Are you up to it?

If you haven’t read it, go out now and purchase the new issue of Harpers magazine. Ursula K. Le Guin has the most perspicacious (not to mention a bit angry) essay on the state of reading, and the book, and the social bonding capacity of books, and their capacity to house cultural information and memory, and how capitalism applied to publishing in extreme undermines the very function of books: a commonwealth experience, rather than one of personal profit or self-interest.


A favorite passage:

Besides, readers aren’t viewers; they recognize their pleasure as different from that of being entertained. Once you’ve pressed the ON button, the TV goes on, and on, and on, and all you have to do is sit and stare. But reading is active, an act of attention, of absorbed alertness–not all that different from hunting, in fact, or from gathering. In its silence, a book is a challenge: it can’t lull you with surging music or deafen you with screeching laugh tracks or fire gunshots in your living room; you have to listen to it in your head. A book won’t move your eyes for you the way images on a screen do. It won’t move your mind unless you give it your mind, or your heart unless you put your heart in it. It won’t do the work for you. To read a story well is to follow it, to act it, to feel it, to become it–everything short of writing it, in fact. Reading is not “interactive” with a set of rules or options, as games are; reading is actual collaboration with the writer’s mind. No wonder not everybody is up to it.



Our hometown middleweight champion of the world Kelly Pavlik goes back to the ring this Saturday to defend the belt he won this past autumn. In an article in the LA Times about him, he refers to Youngstown as “cruddy,” but as the reporter contextualizes, with Pavlik that’s a sign of honesty and affection. Which is totally my sort of fellow. Here’s hoping he’ll have another win this Saturday, when I’ll be somewhere in the city with a bunch of other crazies from this “shot-and-a-beer” town cheering him on.

From the LA Times:

Pavlik has become a hard hitter from the hard streets of Youngstown. Residents of this shot-and-a-beer town now make a ritual of celebrating Pavlik’s shots with a beer. Or several. They had a parade when he beat Taylor in September. If he does it again, they may have a stampede. Between bars.

Youngstown appears to be as much of the story these days as Pavlik himself. Some towns get down on their luck. Youngstown hasn’t had any for about 30 years now.

Once, in the ’70s, you could look down the Mahoning River and see steel plants as far as your eye could travel. As lore has it, Youngstown once produced more steel than any place in the world, even more than nearby Pittsburgh.

Pavlik refers to his hometown as “cruddy.” With him, that is honesty and affection.

You can read the whole article here.

Got lit?


If you’re in the mood for an evening of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction, you should definitely check out next Tuesday’s readings that YSU’s Poetry Center has arranged.  It’s a great line-up.  I’ll be there for sure.  Hope to see some of you locals, as well.

On Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 7:00 PM in the DeBartolo Stadium Club in Stambaugh Stadium, three distinguished NEOMFA faculty,  Neal Chandler, David Hassler, and Varley O’Connor, will read from their works. Books will be available for signing. Please join us in celebrating the work of these fine writers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008
7:00 P.M.  DeBartolo Stadium Club in Stambaugh Stadium

NEOMFA Faculty Reading

Varley O’Connor
Varley O’Connor’s newest novel is The Cure, loosely based on her father’s polio as
a child in the 1930s and ’40s. She is also the author of A Company of Three (Algonquin Books, 2003), a novel about the world of theater and acting, and Like China (William Morrow, 1991). Most recently, her short prose has appeared and is forthcoming in The Sun magazine and AWP Writer’s Chronicle. O’Connor is on the faculty of Kent State University.

David Hassler
David Hassler is the author of two books of poems, most recently, Red
Kimono, Yellow Barn, for which he was awarded Ohio Poet of the Year
2006. He has received an Individual Artist Fellowship and an Artists and Communities grant from the Ohio
Arts Council.  His poems and essays have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Sun, DoubleTake/Points of Entry, Indiana Review, and other journals. He is the Program and Outreach Director for
the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University.

Neal Chandler

Neal Chandler is the Coordinator of Cleveland State University Poetry
Center, where he teaches creative writing. He is the author of
Benediction: A Book of Stories, and a play, Appeal to a Lower Court.
He edits Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. His stories and essays
have appeared in Sunstone, Weber Studies, and Exponent.

Wow (now with links)

It has been brought to my attention that my novelette “The Language of Moths” has been honored with a Spectrum Award (in a three-way tie) in the category of short fiction.

I’m surprised that people are still reading that story, but also really happy.

At some point in the near-ish future, “The Language of Moths” will be released by Blackstone Audio as a book on tape, as well.

G’night all.

*You can find “The Language of Moths” in Jonathan Strahan’s Fantasy: The Very Best of 2005 anthology, or Sean Wallace’s Best New Fantasy anthology.

Smart-asses, welcome

Jenn Reese has an interesting and fun entry in her journal today that revolves around playing a certain kind of game.  Here’s how it works at Jenn’s place:

Post something positive about a presidential candidate for whom you *do not* intend to vote.

-Giving credit to Clinton for being female or Obama for being black is off limits.
-No snarky or smart-ass answers, please. (Just for this entry — I promise!)

If you decide to play, thanks! 

I think this is a fun game, but feel incredibly compelled to offer a flipside version (without any intent to offend, only to amuse).  So, in my version, say something positive about a presidential candidate for whom you *do not* intend to vote,  but feel free to be a smart-ass (within reason, of course–try to be witty rather than nasty, I guess).

If you decide to play, you should also make yourself go over to Jenn’s entry and do the more honorable version.


If you haven’t read the article by Charles McGrath in the Times about highbrow/lowbrow distinctions in literature in the wake of the author in England who won a settlement in court by claiming that fumes from a shoe factory near her house caused her to write a thriller, which she claimed was a fall from grace, so to speak, from her usual output of literary novels, you should do so now. I can’t believe such a thing won in court, and yet I can at the same time. It’s ridiculous and wonderful, but better yet is this discuss McGrath teases out of it in regards to what the story really has to say about our notions of classism or elitism in literature.