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Knit-Blogging: Not Much, Actually

22 Jun

Not much knitting has been happening lately, but I did finish one project this spring: a rainbow mohair scarf.


Book Recommendation: The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker

24 May

The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker - on GoodReads“Perforation! Shout it out! The deliberate punctuated weakening of paper and cardboard so that it will tear along an intended path, leaving a row of fine-haired pills or tuftlets on each new edge! It is a staggering conception, showing an age-transforming feel for the unique properties of pulped wood fiber.” – Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine

This book is not about a man on a lunch break. It’s not about an escalator. It’s not about corporate restroom behavior or group get well cards. It’s not about paper towels, milk carton technology, or even the degradation patterns of shoelaces.  Through what some might call these plot-less pages, we come to see our world differently, and this, I believe, is what The Mezzanine is about. It calls us to see our world, as Proust famously said, with “new eyes.”

When I first read Proust, I started noticing the swirls milk made in tea and the specific memories that the smell of chemical-grape elicited. Baker’s writing has a similar effect on me. The thin volume (only 135 pages) moves slowly — not just because of footnotes but because we come to see in detail. Baker tunnels us into rabbit holes of consciousness, as our narrator looks closely at his world and examines his own “thought periodicity” (126). After reading Baker for a while, it feels like my mind, like a whiteboard, might not only be erased but cleaned with that special whiteboard solvent that takes away the ghost of all the writings that, until now, could never be fully eradicated. Afterward, my mind is left in the moment, noticing what’s right here — seeing how weird and amazing it all is.

Do you review fiction?

16 May

Seedpod Publishing

Seedpod is offering spots for FOUR reviewers to become part of our publishing collective. The first task? Review our top-secret Spring ’11 title. It’s finished and awaiting you.  Details on the home page:

Like the idea of a publishing collective? Hang out with us on Facebook — and, if you’re inclined, hit the  “like” button while you’re there.

Random Monthly Book News: April Edition

21 Apr

This month, as I fundraise for access to education, I’ve been thinking about access to books and information, and I have a few stories to share:

Libraries speak out on providing access to books.

Speaking of access to information, is web access a human right?

In thinking of access to ebooks, readers speak out against DRM.

Mediabistro shares information on libraries shaken by Japan’s earthquake — along with what writers in Japan are doing to help with the recovery.

And just for fun…

A 200-year-old love letter is found hidden in what must be a very old chair.

Discover the fine art of banana sculpture!

Interrupting our regularly scheduled blogging

14 Apr

I don’t regularly write about my teaching on this blog, but I do teach writing — and I also direct a program that gives free college courses to students who might not otherwise have access to higher education — folks living on low incomes.

Five years ago, I walked into the Bridge Program classroom for the first time — and I haven’t looked at education, access to knowledge, or even the idea of community in the same way since. Students have told me that Bridge is transformative, amazing. It’s like a family, an anchor, a bridge to a different life. From my perspective as an instructor and as someone working behind the scenes, the experience of Bridge is also, somehow, ineffable.

It’s difficult to describe just how revolutionary access to education can be for students. Some Bridge students are homeless. Some are veterans. Some are immigrants. Many are parents. All are fiercely committed to the hard work of reading, writing, and questioning. After Bridge, our students have gone on to complete degrees, start businesses, and become community leaders. In short, Bridge students are changing the world.

I’m telling you this because we’re doing our annual fundraiser for the Bridge Program this week. If you’d like to support the program with a small donation or encouraging word, please visit my fundraising page or become a friend of Bridge on Facebook.

Car-Free Sights: Watching the Cars Go By

29 Mar

Writing Through Life: Genius

24 Mar

Many people (writers and non-writers alike) believe writers are born not made, that only those with innate and uncommon talent — the geniuses —  have the right to become writers. Sadly, this has kept many would-be writers from putting pen to page or fingers to keyboard. I can’t count the number of students who tell me they’re not creative enough or smart enough to write their stories and thoughts. (Often, these are students that our educational system has failed –those who have learned that their voices don’t matter.) It kills me to hear students say this — so, to encourage new writers, I often recommend this video, a TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert. In it, Gilbert unpacks the strange idea of creative genius that many of us have come to believe — and proposes what I think might be a better alternative.