Favourite Bookish Posts from The Toast

Three years ago, I started reading a little online publication named after a rather versatile breakfast food. The Toast has been one of my favourite publications to read over the last few years, and their roster of writers have been influential on my own writing experience and ambitions.

While I haven’t written for The Toast myself, I have enjoyed and learned so much from the pieces they’ve published, and the wide range of topics and writing styles to be found on their pages. As they prepare to close up shop, I’ve looked back on some of my own favourite bookish posts, and relived some truly excellent and funny work from Toasties. Here’s to you, The Toast.

How to Tell if You’re in a MFA Workshop Story by Sarah Marshall

Her laugh was like the jangle of a charm bracelet, or like the wind whispering in the branches of an aspen, or like waves crashing on the beach, or like something else that doesn’t really sound at all like laughter, or even any sound a human can make, to be honest.

The Pitch Meeting for ‘Wishbone’ by Abbey Fenbert

VISIONARY: It’s imagination, guys! Kids understand. And that’s what reading’s all about. Personally, when I read, I picture Ivanhoe as a dog like half the time. At least.

SUIT #3: Literally Wishbone is wearing a Romeo costume and standing in front of a grown woman in an Elizabethan gown who’s asking him to deny thy father and refuse thy name, but no mention of the fact he’s a dog?

VISIONARY: Correct.

Selling Books in Cold Places by Zoe Selengut

I think I would not thrive in a space where everything I touch is worth a great deal and nothing is hiding. I like a book to be a secret that reveals itself only to me, because – I said this back at the start – it loves me best, because I am its favorite.

“We would have paid her the same if she weighed 500 pounds”: Publishing, Weight, and Writers Who Are “Hard To Look At” by Mallory Ortberg

I also simply and fundamentally disagree that a body can be hard to look at. You may or may not like someone else’s body; someone else’s body may elicit a sense of discomfort within you, but that does not make them hard to look at. You’re not hard to look at.

Eight Classic Female Bildungsromane You Should Know About If You Don’t Already by Anne Boyd Rioux

Of all of the genres women have written in, the female Bildungsroman is one of the most important — for it often grows out of the author’s own lived experiences, providing a map to where women’s lives have been, and where they are going.

Writing About Men With Zora Neale Hurston by Aboubacar Ndiaye

When women write about men, as Hurston did, the question of whether they are able to write them successfully comes up in gendered, historically-fraught ways. There is an assumption, not present in the criticism of the work of men writing about women, that fiction written by women about men is necessarily speculative, a work of impossibly difficult imagination.

To Kill A Mockingbird in Blackface: Sometimes Being a Woman of Colour in School Never Seems to Get Any Better by Jessie-Lane Metz

I keep on wanting academia to get better, because I don’t think that feeling like this is supposed to be a part of accessing it. I often say that I’m paying what every other student is, so shouldn’t I be guaranteed the same experiences of safety that they have? And I don’t see that being delivered.

How to Tell If You Are In a Shakespeare Tragedy by Elyse Martin

Thou hast seen a ghost! (But only college-educated men may speak to it.)

“Thinkest thou we shall ever meet again?” asks thy love, upon thy parting. (The answer to her question? “Ha ha, no.”)

How Tolkien Characters Would Introduce Themselves in a Matriarchal Society by Nicole Cliffe

“My name is Éowyn. I do not bandy words about with men. Get out of my way, or find yourself on the point of my sword. If later I decide I want to amuse myself with your body, I will send word. You may sleep in the stables.”

Shirley Jackson and Me by Benjamin Dreyer

Note particularly that final comma—simultaneously unnecessary and essential, a fraction of a sliver of a pause in which the reader is given one final chance to put the book down and do something, anything, else—perhaps my favorite piece of punctuation in all of literature.

What Happens When You Tell People You’re Reading Only Women by Lilit Marcus

Every person who chooses to read books by women this year is a victory, no matter to whom go the spoils. Their money chips away at a book advance and helps convince an editor that she made the right call. Their online reviews give a young marketing assistant something to talk about in her next big meeting. Each reader is a small voice saying, what you have to contribute is important, what you have to say matters. For a woman, that can make all the difference. The chorus is just getting louder.

A Harry Potter Where Hermione Doesn’t Do Anyone’s Homework For Them by Mallory Ortberg

Hermione wheeled around and fixed him with a venomous look. “Don’t ever suggest again that I am responsible for your failures, Harry Potter. I love you like a brother, but you rise and fall on your own. You will not place a burden on my shoulders that was meant for your own.”

The Meaning of Literary Pilgrimages by Allison O’Toole

When we make a literary pilgrimage, we’re writing ourselves into the history of a space, one shared with a text, a writer, and countless other pilgrims. While the negotiation between physical and imaginary space is tricky to pin down precisely, literary pilgrimages allow the two spaces to meet, if only briefly, and bring readers a step closer to something they love.

“Yet I’ll Speak”: Othello’s Emilia, A Rebuke to Female Silence by Caitlin Keefe Moran

But Emilia isn’t only a mouthpiece for the despair of the viewer; she is a witness to the violence committed against her friend, and an active agent in her own fate.

On Asian/Pacific Islander American Stories and Why We Need More of Them by Karissa Chen

Our current generation of APIA writers is exciting because they are able to write across a breathtaking range of topics, from those explicitly about issues of identity, immigration stories, and Asian/Asian American historical narratives to more universal and speculative stories of love and loss, religious awakening, and otherworldly dystopias. Our cultural experiences are important, of course, and those stories need to be told.

Some Theories About the Musical Tastes of Harry Potter Characters by Thomas Lawrence

It’s been rumored for decades that McGonagall is a lover of showtunes. The most commonly cited piece of evidence to this is the frequent singing of “Ladies that Lunch” and “Defying Gravity” that occurs at least once a week from the direction of her shower.

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