Bush forced to listen to everything you ever dreamed of saying to him, only you wouldn't have been so clever or funny or brave
You can register up through the morning of the race. Proceeds benefit Extend the Dream Foundation (Uptown Bill's).
Did I mention T-shirts and free food?
Oil can be bought from OPEC only if you have dollars. Non-oil producing countries, such as most underdeveloped countries and Japan, first have to sell their goods to earn dollars with which they can purchase oil. If they cannot earn enough dollars, then they have to borrow dollars from the WB/IMF, which have to be paid back, with interest, in dollars. This creates a great demand for dollars outside the U.S. In contrast, the U.S. only has to print dollar bills in exchange for goods. Even for its own oil imports, the U.S. can print dollar bills without exporting or selling its goods. For instance, in 2003 the current U.S. account deficit and external debt has been running at more than $500 billion. Put in simple terms, the U.S. will receive $500 billion more in goods and services from other countries than it will provide them. The imported goods are paid by printing dollar bills, i.e., "fiat" dollars.
"A New Lifestyle"
People in this town drink too much
coffee. They're jumpy all the time. You
see them drinking out of their big plastic
mugs while they're driving. They cut in
front of you, they steal your parking places.
Teenagers in the cemeteries knocking over
tombstones are slurping cafe au lait.
Recycling men hanging onto their trucks are
sipping espresso. Dogcatchers running down
the street with their nets are savoring
their cups of mocha java. The holdup man
entering a convenience store first pours
himself a nice warm cup of coffee. Down
the funeral parlor driveway a boy on a
skateboard is spilling his. They're so
serious about their coffee, it's all they
can think about, nothing else matters.
Everyone's wide awake but looks incredibly
-from Memoir of the Hawk (2001)
SUBMIT to the FIRST ANNUAL VERB FICTION CONTEST!
Any unpublished story (up to 5,000 words) is eligible
Winner will receive $1000.00 and publication* in VERB!!
All finalists will be considered for publication.
Submissions must be postmarked on or before July 1.
Manuscripts will not be returned.
Winners will be announced in October, 2006.
For each entry, submit the following:
- A check for $15, made payable to VERB.
- Two cover sheets. The first should include only the title of your story.
- The second should include the title of the work, your name, phone number, mailing address, and email.
- A self-addressed stamped envelope.
VERB FICTION CONTEST
PO Box 2684
Decatur, GA 30031
*VERB is the first AUDIOQUARTERLY, which means that you'll be recording your story for distribution through AUDIBLE.com, and to subscribers on a CD. If you would prefer, an actor may record in your stead. Past contributors include Robert Olen Butler, Stuart Dybek, Peter Case, Julianna Baggott, Ha Jin, and many others...
Bob Hillman (not really ever called Mr. SER but I would like the honor of being forgiven for doing so here, once) is playing tonight at George's after the Saunders reading. His site has a lot of info about him and his new album If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home. Bring extra money to George's tonight because when you hear him you'll want to buy the disc, which includes a song called "The Red Light District of Iowa City."
Frequent commenter Trevor Jackson's blog Creekside Review is a treasure trove of information on new bands and offers loads of mp3 files for download (see especially Special Features on the left-hand side). I hold him directly responsible for my need to finally buy an iPod, and for helping keep it filled with phenomenal new music.
Midwestern Deadbeat is chronicling the trials and tribulations of Squig & parents; Iowadrift relates the adventures of Rabbit, Urplet, and TTD from Mom's POV; Illiterati is a slice of TLB's life as a recently published novelist. All 2003/04 classmates.
David Byrne's Journal is fun to read, especially if you pretend it's being spoken by his voice as you do so. He updates it once a week or so, describing his thoughts on things like Mayan vacations, Bush's leadership, and a Neko Case concert where he lost his lens cap.
Rigorous Intuition is the place to go when you want to wonder at Jeff Wells's courage and ability to connect, think outside the box, and ponder High Weirdness and Deep Politics -- without quite ever going over the edge.
Seed Magazine provides some of the hippest science on the Web.
Reason Magazine somehow does the impossible. It analyzes political issues from a nonpartisan perspective.
Slashdot has been around forever and remains an amazing site about everything, written by semi-genius geeks.
Something Awful is something pretty funny. Neglect not its forums.
In the next decade, most electronic devices will become connected to the World Wide Web by high-bandwidth fiber optics. When you are on the move, computers built into your clothing will be able to link with navigational satellite systems to tell you your precise location and enable you to download information on local services.I can't begin to express how disturbing such a future sounds to me (mostly because it took so long to type I have to go to the gym now), nor how chilling the tone of such alarming predictions has become. It makes me want to buy acreage in Montana or Greece and raise goats and vegetables.
Invisible sensors embedded in public space, from parking ramps to art galleries, will recognize and respond to your presence. These areas, called "intelligent environments," will be able to provide information according to your needs and preferences, such as showing the way to a parking space or directing you to an artwork that particularly interests you. The technology may also be used to sell products: as you pass by a digital billboard, the display might change automatically to show items tailored to your own lifestyle.
Sensors will play a central role in the development of "affective computing." This technology will enable computers to gauge your moods and respond to them. Cars will be able to detect when you are stressed or angry and slow down automatically to reduce the risk of accidents. Chairs will know when you are bored, tired, or frustrated and shift their position to make you feel more relaxed or alert. Phones will be able to register whether you are happy or sad while you are speaking and create emotions or color feedback patters to communicate this to the person on the other end of the line.
Computer technologies will bring new benefits, and past obstacles will disappear. For example, instant translation technology will allow you to speak English into your cell phone and be heard in Japanese by the person you are calling in Tokyo. On the other hand, with our cell phones and computers constantly communicating with one another, satellites surveying our positions from space, and sensors monitoring us on the ground, privacy may become impossible. Some people fear that this problem outweighs the benefits that better communications will bring. But the information age is here to stay, and it will continue to make the world feel like a smaller place, and to be one in which everyone takes part in the free exchange of ideas and information.
Iowa City was struck last night by a bad, bad storm. Tracy and I had broken our New Rule and gone out for a beer during the week to celebrate her completion of a big work milestone. So we were at George's when Severe Thunderstorm Warnings came on TV, and we went outside to check things out along with other patrons. The rain began coming down in sheets filled with hail the size of marbles.
Then a Tornado Warning was issued, and by God if we didn't see, looking southwest from George's doorway, an enormous pale grey funnel cloud plowing right through downtown and advancing northeast, with flying debris clearly visible spinning around it. (What killed me were other people standing around looking at the thing and saying it wasn't a tornado! "It's some kind of weird cloud." And that Press-Citizen story also for some reason refrains from calling a spade a spade.) The friggin' tornado seemed to be coming right for us. Jenny the bartender stuck her head out, took one look at the thing, and ordered us all into the basement.
Where she offered free drinks from cases of beer stacked around. Within ten minutes, all seemed clear, and we all climbed once again to the surface, blinking in wonder at our new, quiet Oz of a town. We biked home, where we discovered that the power was out and there was a lot of debris in our yard, including an 8-foot piece of someone else's roof. Our street was blocked off due to fallen trees and powerlines coiled all over the place, and traffic was backed up for a couple blocks. bR called to see if we were okay and said they were fine.
Later, TLB and Brando stopped by with stories of their own that they might talk about in a comment or on their own blogs. We all tramped off then to look at their street, which was a disaster zone. On the way, some guys offered us beers and a chance to see the damage to their place. Their porch was battered, a board had pierced their kitchen wall from the outside, and one guy led us out the back door to consider his truck, smashed nearly flat by a huge tree.
I plan to post some pictures later. Classes canceled today, library closed. Much of downtown still without power.
For those of you not from Texas, practically everything at the University of Texas is named after Jamail (who, according to most accounts, was a C student). He made his name with the Texaco v. Pennzoil case, where he won an $11 billion dollar judgment by basically making fun of New York.
From an online book review: “The flamboyant Jamail (who collected a $400 million fee for his work, of which $50 million reportedly has been given to charities) was known previously, the author tells us, for such feats as convincing a jury that the City of Houston was negligent for planting a tree that his client ran into while drunk. Here, he won the verdict for his client, in part, by exploiting that shopworn cliché of trial practice - the local good of boys versus the big city pinstripes. Is an oral agreement in principle a binding contract? Metaphorically shrugging, Mr. Jamail told the jury, "Sure looks like a deal to me." It worked like a charm.”
In the video, Jamail is the arm off to the right trying to take the deposition.
“Chomsky is a global phenomenon . . . perhaps the most widely read voice on foreign policy on the planet.” — New York Times Book Review
"The number one public intellectual." -- Foreign Policy
"America's most useful citizen." -- Boston Globe
"It is possible that if the United States goes the way of nineteenth-century Britain, Chomsky's interpretation will be the standard among historians a hundred years from now." -- New Yorker
"Without question, the most devious, the most dishonest and -- in this hour of his nation’s grave crisis – the most treacherous intellect in America belongs to MIT professor Noam Chomsky." -- David Horowitz
Jim shrugged. "Cynthia's a Nigra, already got some problems. But lookie here, any momma of a Nigra is going to tell her little girl, some white man grab you - then girl you got two choices. You hit back right then - or you gonna have nine pounds coffee with cream in jus' nine months - that's God's word."
Well this was too much, even from Jim. "You think this Cynthia, she scared she going to have a baby from this policeman?"Jim shook his head like I don't know nothing. "It gets to be what they call in - grained." He pointed to his head. "Sometimes you got to fear everything, cause when you don't you jus' don't know what to fear."
EG: Your new novel, The Brief History of the Dead, creates a city in the afterlife that doesn't have a worldly counterpart, though its particulars are largely recognizable. How do you navigate the tension between realism and the fantastic?
KB: I suppose I navigate the tension between the realistic and the fantastic largely by failing to recognize it, though I don't know whether I would call this a working method or a blind spot. Typically, when I sit down to write, any fantasy I turn my mind to very quickly begins to seem stitched through with realism. And, conversely, the reality of the world I can see outside my window---I'm talking about the world of human behavior, as well as the world of physical objects---begins to seem touched with fantasy. The disadvantage of this way of perceiving the world is that no matter what kind of story I've set out to tell, somebody somewhere has always been convinced that my narrator was simply making the whole thing up. It does seem to me, though, that the simple act of using language necessarily imposes a layer of fantasy between the real world and the narrative world, since even the most realistic detail has to be re-imagined before you can set it down on the page.
EG: Are there aspects of realism from which you rarely, if ever, wander?
KB: There's a writer named Lucius Shepard whose work I enjoy. He complains about what he calls the "elf-dragon-unicorn axis" in fantasy. I don't believe I've ever written anything that would fall neatly along that particular axis (though I sometimes appreciate books that do: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle comes to mind). More broadly, I always attempt to create characters whose emotions and instincts and sense of what it means to be alive correspond to those of real human beings as I see them.
EG: I have a lot of admiration for your figurative language. I remember distinctly from The New Yorker excerpt the man who describes his death by "making a gesture like falling confetti with his fingertips." How important do you consider metaphors, relative to other writers' tools, to your fiction?
KB: They're extremely important to me, but this is mainly a function of how my mind works when it turns to sentence-making rather than the result of any particular aesthetic program. I strive for a certain level of imaginative precision when I write (as opposed, say, to scientific precision), and the metaphors that present themselves to me frequently seem the most interesting way to achieve that. You should picture me allowing my fingers to flutter through the air while I try to figure out how on earth to describe such a gesture.
Sometimes metaphors are important to my fiction in an architectural sense, as well. I don't know that this sort of thing is necessarily plain to most readers, but often it is a controlling metaphor that most sharply informs how I decide to put a story together. In the first chapter of The Brief History of the Dead, for example, I had in mind the image (or the metaphor) of one thing spreading open inside another---doors within doors within doors, most of which never close. It was that image, more than anything else, that helped me give shape to the story.
EG: Your second children's book, Grooves, was just released. Did your desire to write children's fiction grow out of your desire to write adult fiction? How do children's and adult projects differ for you in terms of process?
KB: I began writing children's fiction for two reasons: First of all, I began to read children's fiction again---including many of the books I myself loved as a child, but also many that I had failed to notice back then and many that weren't yet written---and I found that the best of them offered me as much aesthetic pleasure as the adult fiction I was reading. Second, when I was in college, I used to teach at a nursery school, where I would make up stories for the children in my class, and I wanted to find a way of continuing to tell stories to those particular children, all of whom were in the later years of elementary school by that time and capable of reading for themselves.
I've found that my children's books are more conversational in tone than my adult books, and a lot more jokey. I want them to read as though you're listening to a child who's simply telling you his story as it occurs to him, along with anything else that happens to cross his mind. Also, it's my notion that most narratives move forward in one of two ways: either sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph. In my adult fiction, the unit of meaning I tend to rely on is the sentence, whereas in my children's fiction it's the paragraph. I'm not sure why this should be, but it feels natural to me.
EG: Are there writers of adult fiction whose children's fiction you admire? Alternatively, are there writers of adult fiction who don't take their children's work seriously enough?
KB: I know that many writers have recently begun working in both disciplines---Michael Chabon, Louise Erdrich, Isabelle Allende, and Edwidge Danticat come to mind---but as much as I appreciate the adult work of some of these writers, I'm afraid I just haven't read most of their children's fiction. Neil Gaiman is a writer who does both, and while, honestly, I think of his Sandman comics as his best work, I would say that the prose fiction he writes for children is every bit as good as the prose fiction he writes for adults. My friend Jeremy Jackson writes novels under his own name and young adult fiction under a pseudonym, both of which seem to me to be books of considerable enterprise and sensitivity.
What I can tell you is that most of the children's writers I admire---I'll name Daniel Pinkwater, Philip Pullman, Franny Billingsley, Jonathon Scott Fuqua, and Madeleine L'Engle, for starters---are writers I admire as an adult reader and not just as some sort of jerry-built child reader I've imaginatively reconstructed inside my own head. These are all writers whose prose is every bit as careful and whose characters are every bit as rich as those of the adult authors I enjoy.
EG: How important is children's fiction to developing readers of adult literary fiction?
KB: I'm tempted to say, "Very," simply because I myself write in both forms, but when I look back over the reading I actually did as a child, I realize that it was mostly made up of comic books, along with works of fantasy and science fiction and mysteries and film novelizations and various paraliterary genres like joke books and catalogs of do-it-yourself science experiments, all of which were at least ostensibly intended for an adult audience. I would suggest, then, that what's important is encouraging in children the habit of reading and taking pleasure in language and stories, no matter what their provenance.
EG: It seems fewer writers today believe literary fiction and genre fiction to be mutually exclusive. How meaningful do you consider the distinction? What genre fiction, if any, do you draw from and what genre fiction do you not read?
KB: I tend to think that genre distinctions fall apart pretty quickly as soon as you begin looking at fiction of real accomplishment. Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino is published as literary fiction and The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis (a Workshop graduate, by the way, and probably the one whose work means the most to me personally) is published as science fiction, but you could easily reverse their positions on the bookshelf, and, at any rate, both are written with so much potency and exactitude and complex human feeling that the difference hardly matters. I read widely in fantasy and science fiction and more narrowly in mystery and suspense. I rarely read horror---not out of any disdain for the possibilities of the genre, but for the same reason I never set foot on a carnival ride: because I don't enjoy terrifying myself. And I have the (perhaps ill-informed) impression that all the truly artful westerns and romance novels are published as mainstream fiction, so I've mostly ignored those genres, aside from one Harlequin Temptation Romance called When Tomorrow Comes that I read after a friend at the Workshop gave it to me because the book's villain was named Brockmeier, which afforded the protagonist the opportunity to say things like, "I've lost patience with you, Brockmeier. Your interfering has gone too damned far!"
EG: A recent novel that jumps across different genres that earned a lot of discussion here is David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. Any thoughts on that book? Have you read anything recent that blew you away?
KB: I enjoyed and admired both Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten, the only David Mitchell novels I've read so far, but somehow I was never able to feel the heart beating through the pages of his books, and I suspect that he's one of those writers I'm doomed to appreciate without ever truly loving. Still, I'm sure I'll keep reading his work.
The two best books I've read in the past month have been a collection of interviews with Gabriel Garcia Marquez called, unsurprisingly, Conversations with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and a first novel by a Workshop graduate named Justin Tussing called The Best People in the World, the prose in which is quite extraordinarily beautiful, every sentence sharpened to the finest of points.
I'm in the habit of keeping and periodically revisiting a list of my fifty favorite books, which I'll append to the bottom of this interview in case you want to include it. (Editor's Note: I did.)
EG: Many readers of this site attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop after you graduated. Was anyone there particularly influential to your development?
KB: I studied with Marilynne Robinson, Frank Conroy, Jim McPherson, and Judith Grossman while I was at Iowa. I appreciated all of them, but Marilynne and Frank were the ones whose counsel meant the most to me. Beyond that, the other students who were at the Workshop from 1995 to 1997 were extraordinarily important to me. I knew that every story I wrote would face a sensitive and demanding audience, and in many ways those same people remain the audience I keep in mind when I write today. For instance, I still imagine the effect a title might have as it stares up from those stacks of manuscripts on the shelf by the front office. Every so often I'll even think through the whole catalog of stories I've written and try to determine which eight would have made the ideal workshop submissions while I was there. This is absurd, I know, but at least I can say that when I'm finally able to travel back in time with all the writing I've done since I graduated, I'll be well prepared.
(I also have a great deal of affection for Connie Brothers.)
EG: What was it like coming back to teach? Did the city or program seem very different?
KB: The city has a few more parking garages than it did when I was a student, and the winters a little less snow, and the Workshop itself has moved from the English-Philosophy Building to the Dey House---but other than that it's much the same. Prairie Lights is still there, and so is Paul Ingram, and so is Julie Englander. The Hamburg Inn is still there, along with the Cottage and the Java House. To be honest, I found the prospect of coming back to teach at Iowa a bit intimidating. I had never taught at the graduate level before---or, for that matter, in any setting where I couldn't presume myself to be the sole authority on whatever topic we happened to be discussing---and at first I wasn't quite sure what my role in the class ought to be. I believe I found my footing after a couple of weeks, though, and I think I was able to offer something to my students beyond the occasional wind-up toy or bottle of wine. I'll add that one thing my semester there reminded me of was that I'm capable of using language extemporaneously, something that it's easy to forget when you spend every day alone in front of a computer, slowly attempting to polish a handful of sentences.
EG: We appreciate your time. What are you working on now? Because we might buy it.
KB: I've finished a third children's novel, called I Met a Lovely Monster, and right now I'm trying to put together a new collection of short stories. I have ten so far (eleven if I can convince a publisher to let me include The New Yorker-version of "The Brief History of the Dead," but this seems unlikely), and I'll need thirteen to achieve the balance I want.
And please do.
Appendix: Fifty Favorite Books
Several rules: (1) I have listed these books in alphabetical order by the author's last name, rather than in order of preference, though I've marked each of my ten very favorites with an asterisk. (2) I have chosen no more than one book per author, except in those cases where a pair of books or a trilogy seemed to call for a single shared listing. (3) I have tried to be honest, which is why there are so few classics on this list and so many children's books, semi-obscure fantasists, and slim, sad coming of age stories.
1. A Death in the Family by James Agee (*)
2. The Complete Short Stories by J. G. Ballard (*)
3. A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle
4. Once in Europa by John Berger
5. Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges
6. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (*)
7. Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler
8. The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino (*)
9. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
10. Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton (*)
11. Novelties and Souvenirs: Collected Short Fiction by John Crowley
12. Matilda by Roald Dahl
13. The Latin American Trilogy by Louis de Bernieres
14. Tales of Neveryon by Samuel R. Delany
15. The Unexpected Universe by Loren Eiseley
16. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
17. The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys by Chris Fuhrman
18. Paris Stories by Mavis Gallant
19. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
20. The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis
21. Collected Stories by Richard Kennedy
22. Otherwise: New and Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon
23. Elegy by Larry Levis
24. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
25. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
26. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (*)
27. All the Days and Nights: The Collected Stories by William Maxwell (*)
28. Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer by Steven Millhauser
29. Essays by Michel de Montaigne
30. Complete Works and Other Stories by Augusto Monterroso
31. A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance by Haruki Murakami
32. The Sharpshooter Blues by Lewis Nordan
33. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
34. Esther Stories by Peter Orner
35. A Collection of Essays by George Orwell
36. Metamorphoses by Ovid
37. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
38. Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater (*)
39. My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
40. The His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman (*)
41. Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide by Robert Michael Pyle
42. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (*)
43. The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Jose Saramago
44. Indistinguishable from the Darkness by Charlie Smith
45. The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis
46. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
47. Waiting for God by Simone Weil
48. Essays by E. B. White
49. Stoner by John Williams
50. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
2) The crimes named in the second-to-last paragraph lead me to suspect this is an April Fool's ha-ha.
3) It has to be.
4) On an ontological level.
5) You're telling me there's no one in all of South America to do this stuff?