SILENCE HAS A NAME - Poetry Chapbook and CD, with Music by Mark Hanley

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dream of Patagonia

A recent short story publication:

A Satirist's Vision of the World

Last summer I bypassed summer reading lists altogether. It seemed false to me. First of all, the whole idea that you only have time to read in the summer, as if the summer is this vast vacation landscape, the time when we are all rich and unemployed, rich with time at least, is very false, don't you think? On top of that, I was reading too many things I didn't want to share. I can be a stingy reader, not only as regards lending books, but as regards not discussing them. Most of the time, I prefer to digest their ideas alone. Consume their pleasures selfishly. Selfish to the bone.

So, now it is winter, and I am reading madly, thinking unselfishly of sharing some of my pleasures with my audience, because I am reading George Saunders, and he is a very unselfish man. He is not only unselfish, but terribly funny and brilliant, one of the best writers I have ever read, still alive.

He is a writer of short stories mainly and has such a wild way of thinking about things and such confidence throwing about his ideas that you feel you're with some kind of mad gymnast, who uses words in the most awesome fashion, so that he makes you think, right alongside with him, of things you normally don't ponder enough. He is not a gymnast the way John Updike was, so that you are in awe of the man's ability to flip vocabulary, but so you are in awe of his ideas and his original way of reaching both your heart and mind.

Saunders' two collections of short stories are: In Persuasion Nation and the recently published Tenth of December. His fiction is great. I saw him recently on Charlie Rose's TV show and noted that he is also a humble and kind man. Saunders is a writer who is also humble and kind. This was enough to set me straight on a course toward procuring his work. I have done little else but read it in the last three days.

Not surprisingly, as I am primarily a nonfiction writer myself, I have fallen in love with his essays, specifically The Braindead Megaphone, published in 2007. His writing puts me in such a state of alertness and hyper engagement that I am forced to read sections aloud. I paraded back and forth in the living room reading his essay on Dubai out loud, a hilarious and poignant examination of class and luxury, and those who have and those who have not. And I read aloud what is perhaps the most gorgeous essay on the love of writing that I have ever read, "Thank you Esther Forbes."

So, here I am sharing my winter list of one: George Saunders. Read him. You will feel brain and heart fed, alert and more intelligent after consuming his work. This I promise.

Monday, January 14, 2013


A few words on one of my favorite yearly parties, The Golden Globe Awards. I am one of those who enjoys watching beauty contests and award shows, mainly because I like seeing people happy. We know the winners won't be remembered for their success--even by most people who hear of their prizes-- for longer than a day, if that. We all know people and moments are expendable as air. But still, witnessing the joy is great, and the glam, gossip (and sometimes even speeches) divine.

This year was no exception, with its high points, and lows. The high points--Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and most especially, Amy's reference to "Hillary's husband." And the lovely couple, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, who would almost have you believe that you can have a happy marriage (with children along with success) in Hollywood; and Daniel Day Lewis's speech--surely, by all accounts, the most heartfelt and eloquent of the evening. The low points--the dissing of Spielberg's masterful film, Lincoln, save for Lewis's garnering best actor; and Jennifer Lawrence's snarky and totally unnecessary remark when she won: "I beat Meryl."

Jodi Foster's speech about privacy, fame and longevity in Hollywood rests somewhere in the middle. Last night, it left me, and probably a million other viewers, rather perplexed. What did she mean? Were we supposed to switch her off while understanding her "deeply"? Were we supposed to peer close, while pretending not to see or hear her? I wasn't sure what she was saying, except "it's lonely at the top"--Even with all her wealth, success, good health, great looks, mate of 20-plus years, two sons, and very good friends that she thanked last night. Very lonely. And yet, I couldn't muster the pity and compassion she wanted me to feel for her. Poor thing, receiving a lifetime achievement award. At 50.

But at the same time, I can say this is what I did like about Ms. Jodi Foster's moment: Her speech included the invisible folks up in the balcony, appreciation for the much maligned (rightly or wrongly is irrelevant) Mel Gibson, a story about her lesbianism, and reassertions of her defiant wish for privacy in a world where reality shows predominate. These declarations made me feel proud of her, in a way; made me feel she is valiant, sort of. Oh well, in the aftermath of Jodi's acceptance speech, I kind of respect and like her and wish her well.

Kudos to all. Thanks for the laughs, Amy and Tina, and Kristen and Will, who almost did steal the show.