Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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

Everywhere a Book Is Waiting

The new issue of World Literature Today arrived in the mail this past week, and just in time—swinging back and forth as I am from sadness to despair to a cold anger that needs to be fed by increased political engagement, I find I need literature more than ever to help ground me. So what […]

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Think Good Thoughts

Now that we have elected a frightening man-baby to become the 45th President of the United States, many commentators have observed that we are entering “uncharted territory.” But that’s not true at all. The territory has already been charted, in an episode of Twilight Zone titled “It’s a Good Life.” In this episode, all that […]

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

The Country We Want Our Country To Be

I don’t write much about politics directly on this website, probably because I assume my liberal sensibility pervades much of what I offer here about the art of writing and literature anyway. Today will be different. After this long and monstrous election cycle and its unspeakably monstrous result, I feel flattened, and I know so […]

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

More Quiet Than You Can Imagine

As I mentioned in my last post, in the mid to late-1970s I was a bit of an itinerant creative writing teacher. I worked for the Virginia Poets-in-the-Schools program and traveled from school district to school district, teaching creative writing to elementary, middle, and high school students. I also held teaching and writing residencies during […]

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

If This Thing Came to You, What Would You Choose?

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are many ways to reinvent the endgame of a story, and one of my favorite examples is a form of African oral literature called Dilemma Tales. These sorts of tales are truly “oral” literature, and don’t necessarily travel well to the page, outside the event of their […]

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

That Hidden Second Story

I’m back on the beat as the fiction editor of Ninth Letter, after a hiatus as the nonfiction editor and as an “editor-at-large” for the magazine’s website. I have to say, it’s good to be back. Recently we had an editorial meeting about a story that the assistant editors liked enough to “bring to table” […]

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

My Mambo King

Of all the photos taken of him, the image above captures best, I think, the man who was my friend for thirty-eight years. Oscar Hijuelos and I met in graduate school at City College in 1975, two young writers in Frederick Tuten’s fiction workshop. Oscar was shy, even deferential to the other writers in the […]

Sunday, November 24th, 2013