I’d never written a fan letter, but after finishing Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time-Being and enduring a series of events procuring the book that seemed straight of Ozekiland (a library adventure, a doppelgänger, a loss, a recovery), I wrote to Ozeki and asked if she would speak to me. I was completely unsurprised, and delighted, that she agreed.
I am a poet haunted by the right ways to wrangle with questions of identity, biculturalism, hybridity, Asian-ness, Americanness, femininity, feminism, mothers, aging. I’m haunted by questions of whether the airless unit of language can convert something as complex as a between-self. A poet drawn to long-form narrative but daunted by the technical rigors involved in media-swapping (time and plot, in particular). I had, then, stalked Ruth Ozeki since I’d first heard about her through alumnae of …MORE
Bill Morris’ new novel, Motor City Burning (Pegasus Books), begins on Opening Day at Tiger Stadium. It’s 1968, nearly a year since the race riots ravaged Detroit, and five days since the death of Martin Luther King Jr. This immediate submersion into baseball-and-hot-dog Americana and fraught historical context establish the duality of Morris’s novel: Motor City Burning is a summer whodunit, a crime novel complete with sexy broads and hard-drinking cops sparring in one-liners, but it’s also one grappling with a sense of civic responsibility.
At Opening Day is Willie Bledsoe, literary aspirant, Tuskegee drop-out, disillusioned veteran of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and now busboy at a “honky golf club in the suburbs.” He’s also the prime suspect for detective Frank Doyle, who should be canonized and represented in portraits on police station walls across America. He’s a gun-hating progressive …MORE
John W. Evans’s memoir Young Widower (University of Nebraska Press, $19.95) begins with the author imagining his place in a bookshop’s self-help aisle. Here he finds the cloying jargon, the “wistful elders look[ing] out plaintively from dust jackets,” but nothing that resonates with his experience: his wife, Katie, was mauled by a bear while the couple was hiking in the Carpathian Mountains. She was 30, Evans 29. Wandering the aisle, Evans says, “I tried to imagine the subsection where I would find some particular instruction after Katie’s death:
Personal Growth- Grief- Animal Attack- Bear- Coward
Personal Growth- Grief- Young Widower- Survivor- Hopelessness
Personal Growth- Grief- Youth- Widowed- Blank Slate- Free
Personal Growth- Grief- Violence-Witness- Failed Husband”
Or really, Young Widower begins with Evans becoming irate when the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica remains out of stock at Blockbuster. …MORE
Here’s a little taste of Richard Froude’s winning essay, “Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead.”
“The truth is I have not been sleeping well. My wife and I are expecting our first child in three month’s time. For the first fifteen weeks I was convinced that both she and the baby were going to die. Now I am only afraid. For many years my biggest fear was that I would find out something about myself that I could not change and could not stand, something that had always been obvious to others. I wrote myself a note on a scrap of yellow legal paper and taped it to the wall by the side of my bed. ‘Embrace What You Are Afraid Of,’ it said. This was when I lived in Los Angeles and missed Colorado a lot.
Before that, I was afraid of cancer, afraid enough that I …MORE