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Showing posts from April, 2009

A Momentary Pause In Our Programming

USK is not on vacation or in bed with swine flu although both forms of hiatus are considered infectious and well respected; rather, it is papergrading season among the minor leaguers of academia, all of us destined to peruse the texts created in the freshman comps and sophomore lits of our undergraduate world. We will return with a vengeance soon, whereupon we will recommit to propagating our global conspiracy to keep literature alive!

Yes, we will be burning novels into the flesh, tattooing the classics onto the blob that is belly, even as we buffer books with high heat into all of the table tops and living-room furniture in the land.

Do you spy an empty wall in your neighborhood??? Well, keep it legal, but you catch my drift... apologies to the more genuinely revolutionary writers among us.

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Correction: Bitter Lemon Presses More Than Just Levison

I'd like to clarify that Iain Levison's new novel is published by a British press which focuses on international mysteries and thrillers. You can see their fine selection of books at It looks like their focus is on mysteries and thrillers that present the darker side of larger cities--quite a page-turning way to tour the underbelly of glocal urbania. I stumbled upon one of their titles, Night Bus, in the lower depths of the Clemson Library, and it looked like a page turner. It was hard to resist checking out another novel. If you deal in the literature of the urban murder and mayhem, then Bitter Lemon could be the press for you. Props to the tart limeys keeping books in print! Safe journey.

T.S. Eliot, Hitler, Tax Day, or Columbine?

Although (arguably and in fact easy to disprove) English Literature began with Chaucer's "Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote" and offered the promise of Spring rain, birth, and new beginnings (unless we recognize The Canterbury Tales as satire of such), it seems T.S. Eliot's version of April dominated the twentieth century in most of its real and imagined states. In "The Wasteland," he rejected April's life-affirming rains and warmer weather, insisting in fact:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

When he wrote those lines, Eliot most likely did not imagine the continued devastation and false promises of Aprils throughout the twentieth century. Did Eliot anticipate a second world war?

Perhaps in reference to Chaucer and Eliot, Tim O'Brien chose April as the month to set his soldiers' sad, aimless wandering through Vietnam. In O'Brien's "Th…

Who's In Charge Here?

I enjoy stories like the following:

Bogus waiter tricks customers at 2 NJ restaurants
The Associated Press
HOBOKEN, N.J. - Police say a man posing as a waiter collected $186 in cash from diners at two restaurants in New Jersey and walked out with the money in his pocket.
Diners described the bogus waiter as a spikey-haired 20-something wearing a dark blue or black button-down shirt, yellow tie and khaki pants.
Police say he approached two women dining at Hobson's Choice in Hoboken, N.J. around 7:20 p.m. on Thursday. He asked if they needed anything else before paying. They said no and handed him $90 in cash.
About two hours later he approached three women dining at Margherita's Pizza and Cafe. He asked if they were ready to pay, took $96 and never returned with their change.

I'm tempted to wonder how often this has occurred in college classrooms. Presumably, the "perp" would have to linger in a hall full of crowded classrooms, wait for one room full of students to appea…

Happy Seder Party People!

I hope those of you celebrating Passover enjoy a delectable meal as well as the bitter root; if you're vegan' it, chow some eggplant for yours truly, and if you plan to thump bible (down with the OT?) or discuss Israel's position in the world, enjoy that too. As every discursive Jew should know, there's nothing wrong with a little debate at the dinner table.

In honor of my Sederless South Carolina existence, I wanted to note a famous Hollywood omission of the Passover scene. The movie version of The Wonder Boys omits the long seder scene that fans of Michael Chabon's original novel no doubt enjoyed. In honor of old Chabonet, I bought a remaindered copy of The Yiddish Policemen's Union for half off a $6.98 sticker price. In the moment, I was not connecting the purchase in anyway to Passover, but I look forward to learn how the Jews of Alaska would have celebrated. I stand in solidarity with Michael Douglas and all other x-husbands denied a seder in the movie vers…

Chump Change Published by Harper Perennial!

In a win for Dan Fante, fans of Dan Fante, and all literature of the lower life, drinking life, skid row, or otherwise down-and-out parts of America, Harper Perennial appears to be publishing a trade paperback of Dan Fante's Chump Change. According to, the Harper Perennial Chump Change is due out in December 1, 2009 and will presumably be available "wherever books are sold." In fact, all three novels in Fante's "Bruno Dante trilogy" will be published by Harper then.

To me, the fact Harper is publishing his novels eleven years after Sun Dog Press published Chump Change (1998) is just another sign that American literary agents and publishers are not always the best judges of talent nor are they always in tune to what will sell. We can all see there is plenty of room on the shelf for Harry Potter, Terri McMillian, Stephen King, and other mainstream dominators of book markets, but I believe many, many readers are looking for more realistic versions of…

A Brief Introduction to Offutt's The Same River Twice

Chris Offutt’s The Same River Twice, like Paul Auster’s “Portrait of an Invisible Man,” is a memoir with a compelling narrative structure. In this case, unlike Auster’s fragmented approach, where paragraphs and even sentences stand alone as their separate scenes or sections—at times, almost like epiphanies or aphorisms—Offutt has two main narrative strands—a past and a present—that intertwine and then merge toward the end of the book. It seems possible you can compare this narrative approach to a movie you have seen or perhaps another book. Thomas Pynchon’s V—yes, that is the full title—famously introduces us to the same narrative strategy, and if you look at a V as an intersection between two lines, you can see Pynchon’s title alludes to the dual narration. Unlike Pynchon’s novel, in Offutt’s memoir, the author is the main character in both strands of narration. In any memoir, thus, the writer is also the “protagonist” although Offutt uses honesty, self-effacing humor, and humility t…

Cut the Cord!

We cut the umbilical cord over a month ago, or I should say circumstances allowed for our lives with television to end. April Fools? In fact, not.

When a few repairmen next roof over forgot to correctly replace our digital satellite, we chose to cancel our membership to the club of millions (or well over a billion served?) of people with TV reception. We are in a relatively remote part of the country, so we do not receive any channels without cable; it is possible we will purchase an HDTV with antenna to see if we are able to receive channels, but for now we are enjoying this welcome break from the screen of all screens.

Professor Li watches hardly any television, and I've noticed the baby much prefers toys with blinking lights and objects that can be chewed on to any kind of TV viewing. Indeed, chez Li-Kudera, I was the bloomberg addict, the one opting out of the last three episodes of ER, and pre-emptively striking against the NCAAs as well as NBA playoffs. So far, I can report th…