligations. The story is populated by vivid characters--a strange boy who keeps washing Kay's husband's car, Kay's unruly daughter, surprise guests with complicated histories--all of whom come together in a sometimes clashing interaction. Grut brings the story's various elements together in a thoughtful and moving conclusion.
Martin Amis joined Henriette Lazaridis Power for a conversation on September 7, 2012. Amis spoke about his novel Lionel Asbo: State of England, about why we don't like Dickens' Little Nell, why we still like Jane Austen, and other topics, including religion and writing. The Drum's Audio Editor Ethan Wolff Mann joined in the conversation while Amis took a lunch break at the Keltic Krust Bakery in West Newton, Massachusetts.