Thursday, October 31, 2013

hit on the head inside his office

From 1996 through 2007, I taught classes in this building, Anderson Hall at Temple University, and so this story, too, touched me very directly. There's the indignity of being 81 years old, contributing to campus by teaching Intellectual Heritage at Temple (you don't have to be Eva Keuls to know there is also a war against Thucydides and friends in this country), and then getting robbed and beaten inside "his" office (most likely a shared one). The adjunct instructor is presumably on Medicare, but as a "part timer" he wouldn't have health coverage from the university and because PA has rejected the Medicaid expansion, he most likely wouldn't be able to afford any health coverage were he under 65. As best I understand the latest news on the story, although he suffered "brain trauma" he was well enough to be released from the hospital after a one-night stay. This man deserves better, no?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

de man, further deconstructed

A new book on transcontinental post-European Paul De Man, by an angry Barish, has him in greater detail as a narcissist, grifter, careerist, and leaver of women and children whose academic credentials were hardly in order even as he found plentiful spare hours for staring into mirrors at his beautiful self.

I've nothing to add other than an anecdotal detail from his descent into 1970s New Haven. And that's as to the specific accusation of Paul's fascistic turn toward grade inflation, when an offended A-w/honors grad student accosted him about this, the post-propagandizing Professor shot back, "Fight for your D, Man."

Monday, October 21, 2013

You may not be interested in literature. . .

Within the essay "The Business of America is War," a quotation from Leon Trotsky, "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you," inspires me to think that the same idea very much applies to literature.

And then War whispers on, "We invented you, Literature, and don't ever forget it."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

real adjuncts with Cyrus Duffleman

As part of a post titled "Adjunct instructors in dire straits with lack of pay, full-time jobs," Real Money With Ali Veshi described a 39-year-old teacher living in his parents' basement and earning less than $10,000 a year. At the end of an accompanying video (top of article), the adjunct is seen in tears, crying because his plans have not worked out; far from a ticket to dignity and security, higher education has proven to be a path to dependence and disappointment.

In fact, as much as a possible adjunct's tale, and I don't necessarily feel his circumstances could be described as "representative" of all "adcons" in academia, his story is an American one. It resonates, I'm sure, with any reader of Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes, the 36 percent of millenials who report living at home, the twenty-five percent of recent college grads without any job at all, and, even, most tenured professors in the humanities, who do commonly have their financial needs met, but feel forgotten or disregarded as intellectuals, writers without readers, the neglected and rejected, the true 99 percent of the literary world.

And that's the real story of America, the more universal one of failure and disappointment, what Exley understood to be an honest representation of American democracy full of earnest expression from teachers and parents about "doing what you love," "if you work hard, you can make it," and "follow your dreams." Although both Exley and author Saul Bellow much preferred the engagement and anticipation of American adventure described in Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March, and that was the book Freddy Ex indulged in on his mother's Davenport sofa (yes, a couch from a defunct company is where he sat and read before he was to, finally, write his first substantial drafts in a mental institution), Bellow wasn't kidding when he wrote that more die of heartbreak.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Czech Lit in PA

I try to be modest and full of verve and self-deprecatory wit, and yet, if someone in Steeler Country doesn't fly me in on a private jet soon, whereupon I should be fed meats and starches and then led through the Prague Writers Festival on my own private donkey and greeted with flowers and asked to sign books, yours and mine of course, I'm going to feel snubbed, as if the Reigning King of Literary Pennsylvania's Slovak Nation has not been properly recognized (and don't give me that bull about Allen Ginsberg in 1965 or social-justice Czechs who worked in and wrote about steel mills and such, great uncles who "Slav-ed" so I could teach school and all that).

the age of environmental anxiety

Still smarting from my failed speculation in the Munro market, I chanced upon more people effecting change in society. Like the aforementioned fellow living without cash, there is the young couple who built and now live in a glass house in a field far from the grid and a friendly father of four leading a movement to reduce carbon emissions through "transition towns." Indeed, the insomnia, and all the wasted hours sitting around not writing novels or grading papers while breathing in the cancer, wouldn't be the same without these articles about happy folks changing their world or mine.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

alice munro

A facebook tip from the talented and kind Alexander Chee led me to read my first Alice Munro short story. "Dimension" offers craft and sadness and a breath or two of unexpected life at the end. I was happy to spend some time with it.

In another version of the writer's life, one that doesn't include a Nobel Prize, a "body of work," or even an expectation of being alive past 70, I took my daughter to a used bookstore to read her stories and stumbled upon two "near fine" first editions of Munro's books, no remainder mark or any significant blemish. So along with a sticker book and a few Berenstain Bears that we couldn't resist, I left with these two hardcovers in hopes of selling them to you.

A Day Later: Alas, in these trying times, it appears the Munro market is not quite what I'd hoped for, and that the books I purchased are selling in similar price range at many locations. Of course, because they most likely won't live up to my expectations as objects of speculation, I'm free to crack them open and read.

without money

In tonight's random walk through the internet, I met this Irish man living without money and these American and mostly private-sector folks losing their incomes and near-term purchasing power because of the government shutdown (which, as of this writing, does not appear close to ending).

While the former is depicted as almost heroic in his agrarian life off the grid, the latter is a good reminder of what would happen to the rest of us without an income. The articles' combined effect could guide me to more time among the affordable fruits and vegetables of the supermarket aisles but most likely won't result in my creation of "a compost loo to make ‘humanure’ for my veggies."

Monday, October 14, 2013

nobel exuberance

"Irrational exuberance" Robert J. Shiller winning the Nobel for Economics is a contrarian indicator that gets us to DOW 25,000 by the end of the current Presidential term, but because the correlation between rising stock prices and jobs growth is far from guaranteed in near-term America, this won't necessarily help most of us.

(This is not investment advice or a recommendation to lose money so as to indulge in freedom as an expression of "nothin' left to lose"; furthermore, it should not be read as a "tell" indicating a suicidal impulse on the part of the author or any recommendation to readers to commit such. You're welcome to go ask Alice and get back to me on all this.)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

so much for the "like" world we live in. . .

Andrew Wylie: "Unless you’re a terribly bad writer, you are never going to have too many readers."

Robert Bausch: "Readers who put down books because they don't like the characters are not very good readers, so you don't want them anyway. I've heard editors at major publishers say they do not want a particular book because the character is not 'likable,' so the philistines are on the march and it's clear the woods are burning. But it's a rigorously stupid idea that we should 'like' the characters we read about. If that were actually true, we could instantly eliminate fully half of the world's great literature and forget about it, starting with Richard The III, and coming forward to Portnoy and 'Rabbit' Angstrom."

Friday, October 4, 2013

Number 2 and Number 3

So along with this week's discovery of Passenger, who has more or less been anointed the Bob Dylan-in-Residence of L.U.S.K., and no doubt something bad will befall him because of it, I also noticed that according to Amazon kindle-store ratings, free e-book The Betrayal of Times of Peace and Prosperity rose as high as #2 in Humor and #3 in Short Stories, both within the wider category of Literary Fiction.

I make no sense of this.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


i've pulled my millions out of inflation-linked bonds and poured it all into the Passenger ETF. i've got him solving The Middle East by 2018, Global Warming by 2023, and busking us all to an era of world peace and global satisfaction by 2028.

time to get on it, Mike.

but first, to review, here's the biggest gig of your life.

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