Sunday, March 31, 2019

An Artist's Archeology of the Mind

From Joshua Rothman's "An Artists Archeology of the Mind" published in The New Yorker:

When Sacks was young, his family moved to Durban, a port city on the Indian Ocean. He walked to school wearing a safari suit and sandals. In the street, he passed Zulu men carrying shields and walking sticks; bare-chested African women with loads on their heads; Europeans in Western dress; Indian women in saris; black men in prison garb, laboring at the roadside with pickaxes. Sacks was on the “white” side of the color line; his ancestors, Lithuanian Jews, had come to South Africa toward the end of the nineteenth century. Still, the government included Nazi sympathizers, and, at his segregated school, bullies called him “Jew boy,” while his own lapses were met with strokes of a cane. The human world was inhuman. Meanwhile, a vast landscape surrounded him: long, deserted beaches echoing with rolling surf; grassy hills creased by ancient mountain shadows. At Durban’s port, he watched ships arrive from India, France, Japan—emissaries from an unfathomable world.

Sacks’s parents sought to resist apartheid: his father, an obstetrician, taught at a black medical school. Still, there was no escaping a sense of complicity. “I was waking up always too late in a ravishingly beautiful garden mostly run by thugs, and guess what, I was one of them,” Sacks has said. It was a relief for him, as a teen-ager, to become a competitive swimmer. His four daily hours in the pool were a ritual of solitude, discipline, exertion. Sacks went for training runs or daylong walks on the edges of towns. He was running along one of Durban’s beaches when a line unfurled in his head: “If they capture me, I have not learned to speak.” Decades later, he incorporated it into a prose poem. The line was a plea: don’t make me account for a life I don’t wish to have.

When Sacks was sixteen, he enrolled in an exchange program that would take him to America. He dreamed of California—by then he’d become a surfer—but the program placed him with a family on the west side of Detroit. It was 1967. Smoke from the race riots hung over the city; armored cars idled in the streets. Sacks read James Baldwin and Stokely Carmichael—writers who had been censored at home—and, when he returned, he transferred from medical school to the political-science program at the University of Natal, a center of anti-apartheid activism. He became friends with Steve Biko, the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement, and studied with Richard Turner, an intellectual leader of the South African left. At nineteen, Sacks gave speeches and organized anti-apartheid demonstrations.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

It will be AWP without me. . .

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


The two times I've been to AWP, I've been lucky enough to sit at a table at the Bookfair with copies of my novels on display in front of me and available for signing and selling. It was pleasant to see sections of Minneapolis and Los Angeles as well, and I have nothing against the myriad panels I failed to attend. The whole thing costs quite a bit of money--hotel, conference fees, airfare--so unless a publisher, university, or other organization is paying for the trip, it can feel as if the money was wasted unless it's being treated like a vacation for book-gazing and sightseeing. I'd be cautious about expecting a reward for any efforts at AWP2019. It may be that authors are using AWP connections to pick up freelance work and adjunct classes, but it's nothing that was visible to me when I participated. With luck, it's possible to sell some books and not merely get stuck with trades and giving them away.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Firmin II

"I loved it when he talked about the revolution too, about Joe Hill, Peter Kropotkin, and the Paterson strike. One of his favorite phrases was "after the revolution." When people bought his books, he would apologize for taking their money and tell them that books were going to be free after the revolution, a public service like streetlights. He also said Jesus was a Communist, which caused some of the people to get worked up."

~~ from Firmin by Sam Savage

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

even "a bag of dirt"

Monday, March 18, 2019

Firmin by Sam Savage

"When someone is in despair and tells you how cold and unkind the world is and how much pointless suffering there is in life and how much loneliness, and you just happen to agree with him on every point, it puts you in an awkward position."

~~ from Firmin by Sam Savage

Sunday, March 17, 2019

more from Bolano's Last Evenings On Earth. . .

"This is where the story should end, but life is not as kind as literature."

~~ from "Days of 1978"

"Meanwhile I chain smoked Bali cigarettes, looking at the window at the highway and thinking about the disaster that was my life."

~~ from "Gómez Palacio" in Last Evenings On Earth

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Kundera in Romania. . .

Then and again, I'm listed as "Kundera," as in, Milan, we can suppose. It's a mistake that's been made a few times, this last one in a Romanian library entry where a short story collection was printed with extremely limited circulation. My fiction has little in common with Kundera's although there is an allusion to The Joke in Fight for Your Long Day that not one reader has ever mentioned. At least in German Wikipedia, the only encyclopedia in which I appear as an "author," I'm in an entry for Kuderas, not Kunderas. I only wish I could tell you that I was the Kudera who fought the Nazis.

Monday, March 11, 2019

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Book Reviews for Fight for Your Long Day

The Chronicle of Higher Education " Considering Adjunct Misery " by William Pannapacker at The Chronicle of Higher Education (Ma...