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  • the minnesota review loves . . .
  • Laura Usselman, James Stolen, and Meaghan Russell

Favorite things of the creative writing editors

the minnesota review loves:

Occasionally in our travels around the cyber landscape we come across a positively utopian corner of the online world, a place where people come together in the name of shared passion and knowledge to create something civil, and entertaining, and useful—something, in other words, quite hard to come by on the World Wide Web. Rapgenius. com is one such site: a wiki-based haven that makes you wonder why the rest of the Internet can't run this smoothly. The site aims to act as a "guide to the meaning of rap lyrics"—not a translation device but an analytical tool, one that "critiques rap as poetry." And like hip-hop itself, Rap Genius delights in allusion, wordplay, and the connections between artists.

Lyrics that are hard to suss out on a fundamental level, like Cam'ron's mystifying "from whippin' the bacon rolls to outside whippin' the bacon Rolls," are straightforwardly explained on Rap Genius: Cam'ron has gone from eating bacon rolls to riding in a bacon-colored Rolls Royce, and is punning here on "rolls" (ecstasy) and "bakin" (smoking marijuana). Syntactically simpler lines, easier to overlook in a song but still packed with hidden content, get an even more interesting treatment; in the GZA's "It ain't hard to see, my seeds need God-degree," Rap Genius users cite references to Freemasonry and the Nation of Gods and Earths. There is even a map feature where you can explore the mid-nineties Atlanta that is chronicled on OutKast's ATLiens, find the Seattle Taco Bell where Sir Mix-a-Lot stopped "for some Mexican eatin'," or even search for "Lil' Wayne's mind," which the site's moderators have located somewhere in French Polynesia.

Rap Genius is full of some of the most exultant love of language we've found anywhere on the web. And though it's often tongue-in-cheek, it's never too ironic to enjoy a pun, or an alliterative line, or a lyrical motif. It is, in fact, an extended celebration of the ways we put words together—and how many places can a writer find that, online or elsewhere?

Laura Usselman [End Page 41]

the minnesota review loves: the sandwich workshop

You surely have had what many would consider the classic sandwich. You know it well. The one your mother made with Skippy peanut butter spread over whole wheat bread, the second slice preferably glazed with an excessive amount of Knott's Berry Farm blackberry jam. You may have asked for the bread to be toasted, or for the crusts to be edged off with a sharp blade. Possible additives—or perhaps maternal incentives—may have included sliced banana, raisins, or substituting the fruit preserves with sweet honey. You may have asked for—or secretly wanted—marmalade, Nutella, or black currant jelly, or to have the peanut butter spread on a plain bagel, an English muffin, or a thick slice of still-warm sourdough bread.

The sandwich may have traveled with you in a lunch box or a brown paper bag or sealed tight inside the hollow of Tupperware next to julienne carrots or segments of a mandarin orange. You might have carried it beside a Capri Sun, a bag of Sun Chips or Wheat Thins, beside a bottle of chocolate milk or a can of Mango Fandango spritzer or a just-ripe plum. You carried the sandwich in an X-Men lunch box beside you on the school bus and later ate it over by the jungle gym or at the edge of the soccer field; you might have pushed the bread together till the ingredients showed or broken it in half to eat before throwing the crusts to the birds.

It is a sandwich that you have made time and time again: for your son, your roommate, while backpacking in the Wallows, for a quick grab-and-go at the Carleton College dining hall, and especially during those weekend afternoons when you could use leftover brioche or a new jam; you've made...


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