Saturday, July 21, 2018

Ken Ingunas

I recommend Ken Ilgunas's two travel narratives Walden on Wheels and Trespassing Across America. Both have strong elements of memoir, often self-reflective comedy, and heartfelt views of what we are doing to the planet as well as each other and why we might want to change our ways. Partly because they are interesting books and partly because I so rarely read three books by the same author within a couple months, I may try to interview Ilgunas about these two along with his more polemical This Land is Our Land although I'm momentarily so deep in the weeds with my own problems and concerns that for now this blog is the best I can do on Ken's behalf. Please see Goodreads for my other recent reads.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day, 2018

On my way to tweeting "The Bicentennial with Grandpa Andy," I came across an excerpt from Auggie's Revenge

Stay safe and sober, America.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Philadelphia reading this afternoon

As scheduled, I will be reading today at 4:30 p.m. at the 40th Street Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia (40th and Walnut), and will likely include the opening scene from the sequel to Fight for Your Long Day as well as an excerpt from Auggie's Revenge.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Thomas Bernhard

"Philosophically, there is no difference between the writing that Bernhard did in his twenties and his extraordinary late novels. All the elements of his intensely pessimistic world view—remorseless fury at a callous universe, lack of faith in human relationships, manic pursuit of aesthetic perfection—were likely set by the hardships of his youth. He was born February 9, 1931, in a Dutch clinic for unwed mothers. His mother had been working in Holland when she became pregnant, apparently as the result of rape. His father, a carpenter and petty criminal from Germany, never acknowledged him, and Bernhard always remembered the humiliation of having to undergo a blood test as a child to establish paternity. He was soon deposited in the care of his maternal grandparents, in Salzburg. His grandfather was an anarchist and a writer of pastoral novels, and Bernhard idolized him. He recalled the walks they took, during which his grandfather would extemporize about nature and philosophy, as 'the only useful education I had.' This idyll ended when Bernhard was six; his mother married and moved the family across the border to Germany."

Extinction, V

This morning I finished reading Extinction. It's an amazing work of literature that everyone should read, assign to students, give as gifts, and read again once finished. In fact, I would reread the book right away were there not so many piles and shelves of other books staring at me wherever I go.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Philip Roth died famous, rich, and successful by common definition. He wrote an amazingly long list of books which are at least good, and they are always readable. By editing Penguin's Writers from the Other Europe series, he provided a major service to readers in English, and literature more generally, by widening access to Bruno Schulz, Danilo Kis, Tadeusz Borowski, and others from Eastern Europe. Pretty sure the last Philip Roth novel I've read is I Married a Communist, recommended, and the last one I began but didn't finish was The Counterlife. I haven't read any of them the year they were published, and I liked The Human Stain more than American Pastoral. The one with an imagined Anne Frank in it is great, but the title escapes me. I never finished The Great American Novel, but I had a copy as a teenager, purchased from Encore Books in their dollar remainder section, and I remember references to Hemingway as "Hem" in the opening. I believe that Portnoy's Complaint was the first Roth novel I've read, and the memoir Patrimony has always been one of my favorites. For one or two singular books, he's not as great as Pynchon, Barth, Bellow, DeLillo, and, no doubt, a few of his other relative contemporaries, but as of this writing, it seems like his books will last much longer on the shelf of bookstores than these other big names. His novels with historical or cultural themes almost always have a clever angle. I remember reading that Roth said he left academia because professors "weren't serious," and that he stopped dating because it was too time-consuming: "woman need to be entertained." A funny anecdote that I know of is that he requested a biography of Amiri Baraka from its African-American author, and the writer sent it signed, "Take it easy on the brothers." Roth thought that was hilarious, but it also relates to why I don't like American Pastoral. Last, sure anyone can detest being labeled as a "black writer" or "Jewish writer," but it's best to prove it by your pages. Roth could have shown much more often in his writing, and much more clearly, that he understood what it's like to be an American who isn't Jewish after World War II, the time period almost all of his books take place in. He's dead now, and I can't tell you with certainty what happens to him or anyone else at this stage of existence. Which sometimes is considered not existing. I'd be shocked if I made it to 85. Rest in peace.

Philip Roth is dead, but you and I are still alive.

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Auggie's Revenge: Reviews, Interviews, and Excerpts

Book Reviews: "The Teaching Life as a House of Troubles," by Don Riggs, American, British and Canadian Studies , June 1, 2017 ...