- Originally from Vermont, I now live in North Carolina. My work can be found in recent issues of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, and Pank, among others, and forthcoming from Gargoyle #57 and REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters. One of my stories has been translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee, and many others by Jalil Jafari, two of which have been published in the Iranian journal, Golestaneh Magazine. For two years I worked as an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. Currently, I serve as a mentor for Dzanc's Creative Writing Sessions. I'm working on two novels and a short story collection. In May, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the 2011 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Friday, April 29, 2005
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Each of the eight stories deals with sadness in indelible forms. One of my favorites in the collection centers around a husband and wife and their robot son who seems to be coming apart. The ways in which each family member handles the boy's breakdown mirror survival techniques of people dealing with illness: The wife distances herself; the husband tries to fix the situation; and the son tries to hide his problems.
In another story, a brother cleans the apartment of his dead, mentally ill sister and sweeps all of her cats out onto the street, except one.
The last story, September, is a gorgeous account of one young man's first love: the mother of one of his friends.
I highly recommend this SSC!
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
These are the questions Patty Dickerson faces in The Good Wife.
Stewart O’Nan offers us this story of the faithful, long suffering wife as she remains true to her ideal of the healthy family even as her husband spends over twenty years in prison. The strength in this novel lies in the superb characterization because as the reader asks what kind of person could live his life this way, O’Nan answers it with credibility. It may not be a road you or I would take, but as we grow to understand Patty Dickerson, the reader can at least appreciate her choices come from her background and her self-imposed limitations.
I highly recommend this novel. O’Nan has done it again.
Monday, April 25, 2005
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Blotches of riotous color (azaleas)
Dogwoods in bloom
furrows in our vegetable garden
man redoing his roof
girl out walking her little dog
one dead, but pristine, Copperhead in the middle of the road.
It didn't really bother me, really. I'm not afraid of snakes to that extent. I did bend down cautiously to make sure he was really dead, though.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
and I found this site too: Plath info.
I watched the movie Sylvia last night and even though I knew how it would turn out, it still moved me. I read "The Bell Jar" a few years ago and if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Comments from Larry Dark
and a link to the story:
'There is a story about a Navajo grandfather who once told his grandson, "Two wolves live inside me. One is the bad wolf, full of greed and laziness, full of anger and jealousy and regret. The other is the good wolf, full of joy and compassion and willingness and a great love for the world. All the time, these wolves are fighting inside me." "But grandfather," the boy said. "Which wolf will win?" The grandfather answered, "The one I feed." '
Friday, April 15, 2005
Ellen Meister's book "George Clooney and Other Secret Longings of the PTA," is coming out in 2006
You're The Things They Carried!
by Tim O'Brien
Harsh and bitter, you tell it like it is. This usually comes in short,
dramatic spurts of spilling your guts in various ways. You carry a heavy load, and this
has weighed you down with all the horrors that humanity has to offer. Having seen and
done a great deal that you aren't proud of, you have no choice but to walk forward,
trudging slowly through ongoing mud. In the next life, you will come back as a water
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Monday, April 11, 2005
In “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” nine-year-old Oskar Schell is released from school early on September 11, 2001 and once home, finds five messages from his father, who was in a meeting in one of the buildings struck by the terrorists. Wanting to protect his mother, Oskar confiscates the machine, hides it away in his closet, and replays the messages in the privacy of his own room. After the funeral, Oskar finds a mysterious key in the back of his father’s closet. Believing it will give him important insight into his father’s life and armed with only one clue, Oskar searches all of New York City for the lock the key will open.
On the first page the reader is introduced to the wonderful, quirky, precocious Oskar, who spends his time after his father’s death in “heavy boots” inventing things to improve the lives around him:
“What about a teakettle? What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me? I could invent a teakettle that reads in Dads voice, so I could fall asleep, or maybe a set of teakettles that sings the chorus of “Yellow Submarine,” which is a song by the Beatles, who I love, because entomology is one of my raisons d’etre, which is a French expression that I know.”
Foer is fearless in his attempt to portray the effect of the events of September 11. Yet, this book does not speak for New York as a whole, or the country as a whole or the world. It is a peek into the lives of one family. Foer has offered us a piece of the truth, and by doing this he has shown more effectively the enormity of the impact on the whole.
The book is a collage of images and stories. The horrors of the bombing on Dresden and the bomb on Hiroshima are included. The effect of this inclusion is that war is shown more as a global plague on humanity. Foer is clever in his use of visuals to move along the story. The result is a unique feeling of involvement by the reader. It is also a collage of grief. All of Foer’s characters have lost something or someone important to them: Oskar lost his father and sense of security; Oskar’s mother lost her husband; Oskar’s grandmother lost her own husband to ghosts of his past; in the bombing of Dresden, Oskar’s grandfather lost his first love, a child, and his voice. What is so striking is the dignity with which these people attempt to carry on after the weight of their grief threatens to do them in. Even one of the minor characters is a portrait of perseverance when she decides to live at the top of the Empire State Building because it reminds her of the hope she had when her husband was still alive.
There is a gorgeous honesty throughout this novel and in each of the characters. And Foer has designed a satisfying sense of closure. Oskar in his inventive imagination finds a way to close the “lid” on the mystery of his father. The end of the book reaches the height of poignancy as Oskar imagines the event of September 11 backward. For this reader, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” is one of the best books of the year.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Immediately the reader learns of the crisis at the center of the book: Maria, a feminist single mother, receives a call from the state department informing her that her daughter has chained herself to the flag pole outside the American Embassy in Dublin. She hasn’t eaten for six weeks and her death has been planned to coincide with the celebration of the birth of Christ. We feel Maria’s initial shock and helplessness as she makes plans to fly to Ireland.
What makes this novel so unique is Gordon’s use of a sort of benign, cerebral narrator to tie the threads of three lives together and to clue the reader into all the nuances that led Pearl, Maria’s daughter, to commit such a desperate, deliberate act of sacrifice. The reader is thrust into the action and then through skillful, yet sometimes painfully slow narration, the reader learns the why of it.
Tackling large issues such as Catholicism, Judaism, anorexia, Irish politics, martyrdom, feminism, motherhood, despair, human propensity toward violence, Gordon is fearless in bringing all to the table for our examination.
In the letter to her mother, Pearl writes:
“Try to call upon the values you have given me: a love of justice, a need to bear witness to the truth. I am doing this in the name of justice, in witness to the truth. I am marking a wrongful death, for which I was responsible, and other public wrongs that will lead to death and more death.”
Pearl, a student of language, believes that her death will be the ultimate sentence, the only viable sentence she can offer in the name of her despair. She believes her death will be more useful than her life.
And in the letter written to Joseph, a longtime family friend and the son of Maria’s father’s housekeeper:
“I believe that of all people you will understand this best, will comprehend most fully the decisions I have made. A boy died because of me. Because I rendered him as nothing in my self-righteous blindness in the name of an idea. I made a thing of him. I stole his faith and hope.
I know about some things that you and my mother never told me: faith, hope, and love. I have never naturally been a person of hope. Nor, I believe, have you. I have lost my faith in the goodness of life. Replacing that belief: a belief about malignity. In the will to harm. And the dismay that this impulse is in myself.”
Pearl has come to martyr herself not only out of profound guilt, but because she has lost her ability to see humanity in anything but the worst light, to see any characteristics other than the will to harm. The narrative offers examples of the most shocking genocides experienced in history: the Holocaust; Rwanda; Bosnia; Cambodia. Other equally horrific examples of violence on the smaller scale are also brought to the page so that the reader may understand Pearl’s despair. Fortunately, Gordon has included forgiveness and redemption in the mix, making the experience of reading the book a more fully realized and certainly a more hopeful contemplation on human nature.
At times the narrative feels slow, but by the end it won me over, and I have come to see that slowness as one of its many good qualities. It allows the reader time to digest difficult, often painful, issues at a pace conducive to careful consideration. This is not a novel to be devoured but rather savored. A novel not to be missed.
Friday, April 08, 2005
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Hyacinth (just about passed now)
There's a thick layer of green pollen over everything and with temperatures at 85 yesterday, I believe Spring (Summer?) has finally arrived in NC.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Constantine Stassos is a Greek immigrant with ambition, drive and a fierce temper. His wife Mary works hard to maintain the ideal or at least the illusion of perfection in her family. Constantine’s three children are each touched, destroyed, or changed by their parents’ behavior, especially their father's.
Cunningham’s characterization is brilliant. Every thought, every action, every belief held by the people in “Flesh and Blood” rings true and results in a stunning display of cause and effect.
Susan, the eldest daughter is forever changed by her father’s lack of boundaries, and Zoe, the youngest, the one named for Constantine’s Greek heritage, is essentially ignored until the other two children have grown up and moved away from home. Constantine shows a unique tenderness to this wild child as they work together in the garden.
There’s something different about Billy, Constantine’s only son, and that fact haunts Constantine, a feeling left unsaid—at least in the verbal sense—but always there between them nonetheless. Here’s an excerpt:
“When Constantine hit him he felt was obliterating a weakness in the house. He was cauterizing a wound. The back of his hand struck Billy’s jaw hard, scraped across his teeth with a cleansing burn. He heard Mary’s scream from a distance. Billy’s head snapped back and Constantine hit him again, this time with the heel of his hand, a smack solid and sure as a hammer driving a nail deep into pine.”
The novel opens with a scene in which Constantine as a young boy works hard to make things grow, going so far as to carry bits of rich soil in his mouth so that he may drop it onto his poorly soiled plot of a garden. The image of the garden shows up again when he and his daughter Zoe work to produce beautiful vegetables, loaded with hidden caustic pesticides.
“She raised the tomato to her mouth, and Constantine had an urge to yell, ‘Don’t it’s poisoned.’ Which was ridiculous. It was no more poisoned than most of what people ate, and probably less. But as he watched her bite into the tomato, a chill shot through his heart.”
A stunning metaphor for the family affected by Constantine’s devotion and poisonous weaknesses.
Monday, April 04, 2005
Sunday, April 03, 2005
This body is not me; I am not caught in this body
I am life without boundaries,
I have never been born and I have never died.
Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies
All manifests from the basis of consciousness.
Since beginningless time I have always been free.
Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek.
So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye.
Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before.
We shall always be meeting again at the true source,
Always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.
--Thich Nhat Hanh
Saturday, April 02, 2005
You will remember that leaping stream
where sweet aromas rose and trembled,
and sometimes a bird, wearing water
and slowness, its winter feathers.
You will remember those gifts from the earth:
indelible scents, gold clay,
weeds in the thicket and crazy roots,
magical thorns like swords.
You'll remember the bouquet you picked,
shadows and silent water,
bouquet like a foam-covered stone.
That time was like never, and like always.
So we go there, where nothing is waiting;
we find everything waiting there.
Friday, April 01, 2005
“Brother, What Strange Place is This?” stories by Tom Saunders
“Ordinary Springs” by Lenore Hart
Harvard Review Issue # 26
“Flying Leap,” stories by Judy Budnitz
“Nice Big American Baby,” stories by Judy Budnitz
“Sorry I Worried You,” stories by Gary Fincke
“House Fires,” stories by Nancy Reisman *Iowa Short Fiction Award
“Homeland,” by Sam Lipsyte
“The Send Away Girl,” stories by Barbara Sutton *Flannery O’Connor Award
“As Cool As I Am,” by Pete Fromm
“The Complete History of New Mexico,” stories by Kevin McIlvoy
“Bitter Fruit,” by Achmat Dangor
“Boyhood,” a memoir by J. M. Coetzee
“Youth,” a memoir by J.M. Coetzee
“Night of Radishes,” Sandra Benitez
“Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?” by Lorrie Moore
“Elroy Nights,” by Frederick Barthelme
“Madras on Rainy Days,” by Samina Ali