Wednesday, April 30, 2014

motel life in disney world

Willy Vlautin's The Motel Life isn't based on how children are living in Disney World, but it could be.

A more recent post has Miami's poorest living on $11 a day and includes a doctor's assessment of the demographics:

"Miami isn’t the gateway to Latin America; Miami has the same economic demographics as Latin America,” said Pedro “Joe” Greer, a doctor whose 25 years of work treating the homeless and uninsured there earned him the nation’s highest civilian honor -- the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- in 2009. “Seventy percent of the families we work with bring in less than $25,000 a year.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Congratulations to "The Over-Educated Negro"

Congratulations to the blogger/academic otherwise known as "The Over-Educated Negro" for completing his PhD. I'd only become aware of him because he reviewed my book three years ago, but his blog has flavor, insight, and energy. Here's some good recent stuff worth checking out!

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Summer Pennsylvanian

I wrote for The Summer Pennsylvanian my last two summers before college and also was given the title of Copy Editor. I could handle proofreading then, but I remember that their editors, juniors or seniors at UPenn who went on to work at The Wall Street Journal and Newsday, would tear apart my stories. I don't recall landing an article on the front page, but I guess I did. And then this issue is also online, and I have an article on page seven, and a couple other issues include my Copy Editor byline. I suppose real journalists drink whiskey, no chaser, when they aren't bagging new stories while tired teachers search online to stumble upon stuff they wrote in high school.

Monday, April 14, 2014

my hunger

The L.U.S.K house copy of Hunger by Knut Hamsun, previously blogged upon here and here and here.

briefly on Balzac and bussing dishes

"One Step Forward" from Philadelphia's Rodin Museum
I've never read Balzac, and have had always had mixed feelings for prolific novelists who were widely read while they were alive, but I just read past Elif Batuman's mention of the French writer in her The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, and it reminded me that I'd shared "One Step Forward" on facebook earlier in the day. An imagined essay I've drafted but never completed is on my brief literary tour of Philadelphia's Rodin Museum. This "tourism" includes a statue and "statuette" of Balzac: Rodin's "Colossal Head of Balzac," which I have always called, "Bust of Balzac" and the parody, "One Step Forward," which I have called "Balzac in the Shape of a Seal."

The Batuman is fun reading, and I've just made it to the Dostoevsky section toward the end. His novel The Possessed is important to me because the old hardcover Constance Garnett translation of it is one I borrowed from Shakespeare and Company when I was "un commis," bussing dishes in Paris, France many moons ago. On Wednesday in Clemson, I'll be reading from a story that includes some detail from those travels as an undergrad taking time off from college.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


The book's title is cute, catchy, and, to an extent, realistic, but also an obvious false binarism that leaves out other 21st-century American novels that have made their own tiny ripple in the literary waters. Neither camp deserves credit for Fight for Your Long Day, and the "knowledge cogs" in charge of both "arenas" publically ignore it for the most part, but we shouldn't expect anything less from the capitalist economy we persist in. We're all desperately clinging to whatever meager market share we've been fortunate enough to commandeer, inherit, luck into, or work our asses off to achieve.

But the anthology includes a roster full of talented, relatively big-name writers, and will probably be fun reading for many. In a bookstore, yesterday, I stumbled upon a lone copy on the corporate shelf, and then sat and read Keith Gessen's "Money" article from 2014. I'd read his first one years ago, and I always think of the n + 1 editor as smart, hardworking, and fortunate, so it was with disbelief that I processed his facts about how he squandered 300K+ in advance money although I'm sure a quick breeze through NYC rental prices would reveal that really isn't so shocking.

In the piece, Gessen gets handed a creative-writing class at a school that sounds like Sarah Lawrence, but could be others, and so he includes some funny details about the workshop life and the students who doubt, sleep, agonize, and scribble there. If I remember correctly, one reason he doubts he'd enjoy or be successful at teaching long-term is that he doesn't see himself as a nice person. He also mentions that it felt unethical to teach where institutions charge such outrageous tuition, something I've felt in the past as well. But it was a good interesting piece of writing, and so, yes, MFA V. NYC may well become another book I read when I should be grading or writing.

Fight for your short grade.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

student loans

It's that time of year, and both SEIU's Adjunct Action and The New York Times have information on student loans that could be of use. My understanding is that if you've already accrued the loans, then some income-based relief, or even forgiveness, is most possible if the money was lent after 2007 and if your loans were from the federal government.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Kentucky on my mind

So the University of Kentucky lost the title game, and perhaps that was seen as a victory for those who dislike the lopsided recruiting of the contemporary moment, the way one school lands a half-dozen future NBA draft picks while other teams are lucky to field a single star. Of course, UConn has also had stacked teams in the past, so this year's final game was hardly a win for the little guy.

But I was also thinking of the flat tire I got on the highway in Kentucky on I-75, and how it was winter, but thankfully not too cold. Although Triple A took a good while to arrive, the Wal-Mart service center changed the tire very quickly, and I was able to drive the entire distance from Ohio to South Carolina in one day. My ten-hour drive turned into twelve, but I survived.

Finally, on the college front, I thought that I recently read that Ohio residents can pay in-state tuition to attend the University of Kentucky, but I can find no mention of this anywhere online. There do seem to be reciprocity agreements among smaller schools in those states.

A few weeks back, Dave Newman and I discussed Kentucky born-and-bred Chris Offutt's writing, and I think we agreed that we like his memoirs better than his fiction, and also that we both like No Heroes as well as the more commonly praised The Same River Twice.

Not once have I stopped at a KFC buffet or the "original restaurant" in Corbin, Kentucky although when I pass billboards advertising for such, I'm always tempted. This eliding of fried chicken is particularly sad to note because Corbin is often where I stay when I break the drive up into two days.

Fight for Your Leg Fried!

Cowboy Chicken in Xi'an, China

Sunday, April 6, 2014

and in other news in the blue grass state

The Kentucky Wildcats, an 8th seed in their region, roared into the NCAA championship game last night on a three-pointer in the final seconds against Wisconsin. If they win the final game, then the small state of Kentucky will hold the men's basketball championship for the third consecutive year (UK won two years ago and Louisville last year).

But in another part of the college scene, where adjuncts struggle to survive while teaching many of our most economically vulnerable students, the story is not so rosy. In a blog, Christian L. Pyle reports on "Life in Adjunct America" for instructors at Bluegrass Community and Technical College. His writing includes these sobering notes:

In my previous article  on this subject, I revealed that I was suffering from depression and that I could date the beginning of the disease to my “adjunct awakening.”  I’m not alone.  In the comments on my article, Tim Arnold posted
"A colleague of mine at then-Lexington Community College, worked for years as an adjunct. Finally, they had no classes for him. I last saw him standing alone playing trombone at the amphitheater behind Memorial Chapel. His depression bloomed into a full flowered psychosis.  A coordinator of the Business Writing ‘department’ at UK died alone in his apartment under suspicious circumstances as his meager adjunct position began slipping away."
I did also see that Tennessee is strongly considering advancing two free years of community college to all of its high-school graduates, so there are also these glimmers of hope, that change can be effected, that learning, lives, and livelihoods can be improved.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Clemson Literary Readings 4/16 and 4/17

In Clemson, South Carolina, I'll be reading on campus with Chris Benson and Will Stockton in Daniel Studio on April 16, from 4 to 5 p.m.

I'm also organizing a reading for Keith Lee Morris and Sarah Blackman on April 17 from 7 to 8 p.m. at Nick's Tavern and Deli. Please do attend if you're in town for these events!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Harvey Mudd College

According to this Slate article, Harvey Mudd College ranks number in Return On Investment (ROI) of over one million dollars after twenty years. I'd just recently been describing Harvey Mudd, part of the Claremont consortium in Southern California, as similar to Cal Tech, and, yes, like many people the person I was speaking to had never heard of it.

Anyway, back in the late 1980s, I almost applied there because a) late into high school, I still strongly identified as a "math person" and b) my father had moved to the Los Angeles area in the early part of the decade.  As it turned out, he was out of L.A. by 1991, and freshman fall of undergrad was the last time I took a "real" math class although I did enjoy some history of calculus before graduating.

If you read this blog, then you're probably aware that I don't think that financial return is the primary way we should rank colleges or the main reason we should attend one, but I do believe that burgeoning student-debt should be a concern of anyone interested in maintaining our economy, or even our democracy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

1 avril

some of my father's Kunderas

It's Milan Kundera's birthday, of course, and that's no joke.

Happy 85th, Milan!

I consider that a rather mind-boggling anniversary that I have almost no chance of seeing, but poor Kundera must not only continue to endure, but he has to spend his last years in disguise, hoping no one recognizes him as me.

Here at L.U.S.K., we grow older and more ridiculous on a month-to-month basis. Or sometimes all at once.

Featured Post

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 ...