About Me

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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Grateful Dead Tapes by Ed Skoog

Even though we’ve already been dead,

when I find two trays of Grateful Dead tapes

in a Missoula secondhand store,

I too feel bound in the stasis of cassette,

plastic cases scarred and cracked

like old scuba goggles. Some retain

the delicate peg that lets the door swing open;

some have broken, maybe from a fall

when someone slid too fast the van door open

in a hot parking lot. Could be no tragedy

made the tapes secondhand greater

than a lost interest. Used to listen to them,

the owner might say, the way you adjust

to walking past a grave. I love him, or her,

who has curated these happenings, although

the Dead’s not really my bag. I follow

other melodies and injured visions, draw

my cider from another press, a cooler lava.

I saw them once, summer of ’95 at RFK,

with my friend Jax. It was terrible,

a lot of twentieth-century business came due

at once. Bob Dylan opened unintelligible

and sleepy as if reaching from the frost

to make known “in life I was Bob Dylan.”

The Dead would play five more stands:

Auburn Hills, Pittsburgh, Noblesville,

Maryland Heights, Chicago, then done,

those last shows, autobiographies of indulgence.

Lightning struck by a branch. We left early.

Tapers caught every note of the show.

You can hear it forever at archive.org.

In my greatest period of disorientation,

the Dead, like death, seemed best avoided.

Yet I was the sort who might admit

a simplifying affection like the Dead.

I remember, coming down in a cornfield

near a creek at dawn, talking it out with Jason

whether those trees were weird, or that

weirdness took the form of trees,

and every woman I pursued

had a pet cat that made me sneeze.

They either liked the Dead or Neil

Diamond. Yet I would persevere,

like one with a disorder, hanging

in the doorway to their petite kitchens

while they ground coffee, or searched

the crisper for a roommate’s hidden beer.

I longed to become more elaborate,

my approaches too simple and still are,

ask anyone about pleasure’s light opera

and the children’s music of the first kiss,

the hair metal of the second. And now

I play the Dead around the house.

It’s children’s music. We play operettas,

Pinafore, Penzance, for the same reasons,

because they are kind and almost meaningless.

I make few claims. What lasts is awkward

chance, like this thrift-store wrench

anthologized on pegboard, or smudges

on a yellow phone. I’m not buying

the tapes today. The price isn’t marked

and the clerk’s busy. I keep what marriage

and child need, a few books and held-back objects,

metal or paper, letters from old loves,

because letters are antique, and for

the limestone antiquity of those affections.

Via Biblioklept

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

The Book Club That Has Been Discussing The Same Book For Twenty Years

A group of people has been regularly meeting in the same Buenos Aires cafe for a book club. Two things make this notable: They have been doing it for almost 20 years, and they have only ever discussed the same book. As suggested by the title of a new documentary about the group, Le Temps Perdu, that book is Marcel Proust’s magnum opus In Search of Lost Time. Here's the trailer for the film:

Read More Here

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Fictional Knitters


A character may weave intricate narrative webs, sometimes suggesting warmth or safety, and other times disguising the places where heartbreak, deceit, and evil may lie. If you look for them, you’ll find them—somebody in the corner, knitting a hat or a scarf, quite possibly something containing the depths of their affections or, just as probable, the names of the people they wish dead.
—Zeynab Warsame

Read more: Believer Magazine

Wednesday, August 03, 2022


The Archivist walks out of the book
and into evening early. On his street, the houses
line up like good teeth. The Archivist’s neighbor
misses his wife. Thirty years ago, she quit
the house and the twilight swallowed her.
Still searching, the neighbor
opens the belly of the neighborhood cat.
The Archivist, mind fast
to his research, passes the plundered animal by.
Books clutter his seeing. The knife, a better eye.
The flowers are screaming
the old scream. The Archivist opens his mouth
to join them. The scream clarifies an elsewhere.
He saw the flowers there.
The tulips were red.

A poem by Claire Schwartz from Civil Service.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

'Love, Me'

NPR Morning Edition Poet-in-Residence Kwame Alexander invited readers to submit handwritten letters that he turned into a crowdsourced poem entitled Love, Me :

Dear Love,

Seeing you again today has got me thinking. We are at that stage in life where it's death — funerals, wakes, memorial services — that draws us together.

Should we wait for someone else to die to get together again? For some unknown reason the thought of you taking singing lessons in Bishkek crossed my mind this morning. I hope you are still singing, opening windows and laughing at our absurdities.

Every morning I open up to the back deck and look at the colorful array of life.

I dare you to wake up early before the sunrise, to step out of your home barefoot and naked. I dare you to walk through the grass and drift toward the trees and when you get there to raise your head high and plant your feet deep to look at the sky and marvel at its changing color

Mortality is looming large. I'm almost 80. You will be soon, a few weeks before me. Will we party? Maybe? Does this worry you? Getting older?

Today, I noticed a tiny grasshopper leap into the unknown, and suddenly my escape turned into a race to be home. To tell you about it. To hold your tiny, chubby hand and show you this tiny leaping soul, and revel in your delight. Your wonder.

But, you are gone, and everything I see, touch, smell, hear takes me back to the you I still love, the you that still lives in all I see.

When I boil my water to make a cup or two, I remember the coffee cup by the bathroom sink with lipstick on the rim and still half to drink.

I have your smile, too. I also have the lines around my face that have come from smiling. Like you, I earned them.

If I could choose heaven for you, I think you'd have a small farm by the side of the sea. I'd put the Blue Ridge Mountains by the Assateague Shore, and move green Irish islands a short walk from your door. There'd be gardens and rivers, an ocean and beach, and a busy French market within easy reach.

Dear Old Friend,

I read your name in today's newspaper.

Isn't it silly that eulogies are said after death? Why not before?

I miss you. I miss our youth.

Now our grandkids are that age, and I wake each morning hunting memory.

Dear treasured old friend, it's pushing midnight. Why am I writing a letter to you that I have no way to send, any more than you to receive?

I look for you every day. Sometimes I find you. I saw you in the hooded oriole staring at me from the plum tree, I felt you as my kitten purred and curled into my neck. My neighbor brought me beautiful roses today and I saw your face light up. You loved roses.

Dear Phyllis, I know you don't remember me. You don't remember much of anything: Your life, your family, yourself. My letters probably don't mean anything to you. But I remember you for both of us.

Dear Yoga Teacher, thank you for being ordinary. Thank you for having the same thickness around the middle.

Dear Nathan, my sweet son, please go to sleep. Mommy has to keep working and get up soon, before the moon switches with the sun.

Dear Grandma, we haven't spoken for a while now, and I suppose that's my fault. I haven't been in the best of moods, and I'll assume you know why. As you know I've always kept our letters, wedged underneath my box spring. They've slept soundly for as long as I can remember, so quiet and peaceful.

Dear Me, I know you are suffering.

Dear Darkness, I am tired. Of you.

Dear Lawmakers, you're hammering away at my daughter's rights.

Dear World

Dear World

Dear World

You won't be able to read this for another few years, and even then, it may not make much sense, But here is the message my dear: There is beauty in the worst of us, trees are your friends. But not geese – they will poop everywhere, and try to nest in your flower pots. Ignore my tangential goose warnings. Your destiny is determined by the life cards you choose to play. Always believe Gandalf.

If you should happen upon these words, know I have lived in many daydream moments with thoughts of you.

My solitude allows the time to hold reflect and care, arrange a memory in rhyme, to hold it close and fair.

Love, Me

As the author of more than 40 novels, Elmore Leonard’s work has influenced many American authors and readers. 'But Don't Try to Write' explores Leonard's career, body of work and writing process. Here's the trailer:


Saturday, July 30, 2022

The Search for the Funniest Crime Novel Ever Written

Illustration by Floc’h

I have always found the snappy patter in noir detective novels absolutely hilarious. Many, many years ago I had a t-shirt made with an image of Raymond Chandler private eye, Philip Marlowe, wearing a fedora and the quote "Not peculiar, just uninhibited" (from Farewell My Lovely) emblazoned on it. I wore that shirt until it was threadbare.

CrimeReads has compiled a list of the funniest crime novels ever written. I agree with some of these choices (i.e. Carl Hiassen). Patricia Highsmith? Nope, not so funny. But I might add the under-appreciated Canadian crime writer Sparkle Hayter to the list.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Quote of the Day

“Pessimistic in the way women become when they settled for what actually exists.”  - Mavis Gallant

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Great Women Painters

Phaidon's Great Women Painters, highlights more than 300 artists across 500 years and a vast array of movements and aesthetics. 

Ewa Juszkiewicz, “Untitled (after √Člisabeth Vig√©e Le Brun)” (2020), oil on canvas, 63 × 47 1/4 inches. Photo © Courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech, by Melissa Castro Duarte

Arranged alphabetically, the book pairs icons like Yayoi Kusama, Frida Kahlo, and Leonora Carrington with contemporary artists, including Ewa Juszkiewicz, Katharina Grosse, and Wangari Mathenge, in a broad and diverse overview of the women who have had profound impacts on the world today.

Great Women Painters is available for pre-order

Friday, July 22, 2022

Diane Arbus And Sylvia Plath

"Sylvia Plath is the Diane Arbus of poetry, the verbal equivalent of her visual art. Since Arbus and Plath had strikingly similar lives, it’s surprising that they never mentioned each other and that their biographers have not compared them.  They were self-destructive sexual adventurers, angry and rebellious, driven and ambitious.  Both suffered extreme depression, had nervous breakdowns and committed suicide.  But they used their mania to deepen their awareness and inspire their art, and created photographs and poetry to impose order on their chaotic lives.  They shared an ability to combine the ordinary with the grotesque and monstrous, and expressed anguished feelings with macabre humor.  Arbus was consciously and deliberately bohemian, Plath outwardly conventional yet inwardly raging.  Both explored the dark side of human existence and revealed their own torments." …
Read the rest: Salmagundi Magazine

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Best Books to Take You Through Newfoundland

Award winning Newfoundland author Michael Crummey shares book recommendations, local vocabulary and where to find a good pint. I'm looking forward to a trip to Newfoundland in September and will read some of his suggested books before I go. You don't have to be going to Newfoundland to read these (I've already read all of Lisa Moore's books and loved every one of them).

Related note: A few years ago, shortly before a visit to Newfoundland, I read Crummey's novel Sweetland about the Canadian government's controversial resettlement program that offered incentives to residents of isolated outports to move to larger centres. This led to the eradication of many small villages. The book inspired me to take the Rugged Beauty Boat Tour with Bruce Miller. It was very moving and was the highlight of my trip to Newfoundland. It provided context for Sweetland. If you're headed to The Rock you should give this a look:

Wednesday, July 20, 2022


Between 1941 and 1947, Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin,  put out a series of hardback books each “starring” a well-known, real-life film star involved in a completely made-up adventure.  Shirley Temple, Gene Tierney, Betty Grable, Jane Withers, Dorothy Lamour, Judy Garland, Gregory Peck, John Payne and Van Johnson were among the stars who had fictional adventures in these stories.

Read more 

"Legend,” a very short tale from Jorge Luis Borges

Translated by Andrew Hurley

Cain and Abel came upon each other after Abel’s death. They were walking through the desert, and they recognized each other from afar, since both men were very tall. The two brothers sat on the ground, made a fire, and ate. They sat silently, as weary people do when dusk begins to fall. In the sky, a star glimmered, though it had not yet been given a name. In the light of the fire, Cain saw that Abel’s forehead bore the mark of the stone, and he dropped the bread he was about to carry to his mouth and asked his brother to forgive him.

“Was it you that killed me, or did I kill you?” Abel answered. “I don’t re-member anymore; here we are, together, like before.”

“Now I know that you have truly forgiven me,” Cain said, “because forgetting is forgiving. I, too, will try to forget.”

“Yes,” said Abel slowly. “So long as remorse lasts, guilt lasts.”

Via Biblioklept