Without telling us the punchlines, Dutch researchers announced this week the discovery of four dirty jokes papered over in Anne Frank’s diary. I taught the diary as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi two decades ago, curious from the start why it was on the curriculum. My students faced a lifetime of grinding poverty, endemic … Continue reading Sex Ed: Anne Frank in Africa
Tom Wolfe's passing takes me back to undergrad years and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I loved Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff, but it was Acid Test---published 50 years ago---that made Tom Wolfe electric. We were studying Ken Kesey under Barry Leeds and there was never enough to go around. Cuckoo's Nest … Continue reading Tom Wolfe,1930–2018
The kid set us up, big time. He gets a bat and balls and batting glove, bowling and pizza and chocolate cake, and this is how he repays us? All week long we put little signs around the house noting his tenth birthday. Ten of them to be exact. Or, make that 12 or 13, … Continue reading Turns Ten. Turns Us In.
Sharing his thoughts on a fresh draft of my novel in progress, the contract illustrator proclaims: This whole thing is, like, so hilarious! Best of all, the 4th grader can barely utter consecutive syllables without breaking into fits of hysterics as he tries to describe the characters. His cheeks stretch too wide for speech at … Continue reading Introducing: Cowboy Herold
Writing is physical. Writing is athletic. Writing requires the same discipline of a dedicated athlete in pursuit of peak performance. I note this, not to be repetitive, but as a corollary to my series on Little League and the trajectory of sports in life for me. These things are one and the same: the first … Continue reading How We Write
Why We Write We write not to be read. We write not because we have something to say, but because something must be said and needs our attention. We write to put down the tracks of our thought and, through this process, clarify our intent, to give form and understanding to our own inscrutable intuition. … Continue reading This Is Why We Write
The man with the 70's hangover---big stache, wide lapels, swooping toupee---assigned to teach my fifth grade class regularly heaped this wish upon us: 'May the bird of paradise rest in your armpit.' What this meant, and why it should happen to us, was never made clear. It was only, mysteriously, repeated. This was a 1982-83, … Continue reading May the Bird of Paradise Rest in Your Armpit
Five weeks of surfing stretched out before me off the white beaches of northern Brazil. On the bus from Salvador to Ilheus, a teacher on summer leave, a young man with no duties, I felt the ultimate exhilaration of liberty. A peak experience, anticipating surf in the mornings and writing in the breezy shade of … Continue reading Writers’ Tip—Go Away!
I don't know what it is, but I've observed a natural tic in my writing lately. I wish I could call it a style, but it isn't. It isn't something pretty. It's a tic. If I had a tendency to do something that made my writing stand out---Raymond Carver, T.C. Boyle, Zora Neale Hurston---it would be … Continue reading A Tic Is Not A Style
Best to look at the problem from the other side. Not aliens on earth---earthlings in space! By far the most memorable version of Space Oddity for me is the one recorded by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield during his long sojourn aboard the International Space Station. The lyrics are somewhat different from the original, and so … Continue reading When Researching Aliens