Beautiful Sentences: Marilynne Robinson

You can hate thoughts. That‘s interesting. I hate most of my thoughts.

Marilynne Robinson, Home.


Dewey Decimal Project: 355.0213 JOH The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic

This was NewImagea fair amount of familiar rhetoric, and largely things that I agree with (although I’m more positive on trade than Johnson, or many on the far left, for that matter). Overall, though, perhaps because it was so familiar, I found it a bit wearisome of a read, not unlike listening to Pacifica Radio, which should be a fit for me and yet is not.


“Bartholomew L. Bartholomew”: The Story Behind the Story

“IImage result for headphones once held the position of Technical Lead…” this part of the story is autobiography. The rest, modulo the occasional detail that I borrowed from my years’ experience in tech, is fiction. The obvious inspiration is Melville (the short title I used for filenames and the like for the story was “Bart LB” and I had this short title before much of anything else).

So many of my employers let process and bureaucracy drive things while I found myself repeatedly having to affirm that things like “story points” have no objective meaning and exist to serve us rather than the other way around until, it would seem, that the only reasonable reaction would be to declare, “I prefer not.”

The first version of this story was workshopped at my third MFA residency with Terese Svoboda, Christina Del Rio, Tiffany Knowles, Chelsea Wait and David Weissblatt. At AWP2016, I won a manuscript critique from Slush Pile Magazine, so I gave them this and got a handful of ideas I liked and a handful I didn’t.

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Beautiful Sentences: Denis Johnson

But I was afraid to make love to her without the conversations and laughter from that false universe playing in our ears, because I didn’t want to get to know her very well, and didn’t want, to be bridging any silences with our eyes.

Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son


Dewey Decimal Project: 341.69 LIC The Nazis Next Door

As I dug through the NewImage 40s at the library, I found a surprising number of books dedicated to the O. J. Simpson trial. And while I’ve heard good things about the recent documentary and miniseries about the trial, I also remember the whole circus surrounding it when it happened and I’m willing to take a pass on those But seeing a book with the title, The Nazis Next Door, caught my attention. This sounded like it could be interesting. And it was, although it was frustrating to see how willing the American government was to look the other way when fascism was involved because of their deep-seated fear of communism. So many evils of the second half of the twentieth century in the US can be laid at the feet of that pathological fear.

But what caught my attention even more was a passing mention in the introduction about Jews rescued from concentration camps living in a sort of limbo in European DP camps while some of the Nazis that persecuted them were welcomed into the countries where the Jewish DPs had hoped to emigrate. This passing notion has led to my work on my current novel (and a ridiculous amount of research on topics relating to DP camps, concentration camps and the end of World War II and has left me with frequent concentration camp dreams (alas, dreams to abstract to be useful fodder for the novel).


Beautiful Sentences: Marilynne Robinson

I think hope is the worst thing in the world. I really do. It makes a fool of you while it lasts. And then when it’s gone, it’s like there’s nothing left of you at all.

Marilynne Robinson, Home.


Dewey Decimal Project: 331.886 STO Red Chicago

I have a greatNewImage affinity for Marxist communism, and it hasn’t lost its strength despite the fall of the Russian-led communist countries. And while I had a small amount of sympathy for the Soviet-style communists, I could see that even taking into account Western propagandizing (and yes, there was a fair amount of this happening), the Soviet system was far from successful. Reading this book, I found myself growing increasingly frustrated by the fact that the American communist party let itself be set in lockstep with the Soviet leadership to the point of absurdity. Intellectuals were suppressed as being insufficiently proletarian and in service to pro-Soviet loyalty, the party took a number of absurd positions, the worst of which was the support of the Stalin-Hitler non-aggression pact (not to mention the willingness to turn a blind eye to Stalin’s atrocities). It seems clear to me that if communism is to have a future, it cannot be the top-down style of communism that was the end-result of Stalin’s victory over Trotsky (and is still the style of the current incarnation of the American Communist Party), but must be more bottom-up in its organization—more Catholic Worker than Daily Worker, so to speak.

This book does give a reasonably good account of the history and sociology surrounding the Communist Party in Chicago, although I was disappointed in the rather short shrift given to the various ethnic branches of the party which were in many ways the lifeblood of the party in the 1920s. My father has a picture of his mother as a member of the Karl Marx Singing Society, and this sort of thing is almost completely ignored leaving me to wonder what other interesting aspects of Chicago Communism were also left out of the book.


Beautiful Sentences: J. Robert Lennon

The memories this act stirred up were mostly memories of other visits to this cemetery, when her feelings had been more profound. (This is what happens, she supposes, to dramatic events: they create feelings that create other feelings, memories that give way to memories of having them. The older you get, the more life seems like a tightening spiral of nostalgia and narcissism, and the actual palpable world recedes into insignificance, replaced by a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. The sunshine today agrees: it has rendered the town in high relief, grainy and posterized, the colors too bright. so fake it’s a new kind of real.)

J. Robert Lennon, Familiar.


Salinger Revisited: Teddy

The IMG 1414most explicitly Buddhist of Salinger’s stories, the titular character here is a preternaturally wise child who is apparently some sort of Buddhist panjandrum who fell from grace and as a means of atonement was reincarnated into the body of an American (had he engaged in some somewhat less egregious behavior, his reincarnation would have been less of a punishment—perhaps some sort of insect).

As with any piece of fiction whose primary purpose is didactic, the story falls somewhat flat. I imagine that there are those who would read the conclusion in which Teddy meets his self-predicted death as a satisfying end to the story, but it felt too on the nose for me.


Dewey Decimal Project: 320.509 ARE Hannah Arendt

Looking overNewImage the shelves gave me ajada with all the conservative nonsense books. Seeing the combination of Hannah Arendt and Julia Kristeva on the spine of this book left me feeling that there might be some hope after all for the 300s.

This is a biography of sorts, but one really focusing more on Arendt’s life of the mind than anything else. I knew only a little about Arendt before reading this book and seeing her placed in the context of philosophy and twentieth-century history. Learning her connection with Heidegger and her German origins was illuminating. Kristeva managed to be just the right author to write this book.

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