The good times are killing me

We writers and academics love to ask each other what books we’d want with us if ever we’re stranded on a desert island, and we love offering clever, literary answers: Jane Austen, Cormac McCarthy, the Oxford English Dictionary, the Dhammapada. But we’re lying to ourselves.

The Road

It’s been a long time coming. When I first heard Cormac McCarthy‘s brilliant novel The Road was being developed as a film, I noted the release date on my mental calendar and held my breath. That was back in early 2008. When the movie finally did get released more than a year and a halfContinue reading “The Road”

The hardest thing about writing

I’m preparing one of my novels for submission, and I’m writing a synopsis.  I hate synopses.  Like all prejudice, it’s an irrational loathing–I always feel like I’m crushing the story, stripping away the beauty and leaving just a skeleton, and I can’t help but think that if people want to know what a book isContinue reading “The hardest thing about writing”

International Prize for Arabic Fiction

This is a bit slow in coming, but I’m working on an article for Driftless about reading culture and the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, and I remembered that last year around this time I posted about the shortlist and winner for the Booker-sponsored International Prize for Arabic Fiction. So I thought I’d post theContinue reading “International Prize for Arabic Fiction”

The importance of Prince Henry the Navigator was in the inspiration

If I ever have a chance to teach a freshman seminar course — to explain to students in their first several weeks what it’s going to take to succeed in college and what the value of their education might be — this would be my entire syllabus: Peg took courses, a different course each winter,Continue reading “The importance of Prince Henry the Navigator was in the inspiration”

“Anybody can make history; only a great man can write it.”

Irish lit scholars, please don’t curse me for this. Because today is St. Paddy’s day, I thought I’d list — in no particular order and with deepest respect for anyone I’ve left off (and there will be a lot of those) — a few writers I have read and enjoyed who hail from the EmeraldContinue reading ““Anybody can make history; only a great man can write it.””

Barry Hannah

Barry Hannah will leave a gaping hole in literature.  His influence on my own work is strangely subtle and roundabout (I know him more for his influence on others–especially Tom Franklin–than for anything else), but when I think about the stories I’ve read, I realize how deeply effective they were.  For all the brashness ofContinue reading “Barry Hannah”

Women writers

I can’t write a post about women’s literature.  I could, but it’s not my field of study and I’d just wind up offending the scholars who know what they’re talking about.  But I can list some of the women authors and poets I admire most, which is all this is.  And by all means, ifContinue reading “Women writers”

Dr. Seuss was Greek

I just wanted to jump in here and say hello to my friends and brothers at Sigma Phi Epsilon–Wisconsin Theta.  SigEp is an outstanding fraternity based on the ideal of a balanced man and promoting the core values of Virtue, Diligence, and Brotherly Love.  They seek to undo the negative stereotyping associated with many fraternities,Continue reading “Dr. Seuss was Greek”

Patrons of writing and teaching: The Muses

As I reviewed my list of writing patrons today, I realized that most of my patrons are women.  I don’t know why this is, or what this might mean for my writing.  A few years ago a friend pointed out The Gender Genie, an online gender analysis tool for prose–just paste in a chunk ofContinue reading “Patrons of writing and teaching: The Muses”