Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

I Believe in Ghosts

I believe in ghosts, though not necessarily the kind that floats through the air. I believe in the ghosts that live in our minds: personal ghosts, historical ghosts, ghosts of all possible persuasions. I believe that every person’s life story contains within it a series of hauntings. Sometimes it can take years for us to […]

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

The Ambush

I was once ambushed by a right-wing radio host. And it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my current politically active life. I have been more engaged than ever before during this crazy time in our country’s history. Since December of 2016, along with my wife Alma Gottlieb, I have participated […]

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

What a Writer Knows and Doesn’t Know

In all my years of teaching at the University of Illinois, I sometimes grappled with a bit of writing advice that seemed to hover in the air, always ready to be plucked and displayed for a classroom discussion about fiction: Write What You Know. It’s an odd statement that can easily be reduced to justifying […]

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

Run Away from Me Now

Recently I wrote a post, titled “Mapping the Invisible,” about how a single map represents its terrain no better than the word “self” represents the multiple voices of our various internal selves. In that post, I displayed two maps of Australia, one showing the modern political borders of the country, and the other ignoring that […]

Friday, June 29th, 2018

No One Leaves Home Unless

Perhaps you harbor a memory like this, one that may have taken place on a busy street, or down a crowded mall concourse, in the maze of a department store or even a park: you walked with your child by your side, but something grabbed your attention and when you next looked down, your son […]

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Mapping the Invisible

For the past two years I have been haunted by the memory of my first viewing of an unusual map, its PowerPoint image shining from the wall of a lecture room. In the fall of 2015, I had the great privilege of participating in a month-long writing residency with fourteen other writers from around the […]

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Icelandic Sagas and Spirit Companions

For a time back in the 1970s I couldn’t stop reading medieval Icelandic sagas. I can’t remember how this interest began, but if I were to guess through memory’s haze, I’d say it was probably while facing a wall of Penguin Classics paperbacks in some bookstore, those black or orange spines of the series promising […]

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Where Words and Music Meet

I’ll be teaching in the Sozopol Nonfiction Writing Seminar in Bulgaria this summer, and there’s little I love more than preparing for a trip to a country I’ve never visited before. For me, one of the most rewarding anticipations is exploring that country’s literature, history, and music. So I’ve been poring through books, discovering Bulgarian […]

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Menace and Ambiguity: Bob Dylan’s “Cold Irons Bound”

At the literary website The Millions you can read “Stuck Inside of Stockholm with the Nobel Blues Again,” my essay on Bob Dylan winning the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. In this essay, I make the case that the literary genre of songwriting is similar to playwriting, a literary form that has been honored by […]

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Book Stew

I’m reading a bunch of books together these days—five, to be exact. I simply jump or slip from one to the other, and slowly I make my way forward through them all. It’s not because any of the individual books don’t engage me—far from it. In some ways, it’s serendipity: I simply came upon five […]

Saturday, January 7th, 2017