Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Sunday, January 28, 2007
How Baghdad has Changed--from NY Times Week in Review
Friday, January 26, 2007
Review of Hurricane Blues (poems about Katrina and Rita) by Ellen Steinbaum in The Boston Globe
"The Triumph of Mozart" an essay by by Jon Pott in Books and Culture: A Christian Review in the year of the 250th anniversay of Mozart's birth
New York Times obituary for Ryszard Kapuscinski, author of The Emperor
The drawing and selecting of New Yorker cartoons--from The Washington Post
National Book Critics' Circle Award Nominees
Monday, January 22, 2007
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Friday and Saturday this week, the University of South Carolina hosts the James Dickey Conference, which comes on the 10th anniversary of his death. The James Dickey Newsletter and Society provides a schedule of events. My presentation Saturday afternoon concern's Dickey's own interest in music, specifically guitar playing, and its manifestation in the poetry--especially in Buckdancer's Choice, his fourth volume, which won the 1966 National Book Award.
Dickey was never better than in that collection, though some of his subsequent poems, such as "Falling" and "The Eye-Beaters" are among his best. Most critics agree that the poems of his last two decades do not measure up to the stunning, innovative early work. There's an argument to be made that his interests turned more to fiction as he attempted to follow up the blockbuster success of Deliverance with the less successful Alnilam and To the White Sea.
Two biographies of Dickey published since his death haven't helped his reputation: his son Christopher's bittersweet memoir, Summer of Deliverance, and Henry Hart's massive James Dickey: The World as a Lie. The bulk of his huge library is now housed in The James Dickey Library and Seminar Room in the Thomas Cooper Library at USC.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Friday, January 05, 2007
After finishing Larson's book, I started in on All God's Dangers, a life story narrated by "Nate Shaw" (a pseudonym for Ned Cobb) transcribed by Theodore Rosengarten. Coincidentally, Cobb's life unfolds at the same time as the events in Thunderstruck. Cobb was born in 1885 and was interviewed in 1969. His powers of recall and the intensity of his narrative are amazing, especially for a man of 84. He grew up in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, not far from my hometown of Auburn. Although the locations in the book are fictionalized, I was able to identify many of the actual places by studying a map. He lived near the miniscule town with the actual name of Notasulga, only 20 miles or so from Auburn.
The third nonfiction book on my holiday reading list was Janisse Ray's Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, which I reread with pleasure in anticipation of Ray's visit to our campus later in the spring. I'll use this book as a text in my English Composition course. As with Larson's book, there are two story lines here. The first is an account of her life up through college, her upbringing in the town of Baxley, Georgia with parents who operated a car junkyard. The second is the awakening of her interest in nature, especially the charm of the longleaf pine forests that once dominated Georgia and the surrounding states but were decimated, overcut for lumber and turpentine. Her campaign is to save and expand these forests, which in turn means saving the entire ecosystem that they support.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Another recent death worth noting is that of James Brown, "The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business," who has a legitimate claim to his title as "Godfather of Soul." In recent years, his reputation has been marred by a string of arrests on firearms and domestic abuse charges. He was jailed for two and a half years as a result of a police chase between Georgia and South Carolina. Brown's BBC obituary.
Writing is a craft before it is an art; writing may appear magic, but it is our responsibility to take our students backstage to watch the pigeons being tucked up the magician's sleeve. The process of writing can be studied and understood. We can re-create most of what a student or professional writer does to produce effective writing. (AWTW, 2nd ed., p. 4)