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A Life Outside: Jon Frankel on Writing

December 9, 2014

Tags: Jon Frankel, Buzz Callaway, GAHA, Sci-fi, Noir

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…)

Traffic Jams, Wedding Plans, and Louis-Ferdinand Celine

May 19, 2014

Tags: Spain, France, Marc Lepson, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, modern love

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. You’re 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…)

The Things She Carried

April 12, 2014

Tags: Fiction, women in the military, The Things She Carried

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…)

Growing Up With Sam Beckett

April 2, 2014

Tags: Samuel Beckett

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…)

On Colorblindness

March 27, 2014

Tags: Yellow

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…)

On Literary Role Models

March 18, 2014

Tags: literary influences, persona, Eliot Vereker

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…)

WHY DO YOU TEACH IN THE BRONX?

March 17, 2014

Tags: Bronx Community College, teaching, diversity

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…)

The Way She Looks Now

February 26, 2014

Tags: poetry, Kaye Newbury, feminist, gender

Kaye Newbury
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…)

Welcome Home J. Howard

February 18, 2014

Tags: military families, resilience, how to jump out of cars

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…)

Bad Advice from Kurt Vonnegut

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…)