“Saint Anthony in West Hollywood”: The Story Behind the Story

My newest story, “Saint Anthony in West Hollywood” is up now at The Rappahannock Review.

I began with a vague notion of a saint in the modern world, or perhaps someone who was delusional and just thought he was the saint, leaving the trStatue of Saint Anthony holding the Christ Childuth purposefully indeterminate. I had no idea which saint or where. Then little by little, things came to me. Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, and West Hollywood, which gave me some idea of the other protagonist of the story.

I have a bizarre fondness for second person, partly because my first published story was in second person, and partly because for this piece, it’s planned as part of a collection where the POV has a subtle coding to something about the story and “Saint Anthony in West Hollywood” fits into neither category. Just as well, I think that the second person fits it nicely.

There’s an interview with me (my first ever) accompanying the story.

Thanks to those with whom I’ve workshopped this story, Aaron Frankel, Paul Gee, Diane Gilette, Davy McNell, Laura Nelson, Gwen Tolios and Matt Zakosek. The first draft of this was begun at a writer’s retreat hosted by Sister Julia Walsh where, for the first time, I read in public an unpublished excerpt of my work, in this case, the opening scene of this story.

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Writerly resolutions: April status

I continue to make decent progress on the novel. graph of progress on the novel for april, steady progress with a big leap in the last week of the month till perfect on my goal of working on the novel every day. I’ve cracked the 85,000 word mark on the novel and chapter 26 is currently at 6,800 words and counting. I think my guess that it will hit 10,000 words is not too far off.

Thanks to looking at the footnotes on the Exodus 1947, I found Aviva Halamish’s The Exodus Affair, which was exactly the book I needed for research on chapter 26. 

I got to an end on the short story. at about 8,100 words so now it’s time to do a complete rewrite on what I have. I have a better idea of the aboutness of the piece so it should go a little faster and with luck I’ll have a version I can workshop in time for my next turn at writers’ group.

There will be a publication update soon. 


Dewey Decimal Project: 871 VIR The Eclogues of Virgil

And now I’m moving on from Spanish/Portuguese to Latin in the literature part of the Dewey Decimal System. (As an aside, it’s interesting to note the cultural biases implicit in Dewey. the 800s—literature—follow a similar structure to the 400s—language—with a decade each for German, French, Italian, Spanish/Portuguese, Latin and Greek with all other languages crammed into a single decade and only a single left of the decimal category to hold, for example, all the Indo-European and Celtic languages of Europe. That a whole decade is dedicated Cover of Eclogues of Virgil translated by David Ferry o Latin seems nearly indefensible in the context of modern culture.

But I’m an odd bird. As an undergraduate, I studied Latin and Greek (the latter not very successfully and the former arguably not so successfully either). I was once upon a time able to stumble through Cicero and Ovid in Latin and I’ve made some tentative efforts at reclaiming my Latin including as part of this project (I’m also slowly working through St Jerome’s translation of the Bible into Latin). 

I’ve managed to have not read Virgil other than a handful of excerpts here and there, and I have an unread copy of a translation of The Aeneid on my to-read shelves. The Eclogues are something that I’d read absolutely none of so I grabbed this off the shelf to read. 

I have to confess that laziness led me to largely ignore the Latin side of this bilingual edition. I did look occasionally at the Latin, but mostly I focused on reading the English side. It was a delightful excursion during the waning days of the pre-Covid era and while I have only a handful of vague memories from that reading, I do recall finding it an interesting read and I think that should I manage to beef up my Latin in what remains of my life, I may return to The Eclogues to read it in Latin without an English text to crib from.

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Dewey Decimal Project: 863 VAR A Writer’s Reality

After Eco, I decidedCover of Mario Vargas Llosa's A Writer's Reality that I would definitely give a similar book by Mario Vargas Llosa a shot. Vargas Llosa is probably the most important influence in the novel I’m working on right now and it’s always interesting to see what a writer has to say about their craft. This book is based on a series of lectures Vargas Llosa gave at Syracuse University. After speaking about other writers, most of what Vargas Llosa talked about was his own fiction, which he does with great insight and understanding.

I’ve only read one of Vargas Llosa’s novels—La Fiesta del Chivo—which he wrote after these lectures, but I found myself very much interested in reading his early fiction even more than I had been from reading the one novel that I had read.


As of today I’m as immune as I’m going to get to Covid. Now what?

So it’s now two weeks since my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine so I’m fully immune apparently. Not that it keeps me from feeling anxious at the grocery store when other customers crowd me or I have to watch people pull their mask down to inspect the salad (🤷🏻‍♂️). I could start attending mass in person, but I feel like the last twelve months have exposed a large fraction of my co-religionists as people who value outward signs of faith over actually taking care of other people so it doesn’t have a strong appeal to me since I’d almost certainly be surrounded by pharisees. I feel like the biggest damage of the last twelve months has been seeing how many people would rather worship Mammon than the God of life and wondering how I can rebuild a normal life in the face of that.

Dewey Decimal Project: 853 ECO Confessions of a Young Novelist

If I weren’t already a fan of Eco’s Cover of Confessions of a Young Novelistwriting, I would pick this up for the ironic title alone—Eco was 48 when he published his first novel The Name of the Rose, and 79 when he published this slender volume.

Eco playfully explores the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction and gives some insight into his own creative process without fully opening the kimono. Overall a delightful little book.


Dewey Decimal Project: 843 KRI Powers of horror : an essay on abjection

The 840s put me in French literature, Cover of Powers of HorrorI spotted Kristeva’s name on the spine and, having read Desire in Language during my MFA, I decided I’d read this. I’d forgotten that I hated Desire in Language, finding her writing incoherent and her uncritical acceptance of Freudian theory laughable. I also had read another Kristeva book along the way on this project, her biography of Hannah Arendt which I liked enough to have forgotten my distaste for her writing in Desire in Language

My feeling here was that it was more of what I disliked about Desire in Language and less what I liked about Hannah Arendt. I think the biggest issue is just that I’m too turned off by Freud and Lacan to be able to appreciate Kristeva.

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Writerly resolutions: March status

Another month has come Graph of progress on the novel in Marchand gone and I continue to make decent progress on the novel. I have yet to miss a day’s work so far this year. I’ve finished the rewrite and revision of chapter 25 and done a lot of writing on chapter 26. I’m pretty sure that this chapter is going to be the longest in the book, I’m guessing around 10,000 words. This month’s graph of the progress ends up looking a lot like a skinny apatosaurus. 

I’ve also gotten into a big pile of late research. I stumbled on Nelson Peery’s memoir, Black Fire, by a bit of serendipity and that’s led to a whole host of background research on African-American soldiers during World War II. 

Short story work? It progresses, but the story that I’d hoped to have ready to workshop back at the end of January is still not finished although I can see the end of the current draft looming. Right now it’s 7,766 words long and the current draft may hit 9,000 words but I think that this should be a story at most half that length. The rewrite process is going to be a lot of cutting. Meanwhile, I’ll need to dig something up to workshop next week.

Still no acceptances on the stuff that’s been sent out this year. I have gotten at least one tiered rejection from a journal that had previously only ever sent form rejections, so I feel confident that that piece in particular will see an acceptance before the end of this round of submissions.


Dewey Decimal Project: 832 BRE Saint Joan of the stockyards : a drama

After a couple rounds of writing about writing, I Cover of Saint Joan of the Stockyards by Bertolt Brechtdecided to go for some actual writing when I got to the 830s, “German and related literatures.” Spotting this book, I decided that a bit of Brecht would be  good refreshment.

It’s a bit of a “lost” play, one which never saw a theatrical production until after Brecht’s death (although it was presented as a radio drama in 1932). Here, Brecht took the story of Joan of Arc (a figure of some fascination to European writers in the 20s and 30s thanks to her canonization in 1920).

Here, Brecht takes Joan and puts her in a version of the Salvation Army in the midst of disputes between capital and labor in the Chicago stockyards of the 20s and 30s. While it falls into didacticism at times, it’s a great presentation, and I would love to see a production of this sometime.


Dewey Decimal Project: 820.93 GOL Sexual repression and victorian literature

After my disappointment reading Mamet, I decided to go in a direction that was bound not to disappoint because I would come at it with low expectations: An academic approach to some obscure corner of literary study. This is one of those books that I sometimes wonder how it got on the shelves and if they ever left the shelves before I picked it up. My rating on Goodreads is the only rating it has, although there are another eight mysterious figures who’ve added it to their books, some even marking it as “to-read” but none have it marked as “read” besides me. On Amazon, there are no reviews and only a generic cover image.

So I may be the only one to have read Mr Goldfarb’s work in recent memory. In it he makes an argument that the societal mores around sexuality didn’t prevent louche ideas from appearing in literary texts of the era. Of course, even so, things were still discreet and the discretion along with the academic writing make for a not that exciting read.