News & Updates 2011

I’m just back from Montreal, Canada, where my wife and co-author, Alma Gottlieb, and I read from the manuscript of our forthcoming book Braided Worlds (the second volume of our memoir of Africa) at the 2011 American Anthropology Association conference. We read as part of the panel “Writing Ethnography: Experimenting on Paper, Experimenting Online,” and what an honor to appear with such excellent fellow panelists: Sophia Balakian, Ruth Behar, Susan Lepselter, Antonio Medeiros, and Kirin Narayan.


I have recently been invited to the faculty of the Dzanc Books/CNC DISQUIET International Literary Program, which will he held in July 2012 in Lisbon, Portugal, and I can’t adequately describe how excited I am about this. The schedule hasn’t been set yet, but I’m guessing that I’ll probably offer a workshop on literary travel writing, be on a publishing panel (representing Ninth Letter), and present a combined lecture on the poet Fernando Pessoa/walking tour of Lisbon. If you’re interested in a summer literary program held in one of the world’s greatest cities, you can check out more on the Disquiet program here, and you can read about my Lisbon creds here at the Disquiet blog.


“8:46,” my 9/11 short story (inspired in part by my volunteer work near ground zero in 2001 and 2002), has been reprinted at the literary website Numero Cinq, on the occasion of the impending tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks (the story was originally published by the Los Angeles Review in 2007). “8:46,” which follows the paths of eleven doomed souls making their way to work at the towers in the early morning just before the attacks, is an excerpt from a novella-in-progress, Dreaming the Towers. You can read the story here.


My many thanks to Camden Luxford for her sensitive interview with me, about The Moon, Come to Earth and the trials and pleasures of living abroad; it’s the latest interview on her superb The Brink of Something Else, a website that should be an essential stop for any would-be or experienced traveler. She has also recently posted a review on her website of The Moon, Come to Earth, one of the most insightful (and beautifully written) my book has yet received.


“Mad to Be Modern,” an extended excerpt from a second memoir of Africa co-authored with Alma Gottlieb, Braided Worlds (forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, Fall 2012), has just been published in the anthology Being There: Learning to Live Cross-Culturally (edited by Sarah H. Davis and Melvin Konner), by Harvard University Press.

You can read a portion at the bottom of this website’s Anthology Excerpts page.


The library of the City University of Hong Kong has named The Moon, Come to Earth as a book of the week, for the week beginning July 11, 2011.


I’m just back from the ten day summer residency at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I serve as a core faculty member. While there, I delivered a craft lecture, “To Kill a Great Gatsby in Cold Blood, or, A Good Title Is Hard to Find”; gave a reading from “My Father’s African Afterlife” (an excerpt from the forthcoming Braided Worlds); had a grand time co-teaching a sequence of fiction workshops with novelist and short story writer Abby Frucht; and had the undeserved honor of introducing the visiting writer Dan Chaon.

Every Vermont residency is filled with abounding excellence, and some of the highlights for me were Douglas Glover’s craft lecture on deconstructing the peculiar pleasures of reading Thomas Bernhard, and Connie May Fowler’s moving and personal lecture on transferring one’s writing voice into speech when giving a public reading. Other fine craft lectures included Larry Suttin’s “Why Do Memoirs Need Defending?” and Robert Vivian’s “Writing as an Act of Erasure.”

Other stand-outs included William Olsen’s electrifying reading from his new book, Sand Theory, as well as fine readings by Jess Row, Sue Silverman, Kurt Caswell and Rigoberto Gonzalez, among many others, and a moving tribute to poet Jack Myers and his posthumous collection, The Memory of Water.

And congratulations to my recent advisees Corinne Lincoln-Pinheiro, Jodi Paloni, Anne Penfield and Mary Stein, graduating students this residency who delivered first-rate lectures and readings of their work!


My review of Roy Kesey’s wonderful new novel, Pacazo, appears on Inside Higher Ed’s “The Education of Oronte Churm” blog, which you can see here.


The new issue of Ninth Letter, the University of Illinois’ literary/arts journal, is out (Vol. 8, No. 1, Spring/Summer 2011), and once again I stand by our round-up of superlative fiction.

“Water Festival,” by Jensen Beach, begins as nonfiction and then slyly, artfully crosses the border into fictional territory. “Again St.” by Jimmy Chen leaps unexpectedly from perspective to perspective (human and nonhuman) in a poignant story about endings. In “Dad Stuff,” by Benjamin Rybeck, a voice from the afterlife regards the mysteries of love, loss and fathers. William Wall gives us, in “I Bought a Heart,” the backdrop of the devastated Irish economy and two strangers who are briefly drawn to each other’s unexpressed anger. Kellie Wells constructs a strange world in “The Sorrows,” where people are defined and fated by the year of their birth; as you might imagine, those born in The Year of Sorrow endure much more than those born in The Year of Guarded Optimism. Naomi J. Williams offers a haunting journey of discovery from the 18th century, when a crew of French sailors scoured the Pacific in search of uncharted islands, in “Folie à Plusieurs.” Finally, “The Human Element in the Machine Process,” by Kevin Wilson, is a powerful story about two parents’ “stinging embarrassment of hope” as they care for a child whose “entire body was hidden inside the apparatus that kept him alive.”

As for the new issue’s design, it maintains our cutting edge efforts, and as you can see from the spread below, we ask the reader to bring two separate sections of the magazine together, in order to see the interaction of text and art!

This was my last issue serving as fiction editor, and I’ve embarked on a stretch as Ninth Letter’s nonfiction editor. We’ve already chosen the essays for the next issue, which include lovely work from writers such as Michele Morano and Sue Silverman. More on this later!


I was recently interviewed, along with Martin Riker, Associate Director of Dalkey Archive Press, by David Inge of WILL-AM radio on his Focus 580 show, about e-books and the future of book publishing. You can listen to our back and forth here.


My many thanks to Ben Taylor, of the website movingtoportugal, for an interview that we conducted in real time via Skype, in which I confess just how much my Portuguese-English dictionary is disappointed in me.


Author Jo Parfitt, at her website Become an Expat Writer, kindly interviews me about The Moon, Come to Earth, the vagaries of the writing life, and inspiration. Her review of my book can be found here.


Go Lisbon features a short article by me about one of the off-the-beaten-path pleasures that can be found in the otherwise heavily-touristed area of Chiado, in Lisbon. This post has also been reprinted at the Lonely Planet website.


More news for The Moon, Come to Earth:

The website bestinportugal, which offers a comprehensive look at everything you’d like to know about Portugal, features an interview with me about the writing of my book of Lisbon dispatches. Many thanks to Alberto Rouiller for an engaging set of questions.

Meanwhile, Carlos Ceia has written an appreciative and well-researched essay titled “O Miroadouro Intercultural: The Moon, Come to Earth de Philip Graham” in the Revista de Estudos Anglo-Portugueses (#19, 2010), available as a pdf.


Ben Taylor, at the engaging website movingtoportugal, where he recounts the tribulations and joys of his family’s new life in Portugal, has written a positive (thank you) and movingly personal review of The Moon, Come to Earth.

Meanwhile, Bjarne Mouridsen, at the website Portugal-mit andet hjemland (Portugal–My Second Home) has also written a quite generous review of The Moon, Come to Earth (at least, according to the Google translation function!). Again, my thanks.


At the website, an unperfect, my book The Moon, Come to Earth was used to help form a “stackable poem,” titled “The Shadow of the Sun.” There are many more such stackable poems (composed from the titles of books) featured on the website, worth checking out. A very cool idea. Thank you, Saundra.

The Shadow of the sun

a trick of sunlight
the moon, come to earth
limousine, midnight blue
the lost lunar baedeker


The new issue of Ninth Letter ( Fall/Winter 2010-11) is now out, and once again as fiction editor I’m prepared to take a stand for our latest marvelous fiction roster, beginning with “Sushi for Fish,” a story by Graham Arnold about a young man who becomes a sushi master because of his ability to speak with fish. The issue is also graced by a haunting trio of shorts of families struggling through a slowly unwinding apocalypse, by Matt Bell. Jedediah Berry (author of the remarkable and dreamy steam-punkish detective novel The Manual of Detection), in “Ghost 7, Prince 9,” serves up a world worth getting lost in, of character archetypes and their endlessly mirroring simulacra. Michael Czyzniejewski (or as we call him, “Mike C”) loses his forgetful main character in a Midwestern corn maze in “The Amnesiac in the Maze,” a story that can give you the creeps because corn mazes, as everyone knows, are only slightly less scary than clowns. Roy Kesey, who perhaps qualifies as a regular here at Ninth Letter (this is his third appearance in the magazine), gives us an excerpt from his first novel Pacazo, set in Peru, which is garnering enthusiastic critical attention every which way. Finally, Mary Miller, in “Eureka, CA,” offers a poignant story of a woman trying to fit into the life of a man who has a hole inside him the size of his dead child.

Next issue, I’ll be lauding the nonfiction selections of the magazine, as this semester I’ll be serving as the Nonfiction editor of Ninth Letter. In the meantime, feel free to give a listen to a podcast of our editor Jodee Stanley speaking with various Ninth Letter editors (including yours truly) about the collaborative process of putting together an issue of our magazine, which can be found here at Inside Higher Ed (thank you, Mr. Oronte Churm). Learning how sausage is made was never so worthwhile.


My many thanks to Ryan Teitman for his enthusiastic review of The Moon, Come to Earth, in the Winter 2010 issue of Indiana Review. Here are some selected quotes:

“The genre of the dispatch–those brief, quickly composed messages meant to travel the world with utmost haste–lets Graham do the work he describes in the title. He can keenly describe the life and culture of Portugal, but he can also order us to come along for the voyage. And while these essays are brief (most are around five pages long) they are by no means slight . . . Graham is an astute observer of the idiosyncrasies of place, and his feel for people–especially his own family–is equally honed . . . Graham is just as wiling to look inward at his own family as he is willing to look outward and observe daily life on the streets of Lisbon . . . And while we can never fully understand Lisbon from a book, Graham makes us realize what’s special to him and his family–a prize that’s just as rewarding.”

The full review can be found here.

In related news, The Moon, Come to Earth is now available on the Nook.


News & Updates 2010

News & Updates 2009

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