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Showing posts from October, 2009

alexander writing on annie

I enjoyed skimming Alexander Chee's personal essay on writing classes at Wesleyan University. I did not take creative writing classes at Wesleyan as an undergrad, but I did know the names of the somewhat famous writers he speaks of--Annie Dillard, Kit Reed, Phyllis Rose, et al. Follow this link for the essay in full:

The closest I ever got to Annie Dillard, discounting selling her books after college while working in a Borders Bookshop, was seven years after graduation, where on a whim, I drove up to Middletown, CT for the Nietzsch Factor Alumni Ultimate Frisbee game. As it turned out, Annie Dillard had become a fan of Ultimate and in fact was the lone fan in attendance at the game. We gave the current undergrad team our best player and then played to fifteen. It was early spring, I had a common cold and was out of shape, but somehow I managed to leap into the air to snag the game-winning …

save the trees?

This article from The New York Times describes how one literary journal is embracing "new media," "social media," and more or less whatever else you would like to term it. To the best of my knowledge, they are not burning books, not even to heat their marginal, "start up" offices, but, yes, why of course, they are "tweeting" stories directly to your iphone and giving you additional options for receiving your content. Er, your short story I meant. Check it out:

It looks like Rick Moody and Colson Whitehead are already in on the deal. More later on how plans to survive any future ice storm or hostile elevator environment. (Let me know if those literary allusions--read "bad puns"--are not so obscure for you.) Peace.

obama, books, and small business

On the same day that President Obama's speech to the nation included plans to help small businesses weather the current economic storm, I read that independent bookstores have sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking for intervention in the price war over bestsellers at, Walmart, and Target. From the article-- learn that Sarah Palin's Going Rogue has depreciated two cents to $8.98, down from last Friday's $9 at either or Walmart. (If you haven't been following that story, $8.98 is the price for this new hardcover whose original retail is close to thirty dollars.) We also learn that France already has a "prohibition against booksellers’ pricing books below cost." My best guess about Obama's speech is that it was focused more on getting small business groups to accept whatever healthcare overhaul we wind up with, but it'll be interesting to see if a possibly…

don delillo in a downturn

I'm back for more White Noise; I'm sure you know what I mean. I'm teaching Don Delillo during our "Great Recession" and am drawn to passages such as this first paragraph of chapter 4:

When times are bad, people feel compelled to overeat. Blacksmith is full of obese adults and children, baggy-pantsed, short-legged, waddling. They struggle to emerge from compact cars; they don sweatsuits and run in families across the landscape; they walk down the street with food in their faces; they eat in stores, cars, parking lots, on bus lines and movie lines, under the stately trees.

(I apologize on behalf of literary Don if you see two places where you might like to add an "and.")

I will confess to my own overeating these days although so far I believe I've avoided "waddling" and am still masking the pounds I could "afford" to lose with shirts tucked in and pants cut close to the thigh and calf. It is funny that the novel is published in the…

no college student left behind?

Harper's Magazine offers this take on the (in)solvency of Brandeis University:
I'm sorry you won't be able to read the article (read "diagram") without a subscription to the magazine.

My best hunch is that there are many other schools with similar economic problems, and yet the audacity of expansion straight through a serious downturn is its own way impressive. I imagine college administrators near and far have a tremendous fear of what would happen to the enrollment numbers if their campuses were unable to offer the "cutting edge" or "newest facilities" or "high-tech dorms" or "state-of-the-art gym equipment."

In another article, I read that many Japanese private universities are in danger of going out of business. At an on-campus workshop, I mentioned that even Harvard University had cut jobs (around 500 if I'm not mistaken) this past year, an…

merci bien mes amis

Merci tres bien pour des citoyens de France qui a lu Des Etats-Unis du Kudera. Pardonez moi pour le francais pas tres bien (mais j'espere pas mal?). 35 percent of our readership comes from France according to this pie chart: Dans ma vie de reve, je suis un auteur de Paris qui habite pres de Jardin du Luxembourg en La Sixieme Arrondisement. Un cafe, un stylo, le papier, etc. I cannot explain how I would actually pay for an apartment there, but it would certainly not be based upon my memory and knowledge of masculine and feminine nouns... they're killing me. Argh!

thinking globally

Wild and crazy Kudera'll push the envelope here and state that women in their mid-fifties should not be forced to sleep in their cars in the freezing cold of Cleveland, Ohio or any other region of the country. Heck, I'll show my hand and state that the woman in this article has a right to lodging. Call me crazy, but I'm thinking a just society would be one that houses its residents.

The woman in the article grew up in a housing project in Neptune, NJ, and it is sad to say that her life is basically back to where she started, only this time her current shelter bedroom comes with a 3-month time limit. So you could say the pull-out couch she slept on while being raised by a single mother was much better becuase she could come home everyday knowing she had a place to sleep.

The economic crisis is also negatively impacting children of divorce as men are disproportionately losing their jobs (the decline of dome…

american literature???

The New York Times online has a short article in the Week in Review on American Literature, and it seems worth reading:

In particular, it takes issue with the folks across the pond at Nobel (er, Sweden) for calling American literature "too isolated, too insular." I'd have to agree with the "paper of record" and further the thought by mentioning that so many of our great novels--from Melville's Moby Dick to Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms to Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow--do not take place in America. The article does a good job of describing the incredible diversity of contemporary American fiction as well as the finalists for the 2009 National Book Award.

On a side note, it's nice to see that Jayne Anne Phillips is one of the nominees for this year's NBA although I can't say I've read Lark and Termite or any of the other finalists.

USK going international

Hey bloggers!

Don't forget that a fun thing to do is to add a tool to your blog. This will enable you to find out where your readers live or at least where the companies that provide their internet are located. Scroll down to the bottom of the United States of Kudera (this blog) and click on the green You can click "World Map" to the left, adjust the number below the map to see the last 100 views, and learn that USK is being read (or at least glanced at) by folks as far apart as Eastern Europe and the West Coast of the United States. offers a few free lines of HTML code to help you get started. It's not too difficult, and they do provide clear instructions. A lot of what offers is free, but they also offer advanced features for various monthly charges. You can select a set up that ensures your viewership remains private; in other words, you will be able to see results but readers of your blog will not.

Have a goo…

Going Rogue at Uncle Sam's Club or amazon?

Walmart and are saving consumers money on a few choice bestsellers by offering them for less than cost; I would imagine this will make it very difficult for anyone not named Sam or Jeff to sell Sarah Palin's Going Rogue for a profit this fall. According to the article below, you can buy a copy of Palin's book for $9 at either megastore:

Although I won't be Going Rogue this November, or going anywhere else most likely, it is with disappointment that I recognize that these two large companies--indeed, the 500-pound guerillas of the retail world--more or less have me trained to look for their discounts first before I shop for anything these days. I imagine my experience is like that of millions of other Americans in that we don't feel we can afford NOT to check out the low prices at Walmart or It is important to recognize that neither company has a monopoly on low price, and i…

under 40 in america

According to this article, less than a third of adult Americans under age 35 earn enough money to be fully self-supporting and a third live with their parents.

When Ben Bernanke says the recession is "very likely over," it is just another perfect example of how a technical term like "recession" fails to explain anything real about the "real economy" or about life in America. By many criteria--including increased student loan obligations and fierce global competition--the average 20 or 30 something in our country has it worse than previous generations, and yet for some inexplicable reason, it seems as if this same generation has been exposed to higher expectations in regard to careers and life choices.

Where do these expectations come from? Can we blame it all on Hollywood film and TV advertising? Could it be that even the parents, teachers, coaches, and other "leaders" of our young adults are getting their information from the same flimsy source…

the empire strikes back

For pessimists and students of corporate capitalism, it must come as no surprise that the unlikely marriage between Big Insurance and Barack Obama's healthcare reform is on the rocks. This article describes a final push from large insurance companies to defeat healthcare reform or at least the parts of it that could hurt their own profits:

There certainly is an "I" in FIRE, and it appears the Insurance leg of Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate will be going this battle alone. Could it be that the Finance and Real Estate industries are already so beholden to recent government bailouts and stimulus packages that they would risk sacrificing their cousins and neighbors turning a buck in the healthcare game?

The large insurance companies will of course "brand" themselves as protecting consumers by maitaining lower premiums as they fight off all the parts of Obama's plan that…

$11K fines for free!

This link leads to an article from The Washington Post on the Federal Trade Commission's revised guidelines for corporate endorsements. As I understand the new rules, it is possible for an independent blogger to receive a fine of up to $11,000.00 if it can be proven that the product he or she wrote in favor of was received for free.

Does this mean that the person whose church provided a Bible is obliged to mention that the Bible was provided free of charge before he or she proceeds to spread the good word?

This paragraph from The Post article does a good job of summing up the fact that "professional journalists" (an occupation from the past that once paid handsomely and offered union protection and dental) have been treated to free goodies for years:

"For instance, traditional reporters and journalists have long received products and services to review. In the ethical world, brands entrusted the resulting experience with the reviewer and used corporate collateral an…

our official position on book reviewing

USK does not see itself as a source of perfectly objective information when it comes to books. In fact, USK only represents the opinions of its blog staff! Our official position at the United States of Kudera is that we try to keep it positive when we are writing about books. This is partly because one of our opinions is that it is so difficult to sell anything these days, and in particular it is so difficult to sell books not "written" by Sarah Palin or given an Oprah endorsement. We do receive a few books for free here or there, but we have not received anything directly from Oprah or Sarah Palin.

In general, we do like books written by our friends and acquaintances, and we like you, and we will like you even more if you try to write a book (preferably a novel, but we're down with short stories and poetry as well). If Sarah and Winfrey ever write a novel, we might take a look at it, and if we read and like it, then we could let that be known at…

the publishing self

If you're thinking of wading into the wild and wacky waters of self-publication, check out this article for inspiration:

Although the article is flagged for missing some "verification" of sources, it appears as if many of your favorite canonical writers were once in the same position you were in (except they weren't reading this on a netbook while tweeting their novel in 140 character spurts). Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and e.e. cummings are some of the authors listed; perhaps fearing that the wiki readership could find the news so inspiring that they bumrush the website, the article's writer notes that it is "extremely rare" that self-published books find a "large audience."

Yeah, we know this, but remember that most books published by major and minor houses fail to find a readership too. Is anyone not named Sarah Palin go…