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Support an independent press this holiday season!

For the most part, independent presses are the lifeblood of literature. They value art instead of profit, taking chances instead of playing it safe, developing writers over time instead of throwing huge advances over a hot debut author and then cutting that author loose after the book fails to sell in the millions. Sadly, due to the very small audience for literary fiction, indie presses mostly operate on the slenderest of shoestrings, living from one foundation grant to the next and praying the distributor pays on time.

Indie presses need and deserve our help. If you're like me, much of your holiday gift-giving involves books. (Much of? Hell, last year I gave my family NOTHING BUT books.) If that's the case, why not specifically seek out books from indie presses? I've already done so this year, buying my mom [1] Out Stealing Horses, the critically acclaimed novel by Norwegian writer Per Petterson which was published by Graywolf Press. Besides Graywolf, some other top indies worth checking into are Coffee House Press, Akashic, Sarabande, Dzanc, Dalkey Archive, Soft Skull and Melville House.

So you clicked on a few of those publisher links and still can't figure out what to buy? Never fear. Here are some of my very favorite indie press releases of the past several years:

Ander Monson, Other Electricities (Sarabande)
Kirby Gann, Our Napoleon in Rags (Ig Publishing)
Aaron Petrovich, The Session (Hotel St. George/Akashic)
Various, Chicago Noir (Akashic)
Ben Tanzer, Lucky Man (Manx Media)
Nick Hornby, The Polysyllabic Spree (McSweeney's)
Carolyn Eastwood: Near West Side Stories: Struggles for Community in Chicago's Maxwell Street Neighborhood (Lake Claremont Press)
Brian Costello: The Enchanters vs. Sprawlburg Springs (Featherproof)
Stuart Dybek: Childhood and Other Neighborhoods (University of Chicago)

You may have noticed that for each of those books I linked directly to the publisher's site, and not to an online store. To help out the publisher even more, wherever possible you might consider buying directly from the publisher and let them keep the cut they'd otherwise have to give to the distributor and retailer. Sure, you won't get supersaver shipping, but who are we kidding? You can easily afford the UPS charges.

So go ahead, buy an indie book for a friend or loved one. Good karma is just one of the benefits. And do me a favor - if you do indeed buy an indie book as a holiday gift, I'd love to hear about it, so please leave the author's name, title and publisher in the comments section below. Thanks in advance!

[1] No, I'm not ruining her surprise. She avoids the Internet as if it's radioactive. And in the unlikely event that you know my mom, please keep this a secret.

November 30, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (5)

Credit Where Credit Is Due

As I've mentioned before, I'm on the partner program at Powell's. I'm not used to seeing much sales activity there - maybe one or two books every quarter - so I was quite pleasantly surprised to open up my statement and see that, just yesterday, someone strolled over there and bought four eBooks, and stellar titles all: Amsterdam, The Emperor's Children, The Ruins and The Book of Air and Shadows. And last week, somebody bought the new Elliott Smith bio I recently salivated over. With all such purchases, as a partner I get a small commission to use as credit for future purchases of my own. To all of you who have ever bought a book at Powell's through my partner link, thanks!

November 29, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Art's magic bond of light, and beauty's bloodless stain."

The Tribune ran a nice piece yesterday on the Cliff Dwellers, the social club - founded by author Hamlin Garland and named after the once-famous novel by Henry Blake Fuller - which is celebrating its hundredth anniversary. The club's commitment to the arts and intellectual discourse is quite refreshing (I like the quote from the UIC professor who said "I've had more intellectual conversations here than at a university") and in sharp contrast to the other downtown clubs and their profit-is-holy ethos; if I were to join one of the clubs, which admittedly is very unlikely, I'd opt for the Cliff Dwellers. The Trib quotes from verses penned by Garland:

Garland, its founding president, once took poetic notice of what the club was about:

"Down in the city's deeps we meet in savage fashion,
And play as best we may the selfish, sordid game,"

But after hours and up in the Cliff Dwellers:

"Man greets his fellow man, and only then remembers,
Art's magic bond of light, and beauty's bloodless stain."

As an aside, you might think from all the Hamlin Garland references I make, that I've actually read some of his work. Which is not the case, at least not yet. Soon, he insists, soon.

November 26, 2007 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Writing in Progress

New to the list:
Scent of Wild Onions is a story collection based very loosely on Lou Reed's New York album, with each story inspired by a single line from each song on the album, and with the venue shifted to Chicago. However, this project could quite easily be removed from the "Writing in Progress" list very soon - the first story, "Washington Heights", materialized with little effort, but the second, "Pilsen", has been stalled for a few weeks as the initial burst of momentum faded. I think I'll get the latter story finished off and see if I find any potential for a third story - and if not, I'll probably ditch the whole thing and move on to something else. ("Washington Heights" does, however, have some salvage potential.)

"The Copper Responds" is a short story that directly responds to Cory Doctorow's story "Printcrime". I had been thinking about this one for a few months, and when I finally started writing (on the train home Wednesday night), it all quickly fell into place, and I finished the first draft early Thanksgiving morning. I'll publish it here once it's finished.

Still on the list:
My novella Wheatyard (now moving toward its third draft) is still on the list, and likely will be for another year or so. Even if I'm not actively working on it, the book will never be far from my thoughts, so in a way I'll be working on it even if I never touch a pen or computer. Julie read the whole second draft in one evening, really liked it and had a few very good suggestions for improvements which I will definitely be implementing in the next draft.

Removed from the list:
For now, I'm removing the story collection This Land Was Made for You and Me and the novella The Engine Driver. I'm sure I'll revisit the former off and on over the years, so maybe it will someday materialize in finished form, or maybe not. The latter was a concept that came to me suddenly but that I only generated a few ideas for - pretty good ones, I think, but not nearly enough to compel me to plunge headlong into serious writing. Again, this story is something I might return to if inspiration somehow strikes.

November 24, 2007 in Fiction, Marshland | Permalink | Comments (1)

Weekend Multimedia

One item this week, one which is sure to warm you up during this frigid weather: six tracks from Rounder Records' new New Orleans anthology, City of Dreams. If none of this gets your chilled blood flowing, you just might be dead.

One correction: Rounder has those first two tracks transposed. The second track is actually the Dirty Dozen Brass Band - I know that for a fact, because I have that very song on a mixtape somewhere - and the first is Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias. I also have some history with the final track, Tuts Washington's lovely solo piano instrumental of "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?". I've owned that album (New Orleans Piano Professor) for quite some time now, and years ago - way back in those neanderthal days before electronic voicemail - I had that tune as the background music for the message on my answering machine.

I still miss that answering machine. The geek in me always loved crafting personalized messages accompanied by quirky music from my collection. Once, around Christmas, I made a message that included NRBQ's warped cover of "Here Comes Santa Claus." A friend of mine called me, long-distance, and liked the message so much that he cajoled another friend of his (who I didn't even know) to call, also long-distance, just to hear the message. It was one of my proudest geek moments.

November 24, 2007 in Music | Permalink | Comments (1)

Just one more Thanksgiving post...

My favorite Thanksgiving TV moment of all time. Sadly, that clip omits Mr. Carlson's immortal closing line: "With God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

November 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"...this most modest, most poignant of days..."

"Sitting down to the big meal seems like the crux of Thanksgiving, but it really comes a couple of hours later. The pumpkin pie is gone, the dishes are done, the dogs and overnight guests are napping, and there’s a strange vacancy in the afternoon light. For a moment the year halts, a moment when the wakeful aren’t quite sure what to do with themselves. In that instant, that hollow in time, you find yourself listening to the unnatural stillness of the afternoon, pausing to look closely at the world around you. That’s all the celebration necessary on this most modest, most poignant of days."
- Verlyn Klinkenborg

(Via Patrick Kurp.)

November 22, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Think Globally, Gorge Locally

As you gorge yourself on turkey and trimmings today, it's worthwhile to pause and think about where that food is coming from. Heifer International - an amazingly worthwhile organization that you should strongly consider supporting - has a thoughtful interview with Barbara Kingsolver about sustainability and eating locally. My wife Julie just read, and loved, Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life and is demanding that I read it as well. This year we've both become much more aware of what we eat, and I think next spring we're finally going to plant the vegetable garden that we've been vowing to plant for years and years.

November 22, 2007 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

In the Context of No Coherence

With rare exceptions, I have limited my literary commentary here to books that I thoroughly enjoyed, that emotionally moved me, that engaged my intellect, that established a bond between the writer and myself.

The following commentary, then, is one of those rare exceptions.

I recently read, or tried to read anyway, George W.S. Trow's In the Context of No Context, and I'm not at all embarrassed or ashamed to admit that I have absolutely no idea what the hell Trow was talking about in this slim volume. (I won't even link to the book, lest someone think I'm at all recommending it, which I most assuredly am not.) I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person, and well-educated (admittedly not in the humanities, but in fields that require considerable analytical reasoning, interpretation and sound judgment), but whatever concepts Trow was trying to get across were completely lost on me. Trow undoubtedly felt he was being profound and deeply philosophical here, but wrote almost entirely in blandly vague generalities and obscure and unexplained metaphors. (If somebody can explain his baffling and repeated invocation of Nathanael West's "goat and adding machine ritual", which West apparently used as a quirky plot device but which Trow conflates into something Staggeringly Important, I'm all ears.) And while I'm sure he felt clever and innovative, starting off with all of those one-paragraph-long sections, each set apart with its own title, that questionable structure disrupted whatever steady reading flow the reader might have otherwise developed, a flow which could have considerably aided the comprehension of Trow's uncompelling prose. And then those short, terse sections were followed, suddenly and abruptly, by long paragraphs filled with florid, gushing but ultimately empty prose, at which point, seventy pages in, I abandoned the book for good.

Life's just too short to muddle through such muddled, impenetrable texts. This book sat on my shelf for ten years, awaiting my reading. I should have just left it there.

November 21, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bell's Beer coming back to Chicago!

Er, sort of - and likely only after what promises to be extensive litigation.

The Kalamazoo, Mich., brewery stopped serving Chicago after a dispute with National Wine & Spirits Inc., the Indianapolis company that holds the rights to distribute Bell’s Beer in Illinois.

The label’s disappearance from local bars that cater to specialty-beer lovers, such as the Clark Street Ale House and the Hop Leaf, made headlines last year, and sparked a wave of hoarding among beer aficionados.

Brewery president Larry Bell says he has found a way to get around the impasse: He has created three new beers specifically for the Chicago market.

"This is a different beer," he says. "These are not the beers that were assigned to them."

Different beer (Kalamazoo Porter, Kalamazoo Amber and Kalamazoo IPA), perhaps, but I'm hoping they're suspiciously similar to Bell's Porter, Bell's Amber Ale or Bell's IPA. Or even - dare I dream? - Oberon or Two Hearted Ale.

Probably will never happen, given how slanted the liquor laws are in Illinois toward the distributors. But you still have to admire Larry Bell's chutzpah.

November 19, 2007 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Merci, Monsieur Daguerre

Happy birthday to a great pioneer. From Minnesota Public Radio:

It's the birthday of the man who helped invent the art of photography, Louis Daguerre, born just outside of Paris, France (1789), who started out as a theater designer, using hand-painted translucent screens and elaborate lighting effects to create the illusion of a sunrise or a sudden storm onstage. But in 1829, he learned about a new technology that made it possible to use light to capture an image on a metal plate, though the quality of the image was poor. Daguerre set out to improve the process, and he came up with a combination of copper plate coated with silver salts that could be developed with the application of mercury vapor and table salt.

He first used this process to capture a series of images of Paris, including pictures of the Louvre and Notre Dame. The camera needed about 15 minutes exposure time to capture an image, so most of Dagurre's early pictures don't show any people. The one exception is a picture of a boulevard that shows a man in the foreground who has stopped to shine his shoes. He was the first human being ever caught on film. Daguerre announced his invention in 1839, and the images he produced became known as daguerreotypes.

November 19, 2007 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lou Reed

Quick update to Weekend Multimedia: two new songs by Lou Reed, "Gravity" and "Safety Zone", which are "inspired by the soon-to-be released film NANKING--a powerful and relevant documentary that tells the story of the Japanese invasion of Nanking, China, in the early days of World War II." I particularly like the latter tune - sounds like it came out of his New York and Magic and Loss era, my favorite period of Reed's long and illustrious career.

(Via What to Wear During an Orange Alert?)

November 18, 2007 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

"...so little costumery or ornamentation..."

I am a new subscriber to Oxford American, with the first installment of my subscription being their annual music issue. I have a real weakness for serious literary discussions of music (enough so to once brave Greil Marcus - but never mind that), and when those writings are accompanied, as was this issue of OA, by a sampler CD full of wildly diverse music, all of it is impossible to resist. And while magazines-with-CDs aren't uncommon, this disc isn't something that was just slapped together and thrown inside the shrink bag - looking at you, Believer - but instead, each artist is honored with a profile article. The articles are all solid, sturdy, well-informed pieces, but nearly all of them are standard fare written with just enough journalistic distance to prevent any true emotional engagement with the subjects. In other words, professional music writing by professional music writers.

With one wonderful, singular exception: novelist Kevin Brockmeier writing about the country singer Iris Dement. Unlike the other writers here, writing about Dement was clearly much more than a mere assignment for Brockmeier. Instead, Brockmeier has deep feelings for and a strong personal connection to Dement's music, particularly the album he explores in depth, My Life. I recommend reading the entire piece, which unfortunately is not online. One passage in particular struck me. After naming several other "polarizing vocalists" (those whose singing voices take much getting used to) whom he admires, Brockmeier elaborates on Dement's voice:

...Iris is unique among them, however, in that both the people who adore her without qualification and the people who bristle at the very sound of her will point to her voice in explanation. Her voice is, quite simply, where the personality of her music lies, and unless it speaks to you, nothing else she does will register.

It took me a few listens to grow comfortable with the way she sings, but when I did, I quickly realized how expressive her voice could be. It is capable of holding such exultation on the one hand and so much sorrow on the other, with so little costumery or ornamentation, that it can seem as if she has lived an entire life inside each note she delivers. And yet her vocals are always crafted to lend attention to the song rather than herself. She happens to sing well, but beyod that, she sings with the unmistakable stamp of experience, hard-won and cherished, so that the overall effect of her music, no matter how sad, is cleansing, invigorating.

It has always seemed to me that the best singers are the most evocative ones, which is a separate consideration from how conventionally pretty their voices might be...

It brought me great pleasure to read Brockmeier describe her voice in this way because, in doing so, he could just as well be describing Joel R.L. Phelps, another idiosyncratically-voiced singer who has long been one of my favorites. Phelps, as it turns out, admires Dement's work to such a degree that he included not one, but two songs of hers on Inland Empires, his 2001 covers EP. While I had been vaguely familiar with Dement's name for many years, I hadn't heard any of her work until I indirectly heard it through Phelps.

Phelps, like Dement, sings more from his soul than from his intellect, striving to release his emotions without any close attention to technical proficiency. He gets the notes right, for the most part, but the focus is mostly on getting his thoughts and feelings across. And yet, while Phelps' voice may be grating to some, this outpouring of emotion is never done with the slightest bit of bombast. No 20-year-old emo singer here, wailing about his broken heart and empty middle-class upbringing. Like Dement, Phelps has that "unmistakable stamp of experience, hard-won and cherished", and because he seems so real I've never found Joel Phelps' music to be anything less than thoroughly invigorating.

Oh, and of course, the OA sampler disc finally, at long last, formally introduced me to Iris Dement. Her "Sweet Is the Melody", from My Life, is quite lovely indeed. Her voice, despite my narrative above, doesn't seem anywhere near as idiosyncratic as that of Phelps, but still I can very much see Brockmeier's point. She may be smoother around the edges than Phelps, but she's downright rough-hewn compared to all the glossy million-selling country singers out there. Her voice seems genuine, and by extension she seems genuine as a person as well. Hearing this song, I'm not at all surprised that Joel Phelps is such a great fan of hers.

November 18, 2007 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)


My friend and publisher Nick Ostdick has two new stories published, "Catching the Old Man's Cure" (at Pindeldyboz) and "For Better Future Viewing" (at Word Riot). Fine stories both - I particularly like the former, and how he neatly wrapped up so many disparate threads in very short order - and, having had several of my own stories rejected by those two fine journals, I can personally attest to the accomplishment of being published therein. Fine work.

November 17, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (2)

Weekend Multimedia

Film trailer for Persepolis, which looks quite good. The book was one of my wife's favorites of the last several years, and I enjoyed it as well. Marjane Satrapi is a co-director of the film, so this isn't just some cheap Hollywood ripoff, but likely a genuine work of art.

And the trailer for Chicago 10. "Free speech died here," indeed.

Okay, this isn't really multimedia, but I'm passing it along anyway: a new biography of the great Elliott Smith, by Autumn de Wilde. (Then again, reading this book will undoubtedly inspire you to listen to Smith's music, so in a way this is a multimedia item.) There's another Smith bio already out there that I've been contemplating buying for a while now, from an online remainder shop, but it's only had mixed reviews and is written from an outsider perspective. De Wilde, by contrast, had access to Smith's friends and family, and will undoubtedly present a much fuller portrait of the man. And get this: the book also includes "a live CD of unreleased solo acoustic performances." Be still my heart.

November 17, 2007 in Film, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

I feel so edumacated!


November 16, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (2)

Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

I've decided to read nothing but nonfiction books for the rest of this year, and with many of the nonfiction titles on my shelf being fairly short in length, I'll probably be commenting on books here with greater frequency than I have in the past.

I've just had the great pleasure of reading Kurt Vonnegut's final book, A Man Without a Country, a collection of essays. Like the author, the book is funny, angry, passionate, sympathetic and most of all humane. Many of the pieces are rants against our political leadership and the misguided direction our country is headed - most notably the degraded environment and the precarious future of the planet itself - but others are warm anecdotes from Vonnegut's personal life. (The piece about his ill-fated ownership of a Saab dealership is simply priceless.) This is a terrific book that I know I'll return to again and again over the coming years. What an absolute pleasure it must have been to personally know this great man. His sensible voice will be sorely missed in this nonsensical world of ours.

November 15, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (1)

The more things change...

Undoubtedly prompted by the Hollywood writers' strike, MovieMaker has republished, online, David Geffner's excellent piece on Jim Thompson's lost years as a Hollywood screenwriter, which originally appeared in the magazine's December 1996 issue. Clearly, writers getting screwed over by the studios is nothing new, and likely even predated Thompson, and will undoubtedly continue indefinitely - unless writers fight back for what they deserve.

Support the WGA!

November 14, 2007 in Books, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

John Brown, Righteous Anarchist

Just finished reading John Brown: Great Lives Observed, a concise, balanced and non-partisan collection of writings, drawn from both contemporary and modern sources, about the legendary abolitionist John Brown - his formative years, the Kansas Free State crusade, and most importantly his raid on Harper's Ferry and its aftermath. (The book is long out of print, although still available here.) Like many abolitionists of Brown's era, I object to his violent means of bringing about change, even as I wholeheartedly agree with the moral rightness of his goal. In the concluding paragraphs, editors Richard Warch and Jonathan Fanton succinctly summarize Brown's impact on American history:

John Brown embodies, then, the actual despair of his own time and the potential despair of all times. He is a watchword and a warning that when a nation fails to resolve its problems and allows them to reach crisis proportions - particularly those that threaten human rights and liberties - the response of a John Brown is possible and often inevitable.

There is, however, a further legacy of John Brown. He was, in his last years especially, a man of purpose who translated thought to action, who attempted what others only contemplated, and who was faithful to the dictates of his conscience. John Brown believed in the promise of the Declaration of Independence and anguished over its unfulfillment. However one may judge his means, he sought to realize that promise for black Americans. He dreamed of the more perfect Union that would not come until, as he predicted, the crimes of this guilty land were purged away with blood.

November 14, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wheatyard - Another Milestone

I've reached another milestone - the second draft of my novella Wheatyard is now complete, with the edits typed up, the whole thing printed up and bound, and handed off to my wife Julie for her thoughtful but tough assessment. The manuscript weighs in at 91 double-spaced pages, and about 38,000 words which, at an estimated 300 words per published page, would equate to 129 words in final book form. (War and Peace, it ain't.) As soon as I've absorbed Julie's thoughts and impressions I'll start in on the third draft which, when complete, I plan to distribute it to a few writer friends whose opinions I greatly respect, for further feedback. I'm planning on finishing the third draft by April and if everything still looks positive at that that time, I'll start to seriously evaluate potential publishers. Right now I have a few dream publishers in mind, none of whom I realistically expect to take a flyer on a first-time novelist such as myself. I'm sure I'll have to aim lower than that upper echelon, although I still might send them manuscripts on the proverbial wing and prayer.

If you're at all interested in how this book has progressed, I've created a new index, the very imaginatively named Wheatyard, which compiles all of my past references to the book. The past references are a bit sketchy, I'll admit, but now that the book is becoming more of a viable entity, I plan to comment on it here more regularly, and also publish some excerpts for your reading indulgence.

November 13, 2007 in Fiction, Wheatyard | Permalink | Comments (2)

Albums In Need of a Diet

Love the concept: the Onion A.V. Club's "21 good albums that could have been great EPs". Called out for flashes-of-brilliance-tainted-with-bloat are the otherwise esteemed likes of R.E.M., Prince, Guided By Voices, Radiohead, Blur, David Bowie, the Ramones, the Replacements, Jeff Buckley, ZZ Top, Journey (okay, they're not all esteemed), Fishbone, Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams, the Flaming Lips, the Verve, the Streets, Andrew W.K. (huh?), 50 Cent, Kanye West, the Afghan Whigs. I couldn't agree more on the Replacements' Don't Tell a Soul - if I had mp3-burning capability at the time I sold off that album on eBay, those are exactly the songs I would have kept.

November 12, 2007 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekend Multimedia

Though I have a few other items for potential posting here, they'll all just have to wait another week, because this clip deserves to fly solo and, as I'm sure you'll agree, is nothing short of Brazilliant.

November 10, 2007 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Literature Mapping

Interesting concept - the literature map, which diagrams writers based on common readership. Plug "Nelson Algren" in there and the most proximate authors include Nathanael West, Hubert Selby and Jim Thompson. I had never even heard of West before finding this map, but seeing his name piqued my curiousity, and so after reading a profile (not online) of West earlier this year in Poets & Writers I decided to give him a go. I read The Day of the Locust and was very glad I did - I'll probably end up reading all of his novels, Miss Lonelyhearts being next. Of the other two names, I've read and loved at least half a dozen Thompson novels, and though I haven't read any Selby yet, his Last Exit to Brooklyn is very high up on my list.

I can't really dispute too many of the other names on that page, though I'm kind of surprised John Dos Passos isn't closer to the center of the map. Seems to me like he and Algren were kindred spirits, so I'd assume their readers would overlap quite a bit more than the map indicates.

November 8, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Boy's Gotta Have It, Part 2

Behold: Chicago under Glass: Early Photographs from the Chicago Daily News. Already, I'm salivating. And envisioning it on my bookshelf, right next to Real Chicago: Photographs From the Files of the Chicago Sun-Times.

November 6, 2007 in Books, Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)


Despite my enthusiastic participation during the past five years, I've opted out of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year. The past five Novembers have left me with three unfinished novels, two finished stories ("Immortality" and "Ectoplasm", both of which have been published) and two unfinished stories. Rather than add a fourth unfinished novel to my inventory, I'm instead working on my most advanced novel, Wheatyard, which I started during NaNoWriMo 2004. Presently I'm typing up the hand-edits of the second draft which, once completed, I'll hand off to Julie for a close reading.

NaNoWriMo has been a great experience. It really gets you in the habit of writing every day and finally starting a book you've been kicking around in your head for years but never put to paper, and getting the story written without dawdling over rewrites and research. And it also makes you feel like you're part of a big community of fellow writers, all of whom are as overwhelmed by the process as you are. Writing is such a solitary pursuit that it's easy to feel like you're all alone, and NaNoWriMo helps you realize that you're not. There's thousands of people just like you, which is really nice to know.

If I'm ever going to get a novel published, though, I really have to finish one first, so I thought it best not to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Maybe next year.

November 4, 2007 in Fiction, Wheatyard | Permalink | Comments (0)

Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

This is probably the first time I've ever said this in my life, and will be the last time as well, but here goes: Damn, I wish I lived in Los Angeles. Sure, the fires and mudslides and smog and impossible traffic and incomprehensible real estate prices wouldn't be at all pleasant, but at least I could have been on hand to witness Ted Leo and the Pharmacists AND the Pogues. What an incredibly inspired pairing.

November 3, 2007 in Music | Permalink | Comments (2)

On Public Transportation

In a remarkable coincidence, the Chicago-based Journal of Ordinary Thought (of which I've previously expressed great admiration) is holding a discussion of the role of public transportation on everyday lives, just as the CTA, Metra and Pace are about to institute draconian fare increases and service cuts in response to the state's chronically irresponsible funding. Should be a lively event.

Speaking of which, Springfield lawmakers: cut the crap, stop the political posturing, and get public transportation all of the funding it needs. There's no reason to delay in trying to tie it to expansion of the state's casinos, a highly contentious issue whose inclusion will only ensure that the funding never gets done. Instead, institute a significant regional sales tax for the Chicago metropolitan area, with all proceeds going to the CTA, Metra and Pace. Public transportation benefits every one, whether you ride it or not, so everyone in the region should share the burden of paying for it. Raise fares and cut service, and you'll just force more people into their cars and out onto the already overburdened highways. (Chicago already has some of the very worst traffic in the U.S. - I cringe at the thought of how much worse it would be with public transportation cutbacks.) And then we'd need even more roads to be paid for and maintained, along with more fuel consumption and pollution.

Rod Blagojevich, Mike Madigan, Emil Jones, all the rest of you - just do your frigging jobs. You know, the ones we elected you to do.

November 3, 2007 in Books, Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Boy's Gotta Have It

BibliOdyssey: Amazing Archival Images From the Internet, from the truly amazing website of the same name. (To call it a blog somehow seems demeaning.)

November 3, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)