December 9, 2014
I met Jon Frankel when I was writing for a small newspaper upstate. Jon was one of my first literary mentors: a drop out single-dad who had published a punk noir medical thriller, worked in the stacks of a college library, spent his money on books and liked to drink. He also had an encyclopedic knowledge of Shakespeare and John Donne and was an excellent cook. Jon was good company. Transgressive and funny and self-possessed. In a town that boasted waiters with PhDs he was (more…)
May 19, 2014
The cat’s been out of the bag for a while now about my love of Louis-Ferdinand Celine. I wrote about him when So Much Pretty
came out, and the epigraph of Be Safe I Love You
is a quote from Journey to the End of the Night.
I know you don’t like Celine. Which is fine. Youre not supposed to and he certainly never cared one way or the other. He’s an anti-semite. I don’t think anyone’s ever denied or tried to gloss over this fact. Misanthropes tend to be equal opportunity haters.
So all of you who hate Celine for hating, will be happy to know (more…)
April 12, 2014
My piece on women soldiers in literature, first published in New York Times, April 1
THE injury wasn’t new, and neither was the insult. Rebecca, a combat veteran of two tours of duty, had been waiting at the V.A. hospital for close to an hour when the office manager asked if she was there to pick up her husband.
No, she said, fighting back her exasperation. She was there because of a spinal injury she sustained while fighting in Afghanistan. (more…)
April 2, 2014
a latenight childhood existential crisis
When I was a child my parents’ library looked like it had been entirely gleaned from free boxes put out by the Students for a Democratic Society on the University of Michigan quad in 1969. It was an odd variety of texts; Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, nonsense by Baba Ram Dass, dog-eared books of philosophy, complete editions of Victor Hugo and Zola and James Joyce, the novels of William S. Burroughs, and the plays of Samuel Beckett. They even had a copy of Wilhelm Reich’s book Listen Little Man, illustrated by William Steig. I read many of these books before (more…)
March 27, 2014
My favorite color is yellow because it’s one of the only colors I can see.
This is something I don’t think about that much even though it makes my experience in the world significantly different from that of color sighted people. I have severe deuternopia—a kind of red/green colorblindness. This makes things like (more…)
March 18, 2014
When I was a child my favorite story was a piece by James Thurber that my mother used to read to me. It was called “Something to Say," about an alcoholic writer named Elliot Vereker. Vereker was an eccentric whose genius was confirmed by the number of terrible things he did; freeloading on friends, crashing parties, breaking light bulbs on the ground because he liked the sound of shattering glass, wrenching plumbing away from the walls of other people's apartments and denouncing the achievements of those around him. Despite this he was loved and respected—seen as a man of talent and substance. To my eleven year old mind, Vereker seemed the perfect role model. (more…)
March 17, 2014
the beautiful BCC campus
There are generally two types of people who ask me this. Those who assume I’m there for ideological reasons, or those who are “concerned for my safety.”
So I thought I’d finally take the time to answer this question, instead of being quietly offended by its (hopefully unwittingly) racist implications.
I teach at Bronx Community College because (more…)
February 26, 2014
The book I’ve been waiting for my entire life has just been published by Foothills Press; The Way She Looks Now
, a collection by poet Kaye Newbury.
Newbury grew up in central Pennsylvania, one of ten children, raised by a single working mother. She took some (more…)
February 18, 2014
I come from a military family. It’s not something I talk a lot about though my friends know this. Every generation had their war, and thankfully their homecoming, from World War I to Afghanistan.
I wrote Be Safe I Love You
to show how war affects not just the men and women who fight, but whole (more…)
December 19, 2013
Readers of this blog (and friends) will know my mother as the person whose ideas about parenting included reading booze-drenched modernist classics to me when I was eleven. So, it will not come as a surprise to anyone that when I was a few years older than that, she dropped me off at aKurt Vonnegut reading while she went to (more…)