Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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

To Remain a Witness

I recently read, via a recommendation from the marvelous website The Dish, an essay by Amber Forcey titled “There Are No “Good Old Days.” Forcey laments the very notion that the past is preferable to our current sorry state of affairs in the present. She focuses her argument on the popular television series “Downtown Abbey.” […]

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

The Secret History of Objects

I have long felt there is no such thing as an inanimate object. In our homes, for instance, we surround ourselves with things, and those things are there for a reason: some quality about them has caused us to choose them. A piece of driftwood, placed on a shelf, may have been collected during a […]

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

Writing that Travels

“To see is to have seen,” said the great 20th century Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa. This seemingly simple sentence can be read more than one way. First, as a critique: we see mainly what we have already seen, that sight is a well-worn habit. Another interpretation suggests the opposite: that at its best sight is […]

Thursday, July 26th, 2012