Saturday, August 28, 2010


Malaprops in Asheville, NC appears to be the biggest and hippest independent bookstore within two hours of Clemson
I wandered in and saw where I could read and drink coffee were I able to magically transport myself back to an urban environment

(On this netbook, I am now a man without a period, colon, or semicolon but my comma key is alert and responsive)

Friday, August 27, 2010

i suspect i am still available for sale

I still feel like a piece of meat available for sale--aye, a tired, sallow, fatty slab as opposed to prime hind quarter--but I am also experiencing a sense of Friday afternoon dislocation and fear of the marketplace (agoraphobia for "fear of" folks). Fight for Your Long Day makes an appearance on amazon but $10.08 on Barnes and Noble seems to be in the toilet. At least for now. My hunch is that most people would sooner look on amazon than B&N for online bookshopping, but as per usual, I cannot prove anything at all. Well, forgive me for once more adding a URL from a huge corporation which could probably and legally own all of our parts, kosher or no, with a sweeping signature from sixty fairly compensated senators.

And, yes, wake me up when September (and possibly most of October) ends.

another [cow turd] night in suck city. . .

. . .by Nick Flynn. So far, this is one worth reading.

Monday, August 23, 2010

a little guy wins pulitzer

Publisher Dan Cafaro of Atticus Books gives us all reason to keep hope alive with this note, so I might as well post my two cents, thus jinxing any chance of winning anything at all. And of course, when I'm not in despair over all of my own problems, yours, and even those of the country, the world, and the rest of it, I've already had ridiculous visions of approaching the podium to accept the national book award. Once behind the lectern, I extend both arms high and wave the "Hook 'em Horns" U-Texas pinkies and thumbs as if I were attending a Guns 'n Roses concert as opposed to a prestigious literary event. I proceed to shout out cliches like "Never Surrender!" and "We must keep up the good fight" to a room full of accomplished, nearly dead writers who view the year's category winner with apprehension and are wondering when the lunatic on stage will quit sending shout outs to his peeps back in Philly.

I suppose that deep-immersion dreaming has always been one of my specialties. The most powerful dreams can be the life-changing ones, and perhaps most likely also about events and circumstances far out of reach. And it seems easier to have them when operating on low sleep levels, thus ensuring the mind can quickly escape the day's events. And why should I believe for an instant that anything I write could jinx (or affect) any event at all?

Remember to fight for your long dreams, too.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

daniel kalder's lost cosmonaut

I finished Daniel Kalder's Lost Cosmonaut last the week, and it's one I don't regret spending a few weeks with. His search for nothingness left an impression of something as well as memories of Mig Mag burgers, strange dictators, and an excursion to Chess City. And he did manage to get one of my favorite half Hebs--Kasparov the Chess Grand Master--into his discussion although not in a perfectly positive way (basically, Kasparov protested a chess fed. move until money shut him up).

In a different way, his desolate landscapes remind me of some of the contemporary strand of Aleksandar Hemon's The Lazarus Project although Hemon's protagonist (his Hemon, so to speak)  is decidedly to the North and West of Kalder's more extreme world. Hemon shows us Muslims in the Balkans, but Kalder gives us even more obscure and forgotten Europeans in areas that are much closer to South or perhaps South Central Asia.

While reading Kalder, I also thought of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, which offers significant satire of the Soviet attempt to destroy native languages and customs in the same region while exporting Russian language and life ways. Kalder revisits this aspect of Bolshevism in greater clarity, and we get a strong sense of his moral objection to all kinds of imperialism--European, Soviet, and so on. And at the same time, he indicates that he believes in war's inevitability, a sad view perhaps but one difficult to oppose with evidence.

As I understand it, after ten years or so in Russia, the Scotland native Kalder now resides in Texas. His sensibility and willingness to travel to more obscure and even dangerous regions would seem to make him a perfect fit for a trip to the border regions of U.S. and Mexico. But I don't know his current pursuits or what he has planned.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

dale drews

I won't be able to do this justice but wanted to get some notes down on the passing of a close family friend. Dale Drews shared many, many Thanksgivings with us at my mother's old apartment in University City. I met him in the very early 1980s when he lived around 49th and Osage, and I was lucky enough to see him a couple times recently and he even got to meet Yiyi and Xiaoli.

I learned all kinds of things from Dale over the years; topics of instruction related to sociology, history, hot sauce, pacifism, humanism, the difference between agnosticism and atheism, the University of Chicago, and how a young man from Iowa knocked on the door to gain admittance. I'm not sure I ever would have become a college instructor or tried to write a novel whose main character is an adjunct if I hadn't known Dale during my formative years. And I'm almost certain that knowing Dale and what he was about and believed in was a main reason I was so intent on devouring Marx, Rousseau, and other continental thinkers when I went off to college.

In fact, I recently chose one of Rousseau's quototations as the prefatory quote for the novel, and I know it is one that Dale would enjoy discussing and then perhaps adding a final comment in his very dry wit. It is even the case that his medical emergency in 1994 was what put me in front of a college classroom for the first time; I proctored a final exam for one of his classes at West Chester University, not knowing that within two years I'd be a teaching assistant at Temple with my own papers to grade and soon after deeply rooted to my own adjunct shuffle around town in Philly. So perhaps the way he led his life helped lead me to my own.

Almost every year we came together for Thanksgiving, Dale would say a few words before we ate; a paraphrase would include, "in reaching for these dishes, we are reaching for each other, and in reaching for each other, we are reaching for the highest."

Now Dale, world willing, has attained the highest. Peace.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

USK Poet-in-Residence Don Riggs's 2010 Readings (so far)

Doctor Don was kind enough to include both newbies and rereads in his list of 2010 readings (as far as he can remember):

Allende, Isabel. Zorro.
Gardam, Jane. Old Filth.
Kudera, Alex. Fight for Your Long Day*.
Quick, Matthew. The Silver Linings Playbook.

Books Read or Reread for Class:
Hesse, Herman. Steppenwolf.
Herbert, Frank. Dune.
___________. The Dosadi Experiment.
Willis, Connie. Doomsday Book.
Euripides. The Bacchae.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit.
Tartt, Donna. The Secret History.
Haldeman, Joe. The Accidental Time Machine.
Wells, H.G. The Time Machine.
Asimov, Isaac. I, Robot.
Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.
____________. A Scanner Darkly.

* Well, I had to remind him that he read Fight for Your Long Day.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

less is more

Yes, Lish, Carver, et al were onto something in this regard although it's the possessions game we're talking about here.

(But why shouldn't we use the royal "we" when referencing the NYTimes? They speak for all of us, right?)

The writers rightly point out that increasing our material stuff--i.e., our crap--does not make us happier, but in fact downsizing, reducing expenditures, and throwing shit out, so to speak, may.

Can I get an amen?

I do remember letting go of all kinds of things led to some of my best feelings--a freeing sensation not so often experienced outside the bathroom stall. Even now, I wish I could summon the time and energy to rid my current environs of all manner of worthless goods; old papers and old clothes immediately come to mind. But what I really yearn to free myself from is that storage space in North Philadelphia. One summer, finally, I will find time to visit Philly with purpose! No friendly visits to folks until I've trashed most of the contents, stuffed the stuff worth saving in my automobile, and formally ended by leasing agreement.

And then I'll feel free. Until I start buying. . .

Ah, you spartan livers enjoying your studio and efficiency apartments. Those of us hobbled with extra rooms full of extra stuff must look at you for guidance!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

part 2 and public relations

Dan the Publisher delivers and edits me down to "instructor" as per my request although we are still shamelessly exploiting the international busboy angle in order to sell novels.

Check out part 2 of the Interview with Instructor Kudera at Atticus Books.

In other news, as I understand it, the woman who writes this blog is now in charge of PR for Discount Duffy's one-stop shop for book product. She looks like one of those bright, sassy, high-energy types; no doubt, she's the perfect complement to the kind of person who could imagine and describe a Cyrus Duffleman.

I wouldn't say I'm scared shitless exactly, but I would confess to mild apprehension. I hope they don't find me mumbling my talking points at a poster of Bill O'Reilly in some dank, dark corner of the Fox News tunnels. I guess I have to figure out what my talking points would be. Should anyone care to email or call...


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