Closing out Summer Read II [IBR2019]

I have to find a better descriptive phrase for this reading period between the end of Pushcart in May and the beginning of BASS in October. While it does take place over the summer, it starts in Spring (or at least has so far; the beginning depends on when I finish Pushcart) and ends in the fall. For that matter, seasons aren’t all that well-defined, since summer might mean June 21 to September 21, or it might mean however your school system defines it, or it might mean time between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

I started this interim reading period last year, when I finished Pushcart early, but it has its roots in the year before when I realized I was essentially reading two books a year and missing out on a lot. That was back when I was neck-deep in moocs, taking anywhere from three to six at a time. Moocs have redesigned me out of the picture, so I have more time to spend on free reading.

Interim reading period? Free reading time? Nah, I’ll stick with Summer Read. Feels more relaxed.

Back on May 6, I had a preliminary list of 31 books, divided into four categories, that would fill the months until October. I read 21, five of which weren’t on the original list. If that seems like a low count for five months, well, some of them took longer than others, my move in July threw me into a tizzy, blogging a book takes almost as long as reading it, and I did go through a few Yale OCWs in the same time period. And why am I making excuses anyway – this isn’t a competition.

The actual read list:

• Rebecca Newberger Goldstein: 36 Arguments for the Existence of God
• C. Michael Curtis, ed. : God Stories
• Youssef Ziedan: Azazeel
• Jo Walton, Lent (added)

• Finn Murphy: The Long Haul
• Nell Painter: Old in Art School
• Kwame Onwuachi: Notes from a Young Black Chef
• John Urschel and Louisa Thomas, Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football (added)

Filling in literary gaps:
• Sinclair Lewis: Main Street/Babbitt/It Can’t Happen Here (I read about half of each)
• Umberto Eco: Serendipities: Language and Lunacy (substituted for On Literature)
• Toni Morrison: The Bluest Eye
• Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
• George Lakoff and Mark Johnson: Metaphors We Live By (added)

Miscellaneous from my TBR lists:
• Ellen Litman: The Last Chicken In America (short story collection)
• Simon Winchester: The Professor and the Madman (nonfiction)
• Michel Lincoln: Upright Beasts (short story collection)
• Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: Friday Black (short story collection)
• Emily Wilson: The greatest Empire: A Life of Seneca (nonfiction)
• Mark Kurlansky: Salt: A World History (nonfiction)
• Tony Hoaglund: Twenty Poems that Could Save America (nonfiction)
• Robert Long Foreman, Among Other Things (added) (essay collection)
• Lesley Nneka Arimah: What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky (added) (short story collection)

I abandoned a couple of books I’d planned to read because I discovered I hated reading them. No, I’m not going to tell you which ones. They aren’t bad books; one wasn’t what I’d expected, and the other was just too much dense prose.

The outcome of all this: Something I remembered, and something that surprised me.

I remembered that nonfiction is my first love. This is why I keep saying I love a story or novel that teaches me something, and why beautiful, perfectly-written fiction can leave me shrugging while I find a free-for-all mesmerizing if I find something worth researching in it.

Which leads into the surprising aspect of this read: I found the religion category by far the most engaging. That’s because, rather than character development, I prefer books I have to read at my computer, so I can look up Hypatia and the conflicts in fifth-century Alexandria, or the Renaissance humanists and the theological directions abandoned in early Christianity, or details of Kabbalah and why Spinoza is considered the atheist’s theologian. I get a thrill when encountering something I learned in a mooc; maybe it’s just reassurance that I didn’t waste all those hours over all those years in all those weird classes.

And now it’s time to roll up my sleeves for BASS 2019. That doesn’t mean I won’t be reading anything else. Inspired by Salman Rushdie’s new book, I’m already getting started on Don Quixote, and following a Yale OCW to keep me motivated and on track. My Favorite Math Blogger (Humor Division), Ben Orlin, has his second book coming out in a few days; I was lucky enough to read a chapter early in its development, and I’m eager to see more of what he’s done interweaving calculus with art and literature. And then there’s plain old recreational reading: a book on the US territories (inspired by the Great Greenland Fiasco), a memoir by a woman who came here from Iran as a kid, before anyone knew where Iran was; a book of medical stories; a history book about the middle ages.

There’s always something to read.

This unscheduled interruption was brought to you by…

… the electroconductive properties of sodium in the body, a system so finely tuned that even a small depletion brings on a state of confusion in which the smallest problem seems like an insurmountable obstacle; the pneumococcus family of pathogens; and a special appearance by my right iliopsoas muscle who, feeling unappreciated and unrecognized, finally decided to get some attention after having guided every single step for over 60 years.

In other words, I’ve been sick. Even got myself admitted to the hospital for a couple of days. Nothing serious, but a confluence of events that kept snowballing until someone who knew what they were doing – and had some nice IV antibiotics in stock – took over.

I’m still recovering, various parts trying to remember what normal function is like. I still have a lot of follow-up appointments coming up this week (including one of those things that sounds incredibly scary yet nearly always turns out to be a lot of drama over nothing), so I probably won’t have a lot of energy to devote to blogging for a week or two.

I haven’t taken a scheduled break for a while now, so I guess an unscheduled one will do.


Time for a break

It’s time for another blogging break. I’ll be back in early October when BASS 2016 is released; Heidi Pitlor is already tweeting lines from each of the stories, so my mouth is already watering.

I thought about doing a few other things between now and then – a wonderful annotated edition of Flatland I read last Spring, an observation about hits going up as students returning to school discover, oh no, you mean I have to read a story? For some reason they’d rather read about a story. Happens every year, though it’s nowhere near as fun now that privacy filters have reduced the search terms section to a shadow of its former hilarity. And there’s always politics, but I doubt I have anything to say that isn’t said better elsewhere by those more qualified and informed than I am. Besides, I’m already a nervous wreck about this potentially disastrous election, and it’s only going to get worse.

I’ve got my hands full with a couple of monster moocs (math and bio), plus one I just love and want to spend plenty of time with (more Chinese philosophy) plus a few others, so taking the time off seems like the best option. Besides – how can anyone miss me if I don’t go away?

Be back soon…

I’ll be back…

I just realized I haven’t even thought about blogging for a week. My Pushcart is getting dusty…

No, I haven’t lost interest or given up, but I’m paying the price for the candy-store mentality I have when it comes to MOOCs. You know what I mean: “Ooh, that looks good, I think I’ll try it!” Do that six or eight times, and then someone else says, “Hey, did you see this?” and before you know it, you’re moocing 24/7.

I’m particularly overwhelmed with three highly intense courses, two of which should be clearing in three weeks, but then there are the three courses starting next week… so, UNCLE! I can do all the things I want to do, I just can’t do them all at once.

I will be back, probably in mid-March, and pick up where I left off.

Just how did I manage before the Internet Age?

I’m still disoriented from my technologically-enforced 48 hours without internet access.

Hard to believe how much I depend, day to day, on those clicks. Practical things, sure: my calendar reminds me of appointments and things-to-do I’d otherwise forget (not to mention the weather; you’d think I’d just look out the window, but the temperature in my apartment is not necessarily indicative of the temperature on the other side of the glass). My browser’s bookmarks bar is a kind of work schedule, a listing of projects and current MOOCs; I’m grateful this interrupt happened at a time between MOOCs, because if it’d happened when I was taking 8 at the same time, I would’ve been hysterical; a lost hour back then was a problem, two lost days would’ve been catastrophic.

But I could still prepare Pushcart posts for the coming week, and I could still work on my Euclid project, certainly, out of the Heath book. Right?

Um, it’s not that easy.

The Euclid project, I could understand; that’s 90% research, and while I do have a great paper source, the second of my primary sources is a website written for a more contemporary audience.

But I do a fair amount of research for my literary posts as well. Interviews with the authors; other reviews of the work in question; finding the work online or a reading on YouTube; collections containing the work, and publication dates. And then there’s the related material. I want to support facts with references – what was that article questioning the efficacy of Fair Trade practices? – and I want to get details right (nobody makes a turquoise cello, right? Oh wait, they do? Hmmm….). And of course, art. Images often play an important role as I formulate my thoughts. Sometimes I find an image that gives me a new insight entirely. That’s why these aren’t “reviews” – I don’t know how to do reviews – but explorations of where the work takes me.

And without the internet, the work doesn’t take me as far.

That’s an important realization. I start with the work, of course. But am I relying too much on other things? Right now I have an impulse to look up (because I can’t remember and I’m afraid I won’t get it exactly right; but I’m not going to check, so caveat emptor) just what school of literary criticism it is that insists, it’s not about the historical context or the author’s intent or the genre, it’s strictly about what’s on the page. How many times have I heard, “The story has to stand on its own,” that the origin or knowledge about the author or an event that inspired the story can’t enter into the evaluation of the work? Do I believe that?

Not for a second.

Reading is a cooperative act between author and reader. Non-fiction writers are of course advised to consider their audience: a technical crowd, progressives, Australians, teenagers? Fiction writers do the same thing: it’s called genre. You don’t send a science fiction story to a literary mag, or a minimalist piece riffing on Ginsberg (god I hope I spelled that right… e, u? … I’m not checking) to Highlights for Children (does that still exist? Do they even publish fiction? I’m not checking…). So if I want to incorporate the world into my reading, via the internet – if I want to find out what the author intended, or make the story more meaningful to me by better understanding the events it references – no one can tell me it’s cheating. It’s enhancement, sure (maybe, for example, I would’ve found a better example than Ginsberg or HfC). But I find out more about the work, about the world, and about myself, with everything I read. And if that isn’t the purpose of reading – what is?

All this started because of computer trouble. In two days, I learned about my dependence on modern technology; about a really nice cable guy who went above and beyond his assigned task of replacing my modem to help me discover my antiviral software was protecting me from the entire internet, putting into very concrete, practical terms the whole safety/freedom debate we’ve lived daily since 9/11. (and replaced my ethernet cable so it doesn’t jiggle loose every time I shift my computer); about one Symantec rep who crashed my machine by remote control (one of the scariest things I’ve ever done was giving control of my computer to a stranger… wow, I really do have trust issues: I’m insanely, absurdly trusting; but unless you’re a systems engineer, you’ve got to trust someone, sometime, and they’re already in my computer); about another Symantec rep who picked up the pieces (you have no idea what a mess I was…); and that I still, after all these years, have a very slow return to baseline (the sense of chaos remains long after the source of chaos has ended).

I process things – get them out of my head – by writing about them. So I’ve written about this, and now I’ve got to get back to work. Now that the world is, once again, just a click away.

I told you I’d be…

I know, I wasn’t all that gone. But I didn’t expect to be as gone as I was, for as long as I was.

I’m down to one MOOC, and that’s turned out to be the easiest math course ever devised; and when I say a math course is easy, you know it’s easy. Truth be told, I’ve been taking it easy for the last week-plus. It’s nice to be able to spend a day on something that may turn out to be a blind alley, without feeling like I need to be getting-something-done. It’s nice to read a book I know I’m not going to blog about. It’s nice to spend a couple of hours formatting images for posts. It’s especially nice to stretch out on the couch at night and watch something mindless on TV for an hour, without knowing I really should be working on a paper or finishing an assignment or reading or watching or or or. I’ve enjoyed goofing off.

I’ve been working on some Pushcart posts in the past couple of days; I’d forgotten the Word macros I use to format text for posting (let’s see, I don’t need ctl-p for pi, ctl-2 for exponents, or ctl-r for radical any more, but what was the code for the blocktext formatting again…); I’ll start posting later this week, and I hope to move through it pretty quickly for a couple of weeks, until my next calculus course starts in 18 days, a bible-history course in 21 days, an ancient mythology course in a month, music theory in two months, and in between there’s my Euclid project, my Whitman/Dickinson project, the books I stacked up “for later,” a half-dozen Vidpo ideas…

Like the man said, break’s over. Better get crackin’.

Be back soon…

I’m trying to keep up with too much coursework on the MOOCs I’m taking to pay proper attention to the Pushcart winners, so I’m going to put that project on hold for a few weeks until things settle down.

More Online Stuff to Add

Collaboration by Liu Bolin (“The Invisible Man”) and French artist JR

It’s time to add more new stuff to my pages.

On the Cool Sites for Writers and Readers page:

Grant Catton’s Blog – “Each week I review the short fiction from a recent issue of The New Yorker.” Another TNY blogger to add to my rounds.

And three more flashes for the Online Fiction Sampler page:

Sum” by David Eagleman: From Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlife. Audio reading by Stephen Fry (3 minutes); text available online at New York Times if you’re a subscriber, or if you haven’t already used up your 10 free articles this month (I tend to use up my 10 free articles by, oh, the 7th of the month). Eagleman is a neuroscientist; this is his first work of fiction. “In the afterlife you relive all your experiences, but this time with the events reshuffled into a new order: all the moments that share a quality are grouped together.” I discovered this on #StorySunday (which later moved to #shortstorysunday), July 21 thanks to Shirley Golden.

Stuck Landing” by Jill Summers, from Paper Darts, April 25, 2013. “Dad considered the use of seat belts to be an insult to his driving.” Juts a gymnast and her family. I discovered this on #StorySunday (which later moved to #shortstorysunday) July 21 thanks to Debbie Kinsey.

Missed Connection” (anonymous), reprinted at Gawker from Craigslist. “I saw you on the Manhattan-bound Brooklyn Q train.” As Gawker said in their headline, “Somebody went and wrote the ultimate Craigslist Missed Connection.”

Project Runway: Enough

My PR recaps started as a fun writing exercise. In Season 9 – three+ seasons, two All-Stars, and almost exactly two years ago – I was aggravated with the limitations moderated into the TWoP message board, so I thought I’d see if I could do whole recaps. I played with it as time went on: given a limited time, can I convey some information that goes beyond Project Runway (the amazing 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, a New Yorker cover capturing the art of fashion updates, unicorns, marriage equality), or even a theme for the season (art vs commerce, the use of narrative in “reality” tv)? It was, for a time, fun.

It’s not fun anymore. PR has become downright offensive to me.

I’ve been telling myself, it’s ok, I’m ridiculing them, exposing the artifice for what it is. But who am I kidding: there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and by posting links and such, I’m supporting, however obscurely, something I’ve come to despise.

The final turning point came last night when they aired Ken saying, “I need a gun.” Yep, when all else fails, trot out a Scary Black Man. They just put Howard University’s “Do I Look Suspicious? ” campaign out of business (addendum: this is not in any way to defend Ken’s obnoxious behavior). This follows the Week of the Scary Russian. Is the Republican National Committee a sponsor? To add insult to injury, in the preview there’s Tim “I Used to Be a Hero But Now Will Pimp Anything For Heidi” Gunn in a camouflage-patterned business suit talking about “glamping,” and I don’t even want to know what the gather-round tears are about.

I’ve had enough.

I love competitive reality TV (I even included a nod to the genre in my final paper for my Fiction of Relationship class) in spite of the artifice that’s part of the entire genre; I like comparing my impressions with that of the experts, and I frequently learn something. I’ve learned a lot – I knew nothing about fashion before PR – from the Bravo years (and I still learn from Top Chef). When done right, RTV can be an entertaining introduction to a new field: “Oh, that’s what godet/rubbing seconds/spherification means.”

I’ll admit I’m also fascinated, in a sick way, by what these shows have now become (planned dramas), and the underlying reason: reality is boring. People want story. And the mass market wants stories they already know: poor kid makes good. Pride goes before a fall. A hero, a villain. Find a way to cram in some yogurt or cars, pre-select a bland winner whose work fits some current marketing niche, and you’ve got Heidi too busy counting her money to care about what some obscure blogger says.

But even car wrecks lose their fascination if you watch them long enough, especially when the car wrecks are choreographed to provide maximum gore. Enough.

I’ll miss many aspects of recapping. I’ve become very fond of TBone from Blogging Project Runway, and of course my small band of regular commentors. I’ll miss the challenge of finding something to care about in an episode, a challenge that has grown every season. I may still dive into obscure topics like unicorns or the original Aunt Jemima or the wolf pack mentality when so inspired; penny-ante research is my recreation. And I’m not giving up reality TV entirely; I’ll see you for Top Chef New Orleans in October, and either Zin or I will be around for The Sing-Off later in the year. And of course I have a blast with literature: I smacked down Madame Bovary (the character, not the book, which is hilarious) and Zadie Smith in the same week, and once in a while I even stumble across a highly intelligent zombie novel for people who hate zombie novels.

But no more Project Runway recaps. I’ve had enough.

More Online Fiction…

“for the love of books” by Vipul Mather

…because you can never have enough.

I updated my Online Fiction Page only three months ago, but I recently started following #StorySunday on Twitter (which I’m also adding to my Cool Sites for Readers and Writers page as a Tool for Readers, even though it isn’t exactly a website), and have come across several stories in quick succession that I simply must share right now or I’ll burst. (except I just discovered it moved to #ShortStorySunday while I was doing something else)


The Woodcutter’s Wife” by Ben Black, from Smokelong – you’ll never think of Hansel and Gretel in the same way again.

Endnotes” by Gregory Norminton, from The Guardian, 01/29/08 – did I mention I love a story that doesn’t look like a story? This brilliant gem was part of #StorySunday of May 12, contributed by Rachael de Moravia.

Unspeakable Acts” by Philip Langeskov, from New Writing, 10/02/12 – commissioned by the BBC to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of W. G. Sebald, broadcast on “The Verb” on the 14th of October, 2011. Contributed to #StorySunday on June 2 by Anna Metcalfe

Short Stories:

An Index of How Our Family Was Killed” by Matt Bell, from Conjunctions, 3/4/09 (ok, so it took me a while to stumble across it) – I’m always a sucker for a story that doesn’t look like a story.

Male Seeking Female” by Claire Burgess, from Annalemma, 10/26/11 – fate, missed connections, and love, in a meditation on the nature of reality.

“In Hanneke’s Room” by Kate Brown, from Swansea Review, Spring 2013 – (sorry, this is no longer online) sometimes we get what we need in the strangest ways; contributed to the May 12 Story Sunday by Tania Hershman.

Other Forms:

For A.M., 1996- 2013” by Jason Novak, from The Rumpus, 03/15/13 – one of the most heart-breaking things I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot of heartbreaking things). Thirty seconds from wherever you are to a puddle of tears, guaranteed. Yet somehow it’s not maudlin, just honest.

Additions to Pages

Donna Downey's Inspiration Wednesday

Donna Downey’s Inspiration Wednesday

Inspired by my discovery of a new literary blog, I’ve decided to update our pages again. This was on the schedule for Sunday with Zin (since Zin is more creative about these posts) but something else came up – something we’re both very excited about – so I’ll just present the information, leaving Sunday for… well, you’ll see.

Two great flashes have been added to the Online Fiction Sampler page:

Your Hindenburg” by Gabrielle Hovendon, from Smokelong #39: a woman goes looking for destruction and finds more destruction than she ever dreamed was possible. The last sentence drifted over me for days, slowly sinking in.

Things I Wish You Heard” by Patricia McNair, from the Press 53 53-word Story contest, December 13 – 18, 2012.

Time for a break…

It’s that time again. Zin will be here tomorrow for Sunday with Zin, and I’ll be back next Wednesday and Thursday for recaps. Then I’ll pick up my regularly scheduled schedule.

See you on the other side.

Notes to Those who Erroneously Found Their Way Here via Peculiar Search Terms

To: does anyone put dishes in a lawyer bookcase (7/29/12)

First, let’s call them barrister bookcases, shall we, because “lawyer bookcase” has me seeing self-important guys in suits crammed behind the glass, threatening to sue me if I don’t let them out. Now: It never occurred to me to put dishes in my barrister bookcases, as my dishes are in cupboards and my barrister bookcases are full of books. But I’m always impressed by creativity. Perhaps people who put their dishes in their barrister bookcase put their books in the dishwasher?

To: can u fix god up 2 help karen carlson 2 come !,god (4/9/12)

Well, thank you, that’s very kind of you, but I really don’t need any help with that, and I would like to think God has better things to do.

To: the 8 weirdest things women have hidden in their vaginas (4/10/12)

Initially, I thought the prosthetic eye would take it. But no; once the rolled-up Donny Osmond poster entered the ring, the competition was over. And by the way, I clucked when this one took me to HuffPo (oh, come on, tell me you wouldn’t hunt down something like this), but not for long: the original source is a BBC3 program titled “Bizarre ER.” They are famous for keeping a stiff upper lip over there.

To: has grechian carlson cheated on husband ( 7/30/12)

This is something people worry about?

To: what does taco stailing hoe mean? (9/30/12)

At first I assumed this should be “taco sailing home” which brought images of little people in crispy corn tortilla shells headed across a salsa sea. But I’ve discovered through assiduous research it should actually be “taco stealing hoe,” and while I thought it odd that a garden implement would be interested in, much less capable of, stealing tacos, to my surprise, there is an Urban Dictionary entry for this moniker.

To: well apart from shoe jobs which happend as i got older, as long as i could remember i’ve always liked putting things into girls heels or boots without

Don’t finish that sentence. Please.

To: how to mell a stobs (6/23/12)

As near as I can tell, you simply whack it a few times. But you may wish to consult an expert.

To: frida kahlo monobrow propfourteen in one day?? (5/15/12)

So that’s why I got a spike of hits on a year-old post having nothing whatsoever to do with Frida Kahlo but nonetheless displaying the Frida Kahlo minibook from Etsy (it’s a long story) on that day. Was it a Frida Kahlo holiday? And darn, I missed it. Maybe next year.

To: “roukis sean thomas” or “roukis s thomas” or “roukis thomas” or “r s thomas”,surgery,workshop ( 7/22/12)

Are you a podiatrist stalker?

To: can i sue my private chef for unsafe food handling (10/8/12)

This is America, one can sue pretty much anyone for pretty much anything. The real question is, will such a lawsuit be successful. Perhaps you should consult the lawyer in your bookcase.

To: is tamas dobozy an asshole

Let me guess: you’re a student. When you’re a student, everyone’s an asshole.

To: free incest novells containing pedophelia,cheating, mother and son to read (11/12/12)

Respect writers by paying them fairly for their work, please.

To: why are they called chux pads (11/6/12)

I researched this pretty thoroughly (which explains why I’ve never accomplished anything in life), and have found no definitive answer. I did discover a highly interesting article outlining the perils of pioneering and the rewards of mass marketing, as Johnson & Johnson, makers of the original “Chux” brand of disposable diaper (possibly playing on the term “to chuck” for discard), failed miserably only to see P&G create Pampers ten years later and revolutionize the world of baby poop disposal. I also discovered there is a Kinky Medical Blog. This concerns me. If the FBI should confiscate my computer, what will they think?

To: im eight weeks pregnant and i have alot of bumpling in my side is this just gas i don’t fart or release it (11/28/12)

Please do, before you explode.


Still More Additions to Pages!

Little Free Library

Little Free Library

Hello I am Zin and here are more additions to our Pages! A lot of new stuff lately!

One is not new, but someone (ahem) forgot to add it a long time ago! So I will add it now!

New on Cool Sites for Readers and Writers:

Bookshelf Porn: “A photoblog created to allow people to indulge their love of books, libraries, bookstores and bookcases by showcasing the best bookshelf photos from around the world.” Hundreds of pictures culled from tumblrs, facebook, websites, all about books, bookshelves, libraries, with links to the original source!

Tin House has a blog with daily entries! They run the Plotto contest sometimes, but also they do Flash Friday (some of the Online Fiction Sampler comes from this), The Art of the Sentence, and other features! This is not really new but somehow it was overlooked so it is now on the list.

New Flash on the Online Fiction Sampler

Finding Spells” by Lavinia Spalding – Flash from the Tin House blog Flash Friday (see?), 12/7/12. A matter of looking.

Call Me Your Unbroken” by Chuck Augello – from Smokelong #38. Maybe a dream, maybe not.

Fear of Something Happening” by Nick Harmon – from Smokelong #38. Apocalypse not happening quick enough for you?

Your Gedanken Collection” by Kenton Yee – from Hobart, 12/6/12. What was Einstein thinking?

Benediction” by Sharon McGill – from Smokelong #35, March 2012. You work with what you have.

Sunday with Zin: More New Stuff for Readers and Writers

The Man of Letters or Pierrot's Alphabet (1794)

The Man of Letters or Pierrot’s Alphabet (1794)

New listings on the Cool Sites for Writers and Readers page:

Give a Hand to Wild Life

Brain Pickings: “A human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.” They review books, collections, and have interviews about literature, art, design, all sorts of things! All the art in this post comes from materials (books, magazines, collections, exhibits) they have featured just in the past month! It is curated by Maria Popova. I discovered this site when I did the List of Lists of Rules for Writers post!

Bloom: “A literary site devoted to highlighting, profiling, reviewing, and interviewing authors whose first major work was published when they were age 40 or older…. If someone is labeled a ‘late bloomer,’ the question Bloom poses is, ‘Late’ according to whom?” Sonya Chung, founding editor. Since we are old farts around here we like this!

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories

Summerbooks: a monthly literary podcast by Natalie Sypolt and Renee Nicholson. They did an episode about What the Zhang Boys Know! They are new this year!

Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading: “One story a week, each chosen by today’s best authors or editors.
Recommended Reading is released on a four week curation cycle: beginning with a story chosen by Electric Literature, followed by an excerpt from an indie press, then an author recommendation, and finally a selection from a magazine’s archive. Each issue includes an editor’s note written by that week’s partner, introducing you to the work and their mission.” Halimah Marcus and Benjamin Samuel, Editors; Andy Hunter, Publisher. It is free! And the stories are good!


And an announcement that is upsetting me:

Duotrope is going paid! I am very sad and kind of angry! Now, Duotrope is a very good service and I can imagine it takes time and effort to run and I do not blame the Duotropers for wanting to earn something for their trouble, and it is easily worth the fee, especially to new writers who need help figuring out where to look and those who submit a lot (we have contributed over the years, we even contributed after we stopped submitting work! Because we still used it occasionally to see what the stats for a market were like). The new fee will be $5 a month or $50 a year, and that is reasonable, but it will knock some people out of Duotrope, and that is sad! By the way if you have been using the submissions tracker you must export it before Jan.1 or you will lose access to it unless you pay the fee! We are debating whether to leave the listing with a note that it is now a paid service, or take it down since all the other links on the Cool Sites page are free! I suppose this was inevitable but I am sad this day is here!

Sunday with Zin: New Stuff!

"Begin" (detail), Susan Webster/Stuart Kestenbaum

“Begin” (detail), Susan Webster/Stuart Kestenbaum

Hello I am Zin and I get to do this installment of Additions to Pages! It is a little different from the older ones, but it is the season for changes and I thought it could use some perking up!

First, here are three flash fiction stories we have added to the Online Fiction Sampler page:

Revived by Eugenio Volpe: grief takes many forms. From Smokelong, 7/9/2012

Instructions for Growing Men by Margaret Patton Chapman: I am sad the (still anonymous) editors at killauthor have now stopped publishing new material, but I am glad they included this in their June 10, 2012 Issue 19!

Amy in Twenty Chapters by Nick Sansone: from Bartleby Snopes. Exactly what it says!

These last two stories were recommended by Seth Fischer in his Rumpus column Here Are Some Stories Seth Likes – another good reason to subscribe to The Rumpus!

And one new blog is added to the Cool Sites for Writers and Readers page:

Boston Writers Review: Our blogger-friend Stanley Dankoski does a great job showcasing the efforts and goings-on of Boston-area emerging writers.


A New Look – and some time off

If you’re a frequent visitor here, you may notice things look different. Very different. Allow me to explain.

I got a new computer.

This is a good thing. I bought my former computer in 2004, so I was due.

Thing is, everything looks different on a laptop. Sharper. Brighter. This is also a good thing. Most of the time.

But… where I once saw my blog as a slightly smoky mint green fading across the screen, all of a sudden I was assaulted by glaring white and that annoying shade of blue-purple known in catalogs of cheap polyester clothes as “periwinkle.”

I was deeply ashamed. This was the face I was showing to most of the world?

So while I set up my new computer (turns out the “free” WiFi offered by my landlord is a joke for a computer; seriously, it was worse than dial-up at least 75% of the time. And I know about dial-up; I just moved into the 20th century with a cable connection a year ago) and panicked because my printer, bought 2 years ago, claimed it didn’t know nothin’ ‘bout Windows 7 (easily fixed by the correct driver and a USB cable, but still), I also played around with different themes.

Nothing’s perfect, of course, but I’m a lot happier with this (“Piano Black”) than I was with the prior theme. I’ll probably do some additional tinkering with backgrounds and such, but this should do for a while. I did some housekeeping, like converting rarely-used categories to tags, and taking the Pages off the sidebar, since they’re now displayed across the top of the screen. I’ve still neglected the Quotes and Random Miscellany pages, but I can’t bear to delete them quite yet.

I’ve also moved the fiction Zin and I have published to the Online Fiction Sampler page, as we’re both coming to terms with the fact that we’re just not fiction writers. Not good ones, anyway. I’m toying with the idea of including some of our orphan stories, mostly Zin’s, if I can figure out a way to do so unobtrusively. Get them off the hard drive and let them go outside a little bit, albeit in a safely fenced-in yard where they won’t create any trouble.

I’m still getting used to a new keyboard; it’s playing havoc with my typing, especially note-taking for tv recaps, and it’s slowing me down considerably. I’ve always been a fast typist, but the combination of tendonitis in my thumbs (not related to computer use) and numbness in my hands (ditto) and now a change in keyboard feel has me discombobulated. I may have to bite the bullet and get a supplementary keyboard. By the time I finish plugging stuff in to the laptop, it’s going to be a desktop. The touchpad isn’t as bad as I remember from when I occasionally used my boss’s laptop back in the old days; either they’ve improved, or I have. And I love the 2010 version of Word; I was using a bootleg 2000 disc.

Mostly I’m recording this for purposes of retrospection at some future point. I’m not someone who enjoys change; I need to remind myself that I regularly do deal reasonably successfully with change. So right now I’m still somewhere between upset and nervous. But I’ll get over it. I always do. I just have to remember that.

I do need a break. I’ve exhausted my backlog and haven’t done all that much reading or notating over the past week, so I need to catch up. Zin will be here tomorrow, and I’ll do TC and PR next week, and the following week I’ll be back with more literary posts.

Additions to Pages

Time to update the pages again.

New on Cool Sites for Writers and Readers:, edited by Lauren Roberts. This monthly all-things-book emag includes a variety of departments. Some of my favorite recent columns:

The Personality of Books by Gilian Polack: more about fonts (and you know how much I love fonts);
Found in Translation? by Lev Raphael: one author’s experience of translation;
Bedtime Stories: The Little Books of Cesar Aira by Nicki Leone: a reader’s experience
The More Things Change by Katherine Hauswirth: reconsidering Jane Austen’s Emma;
Papyrus Trail by my long-time Zoetrope Virtual Studios buddy Elizabeth Creith: a humorous look at how it might have been.

Sign up for their monthly email newsletter to receive notices of new issues.

For some reason I’ve never included The Rumpus on this page, which is strange since I live for Dan Weiss’s Morning Coffee. But Sugar’s hit the big time, and I’m correcting my oversight now.

I’ve also decided to add The New Yorker Page-Turner blog (which used to be either Book Bench or This Week In Books, I never really understood it) because, even though I hate the name, I finally subscribed to it and it’s worth it.

New on Online Fiction etc. To Read and Love:

Updating this page was more problematic – in a pleasant way. I decided a long time ago that I would only list an author once; otherwise it would turn into a catalog of individual writers, rather than a sampler. My problem? I have two wonderful stories by Jonathan Safran Foer (discovered through Paul Debrasky’s terrific blog I Just Read About That). And I have six – SIX – stories to choose from by Paul Griner, whose “Open Season” captivated me a few months ago.

So, decisions decisions: I will list them all here, and only include two on the permanent page. It’s quite possible I’ll swap them around at some point.

Neither of the Foer pieces are traditional narratives, but they both are wonderful:

A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease: This is the one that will go on the page. Because it requires unusual typographic characters that apparently didn’t make it through various online versions and archiving, letters were substituted for snowflakes, silences, and a few other things. I recommend also checking it out in its Googlebooks form of the story in Best American Non-Required Reading which shows the intended typography. Either way, it’s a magnificent story with broad reach.
About the Typefaces Not Used in This Edition appeared in the UK Guardian in 2002, right after he won their First Book Award for Everything is Illuminated.

The Paul Griner stories range from very short flashes to full-length short stories; in roughly that order:

I Place Myself Unreservedly At Your Service from Dogzplot, September 2010. I think this observation of how we really regard illegal immigration will go on the page.
The Hand I Clasp Is Made of Dreams – elimae October 2010.
Sixty Three Heads – Pindeldyboz, July 6, 2008
Balloon Rides, Ten Dollars – Juked, July 2008.
Newbie Was Here – Fall 2009 Narrative (login is required, but registration is free and painless. And worth it).
Northwood – Zoetrope All-Story, Summer1999.

And I’m adding a flash from the April 30, 2012 Smokelong as well:

Dedication by Stephen Graham Jones.

Something for everyone in that list – enjoy!

Sunday with Zin: Fun With Search Terms!

Hello, I am Zin, and it is Sunday again!

One of the fun things about a blog is looking at the stats page! And the best part is seeing the kinds of search terms that lead to your blog!

Just recently I have noticed a term that keeps coming up:

lets get down to business karen

This points people to A Just Recompense because of the name of the blog owner plus the title of a recent Project Runway episode, “Let’s Get Down To Business” which is fine except I think they are looking for the porn video of that title starring Karen (presumably a different Karen… yes, I am pretty sure about that). I would imagine they are very disappointed to end up here!

We still get a lot of search terms from students looking for answers, like:

Is the ascent by ron rash third person limited omniscient

Now, it seems to me if you know enough to ask the question (and spell it properly) you can figure it out for yourself! But maybe you have not read the story! Unfortunately, neither of us typically mention pov unless it is important or distinctive in some way, and the post for that particular story was done before we started using quotes from the work to open a post! Which means the post here would not answer the question at all! But I feel that anyone who can ask the question that well deserves an answer, so I will say: yes, it is!

Sometimes English students travel here in pairs:

the good samaritan by thomas mcguane give me the setting,characters,summary and moral lesson

(and, the next day,)

thomas mcguane on “the good samaritan” give me the moral lesson

Notice the first googler is greedier!

Sometimes search terms make clear the ways in which the world has changed:

when you were going to lagos you meet a man with 7 wives each wife had seven bags each bag had seven cats each cat had seven kittens how many were

When I was a kid (oh, nails on a blackboard, that phrase!) it was “As I was going to St. Ives” but that is ok, it still teaches exponents, and I actually could probably find Lagos on a map before I could find St. Ives. But St. Ives does make pretty good inexpensive hand cream.

Other strange search terms:

bra “she needs a padded bra”

define “draw dirty pictures on walls”

smelly cheese bizarre bondage

what is the name of the triangle where it is like carving your initials into a tree

one tiger, eight breasts

jennifer cycling in wicked weasel

Sometimes there are terms I would think are strange, except I actually know what they are looking for:

bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce dartmouth aires (This was from The Sing-Off, the Christmas episode when Dartmouth Aires did “Ignition (Remix)”).

carlson karen cats teasing scale (CATS is the Child-Adolescent Teasing Scale developed by, among others, psychologist Karen Carlson, not the owner of this blog!)

alicia is sorry that no one else but her is able to wake up with the tortilla star and make the lunchbox tortilla (This is from The House on Mango Street study guide)

translate “those darn etruscans” to french (anyone who has watched Jeopardy knows the category “Those Darn Etruscans” shows up every once in a while! But I do not know why they want to translate it to French, probably someone creating a Jeopardy board for French class?)

And my Search Term Of The Quarter award goes to:

phone number of mixed up runny dumbass trinidad and tobago

I have a terrible feeling this is something obscene, but it is also very funny!

Keep searching! I love these things!

Additions to “Cool Sites for Writers and Readers” page

I’m adding four new entries to the Cool Sites for Writers and Readers page:

Goodreads: Book reviews by individual readers. Zin just recently started taking Goodreads seriously (an account was set up a while ago but pretty much ignored until last month). All of Zin’s reviews point to blog entries here, which is backwards to the way they want you to do it, but that’s Zin for ya. This may be a phase, but it’s a site that should be on the page.

If you’re not subscribing to The Millions online feed, oh, you should be. Not just for standard literati fare such as:
essays (The Slacker in Modern Fiction: The Flâneur Goes to the Mall by Elizabeth Minkel);
interviews (Lethal Language: Ben Marcus Urges Writers to March on the Enemy by Adam Boretz);
reviews (Speaking of Anne Frank…, of Nathan Englander’s new story collection, by Yevgeniya Traps);
etc. (The Beautiful Afterlife of Dead Books by Kyo Maclear and Innocent and Abroad: Mark Twain and the Art of Travel Writing by Nathan Deuel);

but they also come up with some of the wackiest fun stuff around. Which is why I’m also adding, as amusing diversions (because we all need another time sink):

Least Helpful: Daily Dispatches from the Internet’s Worst Reviewers. Use caution when reading this website while drinking any beverages; you will need a new keyboard. Most of the reviews are from Goodreads or Amazon. For example:
The Invisible Man: “I kept wondering when he’d become invisible. disappointing.” (sic)
Veggie Tales: The site sums up one rambling review complaining about perceived Christian and “pro-meat” viewpoints (the Veggies, it seems, eat meat) as: “Rated PG-13 (for unrealistic dietary choices of talking religious vegetables)”
Audio Jammer (product review): “This tiny thing does the job… I know my neighbors had had a listening device the past year because the couple no longer talk, watch t.v. or play their music, it as if they have dedicated their life into mines….” (sic)
Please, let me never show up on this site.


Witless Innuendo: a tumblr of “those end-of-review warnings from The New York Times’ film critics.” I never before noticed how recognizable these are. Such as:
“Murder, torture, naked women – the usual” (for 88 Minutes)
“Much Martian blood (blue and otherwise) is spilled” (for John Carter).

More later.