Thursday, January 29, 2009

Farewell, Book World

So the Washington Post is canceling their stand-alone book section. Well, good riddance. I'll get my book reviews where I always did: from the looks of women reading on the subway, from overhearing the excited reports of children on their way home from school, from patrons in barrooms, from the buxom librarian who always has a kind word for me and forgives me my fines, from what appears to be the most thumbed-through at Borders, from the soft whirring of some directional magnet in my heart when I'm in the New England Mobile Bookfair that points me, like a compass needle, to the right volume. And from Facebook.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Just" A Novelist

Sometimes people ask me, "are you just a novelist, or do you write other stuff?" I used to say "I'm just a novelist, the way Michelangelo was just a painter." This created an appropriate sense of bafflement, because people didn't know what point I was making, or whether I was making a point at all, or whether I was just ignorant about the career of Michelangelo.

Now when people ask, I say, "I'm just a novelist, the way a lark is just a bird." This is truer.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tropical vs. Polar Writers

I've been reading deeply in the works of writers emerging from tropical regions (Junot Diaz, Derek Walcott, Ngeme Obo). Their words teem with such a marvelous fecundity, like an overripe guava bursting open on a sweltering day. As a contrast, I've also been reading the works of polar writers (Knut Hamsun, Tara Tangunquak). Their work tends to be sheltered, subtle, protected, like a tern's egg.

When I review my own work, I can see the influence of temperate Massachusetts. Sometmes my writing is bitterly cold, sometimes suffocatingly humid, often switching over in a matter of a few clauses, like a nor'easter coming in off Nantasket.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reader poll: Which is the better sentence?

The sun lay on the sky like a dollop of marmalade spooned from some ancient jar bottled long ago by a spinster aunt, left for years unopened on the shelf of the basement.

The snow crunched beneath his feet like dried exoskeletons of ten-thousand aphids bleached on the sands of some distant desert.

Please post your vote in the comments.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Couldn't help but notice this article.   Let's say you saw this Craigslist post: "Lice-ridden drunk M who will smash your stuff needs place to crash for free."  Skip over it?  Congratulations - you just missed a chance to room with Rimbaud.  

I printed a copy out for Hobart.   

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I'm sorry for the delay in postings.  I have been writing.  Or, better, searching.  For the last several days I was heartsick trying to find the right word to describe an acorn.  Then one day, on a walk, I found it.  


Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years Resolutions

1. Eat better.  More fruits and vegetables in non-chip and salsa forms.  

2. Don't write a single sentence unless it is fully, deeply honest.  Put down nothing that doesn't ring out clear and true like a church bell.

3. Exercise 2-3 times a week.