This month Texas Monthly published an interview with retiring Texas criminal court judge Cathy Cochran, and in it she discusses the top judiciary reforms of the last twenty years. These include the increased use of DNA evidence, compensation for the wrongfully incarcerated, and policies to curtail false eyewitness identifications. All of these are surprisingly progressive reforms … Continue reading The importance of writing a court opinion well
On this day in 1885, writer Sinclair Lewis was born. Author of Main Street (1920), Babbitt (1922), and Elmer Gantry (1927), Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1930). So to celebrate his 130th birthday, I'm sharing his writing advice from when he taught briefly at the University of Wisconsin (1940) and University of Minnesota (1942). ...
David Sedaris (web | wiki) is a comedian and essayist known for his numerous memoirs including Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000) and When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2008). His latest book is Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (2013). Even if you don’t know him by name, I can guarantee you’ve heard him on National Public Radio and This American Life.
I first read Sedaris’ work years ago when, traveling through Denver, I bought When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Passing through for a wedding and not feeling particularly social, I’d escape to my hotel room or an abandoned broom closet to read. Family hunted me down, telling me to put it away, but this only led me to smuggle the book around as illegal contraband. I’d hold it beneath tables and spend more time in the bathroom than was necessary.
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I'm happy to announce that my review of Joseph A. Amato's Buoyancies: A Ballast Master's Log (Crossings & Spoon River Poetry Press, 2014) appears in the latest print edition of The Rain Taxi Review of Books. Don't worry: My article's short. (Plus, if you get bored of my writing, you can literally turn the page and read an interview with Beat poet Diane di Prima).
Recently I bought a copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker (Penguin Books, 1973) and am now reveling in her genius and wit. For those unfamiliar with Parker (1893-1967), she was a writer and columnist whose book reviews frequently appeared in The New Yorker (1927-1933) and Esquire (1957-1962). In the few reviews I've written, I often feel compelled to be … Continue reading On women “mother-naked before long mirrors”: Dorothy Parker’s list of literary cliches to avoid
By now, I'm sure your Facebook feed has been overrun with videos of friends and people-you forgot-were-friends participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. According to their own estimates, as of September 8, 2014, the ALS Association's raised over $111 million dollars, which is more than four times their annual budget. That's pretty awesome and it's going to do a lot of good. Much like a straight-to-DVD film with a title practically indistinguishable from a summer blockbuster, though, (I'm looking at you Transmorphers), the ALSA's success has not escaped imitation. It's unlikely you'll see your school president participating in any of the following, but they're worth suggesting. Here are the other charity challenges that didn't quite catch on.
For the last several months I’ve been writing a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in rural Minnesota, running west to the Kerouac School, and back south to Houston. In particular, there’s a focus on the personalities who’ve crossed my path, but it’s also a meditation on the hometown. To quote the poet Bill Holm, it’s true that “We travel to get a better look at home,” but what I see from afar is the woman-witch illusion. The pictures flip back-and-forth, and though I’m grateful for much it’s hard going home – because what am I going back to?