Cyclists Give Back to the Monarchs

Cyclists Give Back to the Monarchs

Tomorrow 8,500+ cyclists will depart from Glenwood, IA to begin the annual week-long RAGBRAI tradition. Amongst them are Kelly Guilbeau and others from Monarchs in Eastern Iowa who will complete their annual milkweed seedball expedition on the ride.

Three summers ago, Ragbrai 2014, Kelly and her roommate decided to ride their first Ragbrai, and they knew they wanted to give back in some way along the ride. Kelly had a growing fascination with monarch butterflies (which has since grown exponentially) and before moving to Iowa, she’d read a good deal about monarch populations, but she had never heard about the milkweed crisis. The basic facts: 1) milkweed is the only plant where monarchs can lay their eggs 2) the decline in milkweed plants in Iowa and the decline of monarchs go hand in hand. Here in Iowa, that environmental correlation is extremely clear given the state’s focus on agriculture. Kelly and her roommate decided to make milkweed distribution the focus of their ride.

That year, they brought 3oz of milkweed seedballs (as it sounds, a small biodegradable baggie filled with milkweed seeds)  on the ride with them and spread seedballs along the route or gave them to other people to spread. Kelly said it was a very “grassroots” way of approaching the idea—mostly she and her roommate tossing  the milkweed seedballs off their bikes into the ditches on the side of the road. But over past two years, they’ve really developed quite a program of education, advocacy, conservation and fun out of this initial adventure. Kelly has worked with David Osterberg of UI Public Health and Patty Ankrum of Monarchs in Eastern Iowa who were also working on initiatives to educate and help the monarch population. Together, they’ve gotten hundreds of volunteers involved in the movement. Making seedballs is a really simple, from scratch process. The group has hosted seedball making events with four-year-olds and other events in nursing homes. There has been a lot of excitement all around from people of many ages and backgrounds. The press has picked up the Ragbrai story more than a few times, causing lots of volunteers to show up for more than 20 preparatory seedball making events in advance of this year’s ride.

Seedball booth in Mount Vernon, IA from the Monarchs in Eastern Iowa website

This year, riders will depart with over 50,000 seed balls holding 4 milkweed seeds in each pod. Adding up to over 134,000 milkweed seeds, Kelly says if even 10% of those come up over the next few years it could make a big impact.  The group will also have 7 educational booths (one for each day) along the Ragbrai route. Admittedly, it’s difficult to track correlation with a project like this, but after having an active plan  in place for distributing milkweed seeds and plants in Iowa, the monarch population has gone up 2x. Kelly says it’s all about taking steps in the right direction, and the education.

I asked, what can the average person do if they’re interested in helping the monarchs. Turns out, in some ways it’s pretty simple. You can’t plan milkweed plants or seeds. You can plant nectar plants in your yard that will attract a lot of adult butterflies. Butterflies are attracted to very colorful nectar plants, and if you’re interested in what types of plants are recommended for planting, you might consider visiting Monarch Watch to read about plants for your personal garden. You can also register to be a “Monarch Waystation” if you’re already growing monarch favorites. This video from National Geographic explains how. It’s also surprisingly easy to raise monarchs from eggs if you find them. If you find an egg on a milkweed plant, just bring it inside on the leaf. Then, assist the egg in becoming a caterpillar by putting it on a fresh milkweed plant. By raising it indoors, you’re giving that egg a higher chance for survival against predators.

There’s also the “what not to do,” which seems to be where people feel a little more stuck on this issue. Pesticides and herbicides used in personal gardens prove harmful to the monarch population. Educating yourself on the effects of these chemicals on the environment is highly recommend. Unshockingly, many people who grew up living on Iowa farms worked for years to pull milkweed plants from their farms.

Fortunately, Kelly says, Iowa farmers have been open to conversing with their group about conservation issues and the environment. Some common solutions found between farmers and monarch advocacy groups are to plan milkweed on unused highway roadsides, like is being done during the RAGBRAI ride. Also to postpone mowing these areas during peak migration season, June-September. If you’re interested in encouraging your local DOT representatives to take up this program, consider writing a letter asking them go easy on the milkweed plants in areas they mow.

All in all, it’s fun and easy to get involved and help the monarch population here in Iowa. Whether you’re supporting monarchs in your own personal gardens, rescuing eggs so they can develop into caterpillars, writing to local agencies in support of this mission, or tossing milkweed seedballs from your bike on RAGBRAI, you’re helping out with a problem that needs solving. Monarch supporting groups in Iowa say thank you and hope you enjoy all the fun ways they’ve developed to support this educational and advocacy movement!

Be sure to check out Monarchs in Eastern Iowa for more ways to get involved!


Bed Bugs Poop

By: Jessica Carney

“We can’t stop e-mailing you,” the sales guy at the car dealership told me.  I had just one request when I brought my car in for an alignment – please don’t send me 15 e-mails and call me twice to ask how my service was.  What the hell has happened there that they need a system of checks and balances more complex than the United States government?  “If you aren’t happy with me you can tell the manager when he calls you,” he explained.

“The only thing that makes me unhappy IS the phone calls,” I tried to explain to his blank face.  This was clearly not a concept that anyone has ever brought up to him.  Why isn’t he mad that his boss trusts him so little that he has to shake down customers for intel?  As a participator in modern technology my phone makes noises and/or motions every time I receive an e-mail.

“Why don’t you check your phone?” my husband Devin asks me constantly.  Every time his phone makes any noise or motion he immediately responds to quiet it and comfort it.  “Shhhh.  It’s okay, it’s okay,” I imagine him saying while stroking it slowly, “I’ll take care of you.”

“I am not a slave to my phone,” I respond.  After submitting my phone number for many innocuous things such as ordering Chipotle online so I don’t have to speak to anyone…ordering Noodles & Company online so I don’t have to speak to anyone…and ordering Papa John’s online so I don’t have to speak to anyone my phone number has been sold all over the place.  I get numerous phone calls from foreign locations like Kissimmee, Florida, and Aspen, Colorado.  I don’t even so much as flinch anymore when it rings.  This distresses Devin greatly.

“Aren’t you going to get that?!?!” he asks.


“I like knowing that other people are watching the same thing I am,” my mom said when we tried to get her to switch over from cable to Netflix.  She watches mostly reruns of old shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (don’t get her started on her complicated feelings about Spike) that could easily be watched without interruption on Netflix, but she won’t switch.

My mom also thought the whole front page of Facebook was dedicated to her.  She responded meticulously to every post.  She thought 100+ people wrote her personal messages about their daily lives and shared links just for her every single day.  Sometimes twice a day.  We assumed she was just overly enthusiastic when we first noticed the impossible number of responses that she was writing.  She knew just enough to be dangerous – one day she created an event completely by accident.  The event was titled after my sister –“Lisa Fritts at 4:00pm on Saturday”.  Lisa clicked “Not Attending”.


A lady in an adjoining neighborhood to mine somehow found me on Facebook after only knowing my first name.  We spoke a few times on the walking trail that separates our two developments and I found out that she has some sort of in-home business selling clothing.

“We should talk about it sometime,” she said.  The next day I got a message inviting me to her open house that said “You can be the hostess next time!” if I brought enough friends with me.

“You know what men are really good at?  Not throwing parties where they pressure each other into buying things,” Devin said.  I decided to accept a Facebook invitation to a Norwex party thrown by another neighbor to be friendly…and because that neighbor had recently adopted a chocolate lab puppy that I desperately wanted to pet.  I had tried unsuccessfully to time our walks with theirs so that I would get a chance to talk to them and meet the new dog.  “Stop creeping,” Devin would tell me when he would catch me peaking out the window at their house.  At the party the dog kept picking up the cleaning items we were supposed to be admiring and running away with them.  The host kept trying to corral the dog to get us to pay attention to the presenter.

“Bed bugs poop 25 times a day you know,” the presenter told us with furrowed eyebrows.  At least if you get suckered into going to a Mary Kay party you get to try on make-up.  Even a Tupperware party (these also amazingly exist) would be better than a Norwex party.  I scanned the room for anyone with a glimmer of humor in their eye as we passed around an actual toilet wand.  Each guest examined it thoughtfully.  “Hmmm….this angle would be great at cleaning up that rogue piece of shit,” said their thought bubble.


“What is your date of birth?” asked the woman I was purchasing sunglasses from recently.

“Seriously?” I asked.  Granted, this was my first pair of over $6.00 sunglasses, so I wasn’t familiar with the routine.  My routine is to buy cheap sunglasses, abuse them and cram them into my purse, and then be annoyed when they fall to pieces.  I decided to turn over a new leaf and go to an actual glasses store rather than the one located in the checkout lane at Drug Town.  Well – technically – it was inside a Target so “actual glasses store” is a stretch.

“Let me just see if your e-mail is already in our system…” she said.

“Yeah – it’s not.  And you don’t need my date of birth or e-mail.”  The sales woman opted to give me a dirty look instead of asking, “What negative result could possibly come from you spewing out your personal information to anyone who will take it?”

My interactions with our linen vendor at work could best be described as Mars trying to communicate with the moon.

“You want what picked up from where?” they ask.

“Linens picked up.  From my place of work…the same place I’ve called you from the last eighteen times.  Wait – do you even pick up anything else?  If I asked you to pick up an office chair would you just do it?”  The receptionist and I start from zero each time we talk.

“Who am I….where am I…”

“LINENS,” I answer.  I have yet to get our linen bags back from them after calling six times to explain the problem.  “WE HAVE NOTHING TO PUT THE LINENS IN,” I say.  One day, despite picking linens up all day, the driver just forgot that they are often in a container.

“Oh bags – those cost extra,” the receptionist said turning the situation into the most boring hostage situation of all time.

“We already had them!  You took them when you picked them up!”

“I’ll need to have the manager call you,” she said.


I feel like a queen when Devin and I go to Home Depot.  We look at tile and curtains and grill accessories.  Devin talks to people about our future projects saying things like, “We definitely plan on tiling behind the stove,” and complains excitedly about the amount of work that will be required.  He also talks about putting in a big privacy fence so that we can have parties in the backyard….apparently without anyone knowing.  I like that no one really bothers you at Home Depot – there are just stacks of stuff to literally build a house and you’re supposed to put them together and take them to the depressed looking lady in mom jeans at the register who may or may not have smoked for upwards of 20 years at some point in her life.  If I walk into the Yankee Candle store someone is RIGHTHERE helping me decide what season I want my kitchen to smell like.   Building a kitchen?  You’re on your own there.

My aunt wanted to buy a “berm” home that was basically half-cave.  It was on a large plot of land – a big contrast from her modest fenced yard surrounded by yards with kids in them.

“They are so loud,” she said.  She put up a privacy partition inside of the fence in the backyard but some of the kids still tried to talk to them over the two barriers.

She and her husband drove by the berm home which had an “Open House” sign in the yard referring to one that would take place that Sunday.  They thought it meant that it was open and decided to ring the doorbell.

“They were nice but kind of strange,” she said about the current residents.  She’s since decided that she wants to build one of those tiny homes where IKEA dreams are made.  She wants to forgo all technology and live with a bunch of dogs in a humorously tiny space with clever lofted areas.


On The Sims 3 your characters can visit other Sims in the neighborhood.  This is a major upgrade from previous versions where you had to wait for people to walk by your house and drop whatever you were doing to catch them before they disappeared from your lot.  I would make my Sim set their newborn baby on the tile in the middle of the kitchen and go sprinting out of the house to the edge of their property to “chat” with the neighbor.  If your Sim gets an invite to another house they have to behave themselves – if they nod off on the couch or try to make a sandwich a message appears that says, “___ is acting inappropriately and if they continue I will have to ask them to leave.”

You can also play the game as a full-on crazy hermit if you choose.  You can spend hours picking out tile for an elaborate mansion and then delete your front door so that no one will ever come in.  Everyone knows that you can purposely torture a Sim but the glitches that happened spontaneously were far more humorous to me.  One of my Sim’s got stuck in his front porch.  There really isn’t a better way to phrase it.  Half his legs were sticking through the bottom of the porch and his thighs and up were coming out the top.  After about three days of shrugging he just died.  Another one of my Sims acted inappropriately by taking a bath at a guest’s house but a glitch caused him to be floating mid-air naked with no bathtub around him.  He leisurely made gesturing as though he was washing himself for a few minutes while the home owners knocked angrily on the door.

They added dogs in the Sims 3 which greatly increased my game play time.  You can set your Sim’s “life goal” to “be friends with as many dogs as possible.”  Other life goals include “become the best scuba diver” or “become an awesome social media blogger.”  Yep – you can pretend to be on social media within the game.  When Devin got on my Sims game all he did before I kicked him off was set up a guy in a boring looking house and had him sit in the corner and play computer games.


When we lived in a small apartment in Minneapolis we taught our dog Daisy to run full speed from one end of the hallway to the other with each of us standing at one end – basically a way for us to exercise her without having to get cold or move at all.  Now that we live in a house with a yard she figures she should run full speed at the neighbors in their yards – approximately the same distance away as the two of us would have been in the hallway.

“DAISY!” Devin calls out, agitated.  Or sometimes he will say, “Well Daisy found a new friend today.”

One neighbor has a big, old yellow lab that lies in the front yard.  When anyone in the cul-de-sac comes home he gets up laboriously and goes over to greet them in their garage.  The owners apologize profusely when he follows you down the street a little ways, wagging his tail.  When I tell Devin that I want to alter our walking route to go over and go pet the dog he rolls his eyes a little and begrudgingly agrees.  This is a little outside of normal operating procedure for the owners – they look at me funny and say something like, “The weather, huh?” as I pet their dog.

We don’t talk to our neighbors very often.  A couple of them came by when we first moved in but only when they saw us outside – no one ever came to the door.  The people that live behind us go around to the side of their house and smoke while gazing passively inside the windows at the houses around them.

We talked to even fewer neighbors in Minneapolis.  When a water pipe broke next door Devin went over and helped the neighbors turn off the water and mop up enormous amount of heinous black water.  We didn’t really see them much after that.  Their deck was connected to ours, only being separated by an ugly green sort of tarp that was tied between.  Oftentimes their cat would crawl through and perch in our windowsill – peeking in at what we were doing.


Cheers, Turner Alley Brewing Company!

Cheers, Turner Alley Brewing Company!

By: Emily Weber

When you think of the Cedar Rapids the future has in store, what do you envision?

The Corridor Review met with Bill Patterson–Turner Alley Brewing Company owner– to talk about his brewery, Cedar Rapids beer culture, and good craft beer. Patterson told The Corridor Review that he sees Cedar Rapids really at the beginning of its journey toward becoming a “Beer City.”  Cedar Rapid’s beer scene is built on a solid foundation, it’s growing fast, and in the near future Patterson envisions Cedar Rapids as destination city for good beer. Unlike cities that have already been crowned “Beer City, USA,” like Grand Rapids, Denver, Portland, Chicago, Portland… Cedar Rapids still has room to grow & create new beers. The excitement around the new craft beer scene is just getting started, the demand is there, and Cedar Rapids beer culture is on its way to becoming something great. With new beers popping up every day, it’s an exciting time!

So what’s Turner Alley Brewery’s role in the Cedar Rapids Beer Scene?

From this writer’s perspective, Turner Alley Brewing has a unique, very unaffected but still unmistakably hip, vibe. They’ve been producing beer here in Cedar Rapids since 2015, out of a refurbished warehouse on the Southwest side. It’s only been a short time, but you might be living under a rock if you haven’t had their Czech Village Pilsner yet (this beer makes up about 75% of what goes out the brewery’s production doors and it can be found on-tap at bars all around the Corridor). For the past year, you’ve been able to try Turner Alley beer on-tap at places like Brewhemia & Bricks to Need Pizza & NewBo City Market. Iowa City Chop House & Short’s. You can even find their beer at Kinnick Stadium & Theatre Cedar Rapids. And of course if you’re among the crowd that travels outside of The Corridor  you’ll find the Czech Village Pilsner at El Bait Shop. And that’s just the short list.

But, now Turner Alley Brewing has officially opened their taproom. It’s a perfect fit for this brewery, too, because when you hear them talk about how a good beer scene cultivates good food, art, culture, and community– you’re glad to hear they have a place where people can sit down and enjoy a good conversation, hang out and relax over a board game (we played Backgammon), and drink some great beer!

The Turner Alley taproom is at 2715 12th St. SW and it just opened with hours 4-10pm Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Though the brewery and taproom are in a pretty industrial center of Cedar Rapids, it’s not far from places we all know and love. Just a 15 minute bike ride from Czech Village (the center of this writer’s universe), AND one fun way to get there would be taking the under-used Wilson Avenue bike path. See:


The brewery seats about 50 people and the building (previously a warehouse) is totally open-concept. Very cool, very fitting with the southwest side’s warehouse/factory feel. AND THEY CAN HAVE FOOD TRUCKS. Turner Alley Brewing has been hosting local food trucks, like The Grateful Crepe, outside the brewery. And as the weather gets warmer they plan to do even more. This does more than just provide tasty food for brewery visitors, it’s helping to build Cedar Rapids’ food truck scene is a sure-fire way to create the destination city we’re all hoping for. Kudos to the brewery for being a part of this.

turner alley resized


The Corridor Review team has visited the taproom a few times, and managed to consume many of the beers they had on tap at that time (just for our readers, of course!).

For those of you at home who want the run-down, here’s our take on the beers in no order. You can also find where we were live-tweeting as we had them on Twitter @CorridorReview here:

  1. Czech Village Pilsner—a classic pilsner, and I promise, we’re not the only ones who will tell you this tastes just like the pils in Prague. This is the beer that I have to believe will put the Cedar Rapids beer scene on the map. I like it more than the East Village Pilsner from Green Flash Brewing & the Lagunitas PILS, just of two ‘largely-distributed in the midwest’ Czech Saaz pilsners that come to mind. This one’s a quick favorite.
  2. Roosevelt Imperial Red- Full-bodied, hoppy & malty. 8.2% ABV. Stay tuned to try this one barrel aged–coming in early autumn. Yum.
  3. Almond Joy Stout (special seasonal)- an almond, chocolate, coconut stout that is not too sweet. One of our writer claims “you can really taste that cookie crunch!”
  4. Vanilla Stout (special seasonal)- tastes like: Stout + Bourbon + Vanilla Beans.
  5. Breakfast Stout (special seasonal)- A coffee-forward stout. Delicious.
  6. Stout (standard)- Roasted coffee, toffee, & cranberry. Just the right amount boozy. Four very delicious stouts to be had
  7. Wood’s Wheat—The perfect bike-ride beer. Crisp & refreshing. Try it while you train for RAGBRAI at Turner Alley’s bike riding event on April 2nd.

What’s the story behind the Grant Wood connection, anyway?

Grant Wood is one of the most prolific artist in modern art history, in Patterson’s opinion, and he lived right here in Cedar Rapids. Since “American Gothic” is the second most recognized (after the Mona Lisa) and first move reproduced painting in the world, Turner Alley Brewing believes it only makes sense to celebrate someone local who made such large contributions to the national art scene (maybe #IowaBrag about our local contributions to culture a little bit?). It’s the same thing Turner Alley Brewing is trying to do with their beers, after all. “Great beer is like an art form,” Patterson says.

And Grant Wood is ubiquitous at the brewery. He’s in the brewery name, the  décor, the paint brush tap handles, and some of the special release beers. This just goes to prove that Turner Alley Brewing is proud to be found in Cedar Rapids. Many of their standard beers or special releases are nods to local places or special components of the Cedar Rapids arts & culture scene (Czech Village Pilsner, May’s Island IPA, Brucemore Brown Ale).

Other than the local connections, what makes Turner Alley unique?

  1. “Turner Alley is committed to high quality.
  2. The brewery’s vibe is genuine. It embraces all people from every walk of life.
  3. Turner Alley Brewing is dedicated to becoming a destination brewery in Cedar Rapids—a place where people would drive a great distance to go.”

Think again, of that future Cedar Rapids. Let’s admit that many of us have driven across state lines for that six-pack of New Glarus beer, right? Patterson envisions a future where Wisconsinites (and people from all over) are driving to Cedar Rapids to pick up a six pack of Czech Village Pilsner. And that’s a future Cedar Rapids this writer can get behind.

So what’s new at Turner Alley Brewing?

Wednesday, April 6th 4-8pm: Brucemore Imperial Brown Ale release

Great Friends of Turner Alley program: Includes lots of great perks, including some unique ones–free growler fills of seasonal releases & direct email access with the Brewmaster to name a few.

May 7th: Iowa Craft Beer Week release. A collaboration beer to be released between several local breweries, found on tap all across Cedar Rapids & at Benz Beer Festival.

May 21 11am-3pm: Tour de Tanks (FREE!)

Autumn: Barrel Aged Beer Releases.

Check their Facebook page for more!

Turner alley logo



And finally, just your basic background on Turner Alley Brewery:

Turner Alley Brewing is a regional production brewery opened in 2015. Owner, Bill Patterson grew up in a suburb of Detroit and has lived around the country in San Francisco and Chicago, before moving back to Iowa in 2012, thinking Iowa would be a great place for family and business. Patterson’s family clearly plays an important role in the family business, his kids even got to help paint the brewery’s grain storage room! Adorable.

Brewmaster, Travis Scheidecker grew up in Illinois and worked as Brewmaster at The Cedar Brewing Company beginning in 2005. Bill and Travis met over Czech pilsners at a Third Base Brewery bottle share and discussed the idea of opening up a production brewery in Cedar Rapids.

The Turner Alley Brewery is named for 5 Turner Alley, in a nod to local infamous artist, Grant Wood.

Review: Where to Invade Next

Review: Where to Invade Next

By: Joe Dreshar

From FilmScene‘s website:

“Just in time for election season, America’s favorite political provocateur, Michael Moore “Bowling for Columbine,” “Fahrenheit 9/11″), is back with his new film, WHERE TO INVADE NEXT. Honored by festivals and critics groups alike, the film is an expansive, hilarious, and subversive comedy in which the Academy Award-winning director confronts the most pressing issues facing America today and finds solutions in the most unlikely places. Moore has returned with an epic movie that’s unlike anything he has done before–an eye-opening call to arms to capture the American Dream and restore it in, of all places, America.”

where to invade

Joe writes: Michael Moore is not without his flaws. He’s biased and sometimes disingenuous in editing and interview and he tries to hide behind comedy. He’s politically charged which turns off 50% of the population and his faults as a filmmaker and documentarian can turn off even the most liberal of audiences.

That said, I don’t dislike him or his films. Bowling for Columbine, in particular, I think is a good film (full disclosure, it’s been more than a decade since I’ve seen it so I can’t guarantee it holds up to the test of time). So, put me more on the ‘pro’ side than the ‘con.’ Not staunchly pro, but I agree with his politics so it helps. It’s the editing and the humor that can turn need off moreso than the politics.

But that has nothing to do with this movie.

‘Where to Invade Next’ is worth seeing. No, he doesn’t address the differences between the nations he “invades” and the US, which may help explain why the things he is claiming for the US are not already implemented or may not be able to be implemented. Or why, politically, we may not want it.

That said, his overall thesis is convincing. You will leave the theater wondering if we can truly believe in American exceptionalism when other nations seem to excel and provide for their people in ways that exceed our own. You will find yourself wondering if liberal ideals are truly at odds with capitalism. That if we only adopted a few of the ideas presented, that if we might not be able to be better than we are.

And it’s funny whenever Moore plants a US flag is some poor Slovene’s office and he has to hold it in place as Moore walks dramatically away.

It may not change your mind if you disagree, but this is better than Fahrenheit 9/11 or Sicko or Capitalism: A Love Story politically, so give it a shot.

The movie is running at FilmScene in Iowa City through Thursday. Catch it while you can!


Do We Love or Hate Jonathan Franzen?

By: Emily Weber

It’s quite possible that Jonathan Franzen is that smart guy in your late-teens early-twenties that you fall in love because he’s so smart, even though he’s a complete asshole. Unfortunately, I’m still under the Franzen spell so I’m struggling to write a review on his newest novel Purity. But I will work on it and try to have a more subjective and critical friend write another review at a later date. Sorry you’re stuck with me for now.


Purity, like The Corrections or Freedom (I only read the giant Franzen novels, and I’ve read nothing in between these) has several protagonists. The first is Purity Tyler, a 23-year-old who goes by Pip and has an incredibly strange and needy mother from whom she must move far away if she ever has any chance of actually growing up (I mean, Bolivia). Pip’s got $130,000 of student loans and a crappy job. The 2016 reader gets it.

Franzen writing from the perspective of a 23-year-old woman is awkward and a bit creepy, I’ll admit that. Hold on for the next few sections, though, because he really hits his stride with some of the other persons featured. Next we get Andreas Wolf, a Julian Assange type character (though he shudders at the comparison being made by several observant characters in the text) who got his chip on his shoulder by being an enemy of the State in East Berlin. In the context of Wikileaks, Sony leaks, even Apple’s battle with the government’s “back door,” it should not surprise us that the ultimately zeitgeist-y Franzen is writing about hackers in his newest novel. His three major (giant) novels are crisp commentaries on their time. This is one of his biggest strengths, so sure he’s going to write about a Wiki-leaks inspired commune stationed in Bolivia in the 20-teens. Sure.

The next two sections follow Leila Helou and Tom Aberant who are both talented journalists in off-kilter relationships battling the fact that they’re really good and smart people who don’t think they’re either thing, and certainly not at the same time. Now, if you’ve recently read me gushing about Spotlight, or the first few seasons of Newsroom (before this moment), or House of Cards, you know I’ve got a big thing for journalists in fiction. Leila and Tom’s sections of the book just sing for me. Their both brilliant and funny and I wish they were my parents/mentors (Pip does, too). I think I read the whole chunk in one sitting. I don’t want to spoil anything about their parts, so give their story a shot if nothing else.

Now I know that people read Purity and come away feeling uneasy about Pip and her mother, and even at times the completely brilliant Leila because of how strangely Franzen writes women. The concerning aspects of their character that seem to overwhelm them from being real people (craziness toward men, craziness toward other women, flakiness, insecurity, etc.). I feel uncomfortable telling women they should read this novel because I feel like they might judge me for liking Franzen. I mean Gawker ripped the book completely to shreds. I’m not saying the people saying these things are wrong.

But I really like the way Pip and her mother come to relate to each other, and the way Pip learns to look up to Leila, and the way everyone in the novel (male & female) have to come down off of their moral high-ground if they’re going to stand to be around each other. And I just can’t help that I really like the way Franzen writes and crafts a story. I think he describes our times in such witty, intelligent ways and line by line his writing has this wonderful speed that I really enjoy. Plus the novel doesn’t feel too “literary” and the plot is full of really fun twists and turns. As a story, it’s really entertaining.

For every person who loves Purity there will be someone else who doesn’t love it, so that’s why I recommend everyone to read it. If you think there are problems with the story Franzen’s telling, you’re not wrong. But if you like the story and you like the writing, this novel might give you something to argue with your friends about. And that conversation has never done anyone wrong. So, tell us what you think.

You can find Purity or other novels by Franzen at your friendly, neighborhood bookstore, like Next Page Books.

Online Literary Journal: Submissions

Online Literary Journal: Submissions

Literary Journal Submissions

Submitting via Email
Please email your submissions to Use the subject line: The Corridor Review Submission. Spring-Summer submissions are due May 30, 2016.

 Simultaneous vs. Multiple Submissions
We will accept 3 submissions per writer per reading period. Simultaneous submissions to other journals are fine as long as they are identified as such and we are notified immediately upon acceptance elsewhere for legal purposes.

 Manuscript Guidelines

  • Typed pages.
  • No hard copy submissions, please
  • Fiction and nonfiction: Less than 6,000 words. Excerpts of longer works are welcome if self-contained and we can link to a site where you have posted the longer piece.
  • Poetry: Submit 1-5 pages at a time.
  • Flash fiction is encouraged!
  • We will accept photo journalism and stories but make sure you send the photo files in high resolution format.
  • We will accept essays, but only on topics of art, culture and lifestyle. And we will accept your recipes!


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I Remember When You Were a Book: ROOM

By: Emily Weber


If you’ve seen the trailer for the movie ROOM, don’t be mad that the escape scene ruined it for you. The escape is not what ROOM is really about.

ROOM is built around a few particular framing devices. First, it’s narrated by a five-year-old, (who in the movie is played by the adorable Jason Tremblay), which is a tricky constraint to pull off, but overall ROOM pulls it off well in both the movie and book. Plus, a good portion of the novel takes place in the tiny, tiny space that is the eponymous “room.” Tricky to do, but again ROOM does it well.

ROOM is the story of Ma and her five-year-old son, Jack. Ma was kidnapped at seventeen and imprisoned in a bunker by a man Jack calls “Old Nick.” Once you realize the horror of what’s going on in Ma and Jack’s world, the book just races on. What’s going to happen to them? And how does Ma do it? How does she keep it all together?

The scary, scary parts aside Ma & Jack’s story is just so sweet.When Emma Donoghue, the author, talks about the novel, she calls her protagonists “A Tribe of Two.” Ma and Jack’s joy and their hope are linked throughout the novel. But poor Ma’s fears are all her own as she protects her son Jack from what is really going on in ROOM.

In the book, the reader sees Ma as an angel through the eyes of her son. She teaches him things, makes sure he eats as well as he can, and encourages him to take part in physical exercise inside their 11×11 shed. Ma is a saint through and through.

And the complexity of what Ma is going through comes across in the book, sure, but this is one area where I think the movie really shines. Brie Larson deserved her Best Actress award. She brought ROOM and the troubling side of Ma’s story to life in a way that the first-person five-year-old narrator in the book could not do. While I read the book ROOM as Jack’s story about growing up, I saw the film as being Ma’s story of growing up.

Which is why the escape is not what ROOM is really about.

ROOM the film comes out on Netflix and DVD after March 1.

You can find ROOM the novel at your local neighborhood bookstore. Prairie Lights covers books into movies on their Instagram here: @prarielightsbook