Ceci n’est pas Graham Greene—a mystery solved

About four months ago, I stumbled across a picture which was incorrectly identified as being Graham Greene. I recently had someone (via Hacker News, of all places) identify the mystery individual as Artur Lundqvist, a member of the Swedish academy.

Now, this is especially ironic given Greene’s storied history with his non-receipt of the Nobel Prize in literature. It was largely considered to be the result of a personal dislike of Greene on the part of several members of the Swedish Academy, and wondering if Lundqvist was part of said “cabal,” I did a Google search on “Graham Greene Artur Lundqvist” and turned up a 1980 article in the Washington Post in which the question was put directly to Lundqvist. Lundqvist offered a number of excuses, none of which was particularly compelling: “I think his work has declined.” “Greene is too popular.” “He doesn’t need the money.” Overall, he came across as peevish and defensive. I suspect that if anything, this particular interview may have resulted in whatever small chances Greene might have had of receiving the Nobel in his last decade of life vanishing.

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Upcoming readings

For the first time since my MFA, I’m part of a couple of public readings of my work.

Invisible City Reading 9 17

On Saturday, 17 September at 1p PST, I’ll be part of a Zoom reading to celebrate the release of the latest issue of Invisible City in which I have a senryū entitled, “宝石の十字架” (don’t worry, only the title is in Japanese). Since it’s short, I’ve been offered the opportunity to read another poem, so I’ll likely read one of the print-only poems from my Chicago Sonnets series. To avoid Zoom bombers, they’ve asked people to RSVP at this link.

Then, on Friday, 23 September at 7p CST, to celebrate the publication of my poem, “A song of Isaac” in I-70 Review, I will be reading in person at The Writer’s Place, 31W31 Nonprofit Village, 31 W 31 St, Kansas City, Missouri. This will not be streamed, but on the off-chance that anyone reading this is anywhere near Kansas City that evening, I’d love to see you there. I-70 Review is a print publication. Copies can be ordered from their website for $15 plus $5 shipping and handling and will also be available for sale at the event in Kansas City.

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Writerly resolutions: August status

No fancy graph this montTwo stacks of books representing my research reading for the novelh as it’s all-research time for the novel. I’ve managed to get eight of the books from my leftover research stack finished as well as going through ten survivor testimonies from the Yad Vashem website that had transcripts (there’s no way I would be able to follow spoken Hebrew with my limited language skills). I’m currently digging through resources from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to find what’s available online and what would require a trip to D.C. to decide whether a research trip would be worthwhile.

Minor progress on the new story rewrite and the revision story rewrite although I think I’ve made it through the toughest part of the latter.

Writerly resolutions: July status

Draft two is DONE! I managed to trim A global look at six years’ work on the novel. The draft two progress looks much smoother since I had a decent idea of what was happening most of the time.about 5,000 words in the process, despite adding a new chapter in the middle, so that’s a good sign. I will need to print this puppy up to be able to read and edit for the revision stage and I’m planning on doing some significant research reading before diving in to make sure I’ve got historical and cultural details right. I just placed a library hold request on seventeen books, have seven more that the library has in ebook format that I’ll read along the way, plus ordered a bunch more that neither the Oak Park nor Chicago libraries have to fill out the rest of my research needs. A trio of books sitting on my to-read pile are also migrating to my being-read pile. Then there are the survivor testimonies I’ve found on the Yad Vashem website that I need to translate and find the useful details. I’m not sure that I’ll be getting into actual editing until maybe November or so, depending on how long these books and other materials take to read.

The new story made it to an unsatisfactory conclusion and re-reading what I’ve cobbled together over the last nine months has turned up a better sense of the middle that might get me to a valid ending.

Progress on story revision still slow.

Beautiful Sentences: Isabel Allende

En algos momentos tengo la sensación de que esto ya lo he vivido y que he escrito estas mismas palabras, pero comprendo que no soy yo, sino otra mujer, que anotó en sus cuadernos para que yo me sirviera de ellos.

Isabel Allende, La casa de los espíritus


Writerly resolutions: June status

Back on track this month June progress, a few flattish spots but mostly a good diagonal linewith the novel. I missed writing a few days and had a few days of very low word counts, but for the last week and a half, I’ve made a point of advancing at least two pages a day through the printed first draft manuscript in the revision process which has helped me move along at a decent pace. I’ve set a goal of finishing this draft by the end of July so that when I go on vacation in August, I can leave my laptop behind.

Not a whole lot of work done on either the new story or the one that I’m revising, but I’m doing a mini-retreat this afternoon and I hope to get a bunch of work done on both at that point.

Writerly resolutions: May status

No good reason Progress in May. A few fits and starts not all so greatfor this month’s poor progress on the novel other than life intervening. In theory, I can finish this rewrite still by the end of June, but I suspect it will be July when it happens. Once that’s done, I end up diving into some heavy-duty research to make sure that I can fill in details and fix errors in the text

Story revision continues slowly.

The procrastination story is up for workshopping tomorrow which means I’ll be back on to the new story which I had optimistically thought was going to be done back in October.

Ceci n’est pas Graham Greene

I somewhat randomly found myself at the website for the Harry Ransom Center and remembering that they had some (most? all?) of Graham Greene’s archive there, I thought I’d see what they had and found this picture, labelled “Gabriel García Márquez and Graham Greene”:

Picture of Gabriel García Márquez and someone who is definitely NOT Graham Greene

My first thought was, whoa, is that a picture of Greene with a mustache? Then I said, wait a minute, that doesn’t look like Graham Greene at all. In the same search results, there’s another picture and this is Graham Greene:

Gabriel García Márquez and Graham Greene

I don’t know how the other guy got mis-identified, and I don’t know how to let the HRC people know that they have a mistake, but there it is.

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“Place de Stalingrad”: The story behind the story

In both Paris and Brussels, there are metro Image of the rotunde at Place de Stalingrad with a fountain in frontstops called “Stalingrad,” a fact I found fascinating, especially since the city of Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd in the wave of de-Stalinization under Nikita Krushchev. On my last visit to Paris, I decided I had to see what was at the stop with this name so one evening while my pregnant wife convalesced in our AirBnB I headed out to the 19ᵉ arrondissement to see for myself.

The immediate environs of the metro stop are not particularly interesting. It’s a nondescript neighborhood of shops and Hauptmann apartment blocks. But turn a corner and you find yourself at the actual plaza that gives the station its name. Situated at the southern end of the Bassin de la Villette, and far from the tourists who congregate in the lower-numbered arrondissements, it’s a place of tranquil beauty with movie theaters and restaurants facing the water.

With this place in mind, I started wondering what sort of story might come out of the place and thinking about the artists selling their wares out of stalls at the top of Montmartre, I came up with my characters and their mysterious and absent classmate. It took a fair amount of rewriting and reorganizing to get the story in the shape that it finally took, but I am pretty happy with the end result. You can read it here.

Feedback on drafts of the story came from Barbara Richstone, Gerald Winter, Robyn Ringler, Steven Thomas Howell, Travis Kiger, Maaza Mengiste, Monica Zarazua, Dan Portincaso, Davy McNell and Lori Barrett, 

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