5CT for December 2017

The 5CT editorial team was loosed upon the world (Langley, WA) this past summer, and we found ourselves stopped cold by the penetrating gaze of an otherworldly sheep peering out of a gallery window. An old hymn gets pushed into some exciting new territory. In this crazed, demented, political moment, remember the king, who hailed from Yorba Linda, California. I give you one of the best, most original podcasts you’ll ever hear. And, a bit of prose and poetry from Franz Wright.

“It struck him that how you spent Christmas was a message to the world about where you were in life, some indication of how deep a hole you had managed to burrow for yourself.” – Nick Hornby, About a Boy



Claudia Pettis

Portrait in Soft Grey, Claudia Pettis (4 x 6′)

The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery,” said Francis Bacon. These portraits of Black Welsh Mountain Sheep left the 5CT team fumbling for words. There’s an ephemeral, weightless, mystery here. Behold this lovely, lovely being. And those eyes.

Continue Reading…

5CT for June

In between Beethoven and Kafka, there is a Merton-like silence. And two versions of solitude. Plus Dylan! It’s the 5CT Sublime Summer Music Festival Edition, bringing you Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, a refreshing slice of Thomas Merton, Bob live in Newport, Red Garland with John Coltrane, Duke and Louis Armstrong and two brothers in jazz. Oh, and a mini book review in the sidebar. “You are free, and that is why you are lost,” Franz Kafka is reported to have said, to which we can find no rejoinder whatsoever, except maybe Happy Summer!

Sir Colin & Mitsuko

They are a bit like chalk and cheese, but Sir Colin Davis (September 25, 1927 – April 14, 2013) then conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, and Mitsuko Uchida’s love for Beethoven’s music is a note to behold. Watch how each of them (he, restrained, she, highly expressive) speak about the majesty of this music and about performing with the other. Fascinating obituary of Sir Colin here —>

Continue Reading…

5CT August 2016

To the lazy days of summer’s end, I welcome you. First, over to England for some great black and white photographs. A hot tip on a great little notebook. LARB—dish from Laos or book review website? Baa Baa Black Sheep by Wynton Marsalis is the perfect accompaniment to tour the work of a Portuguese goddess of abstract painting. “At night I would go to sleep dreaming of sea adventures.” – John Claridge


{The canal, 1966, John Claridge}

Continue Reading…

5CT October 2014



Greetings from the north coast of California where they are literally running out of water. Day after day — the sun shines on. There are cruel intermissions, clouds gather, fog rolls in, a shower floats by. But the real thing is hard to come by. In this issue, Zadie Smith unpacks a beer ad, tools for writers and creatives, a trip around the literary Northwest and…a quirky tour of England. Enjoy, and pray for rain.

Continue Reading…

5 Cool Things for 1.13.12

FCT has a very fine new look, all thanks due a certain Portland based web designer. Hope you like. With the new look, comes a new little section. Metier will feature little morsels about writing — whatever has struck my fancy. All right then, onward. Mr. George Saunders is white hot. Get to know Richard Blanco, he’s got a big day coming up. Barry Lopez was on Fresh Air talking about being Barry Lopez. Richard Nixon would have been 100 years old this past week and if only Hunter S. Thompson was around still. Or Hitch, for that matter. What’s a Sunday in winter without Bossa Nova? “When the president does it, that means that it’s not illegal.” Richard Nixon

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 7.08.45 PM

1. Man of the Hour | George Saunders

George Saunders, photo Tim Knox

One hardly knows where to begin. Oh wait, I know exactly where to begin. Saturday, January 12, 2013 I took myself to Elliott Bay Books to poke around, work in the cafe and so forth. On the way out I asked about the new George Saunders book, The Tenth of December. “I’ll look it up,” said the nice person behind the counter. “No need,” said her colleague. “We’re out, everyone’s out, even the distributor.” That tells you something, no? Brand new book! So I’m just going to provide some links here and you can follow your nose as you see fit. But, if you love fiction, read it all, read everything. Great writer, cool guy and, a Nyingma Buddhist. I double dare you to not love the man.

Chicago Christmas, 1984
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Preface
George Saunders, A Life in Writing

“And I’m starting to realise that I always thought the answer was just to work hard. And it’s true, but there’s another component, which is that you have to keep pushing yourself to open up to the widest possible vision of the world. And find a prose style that will make that compelling. And that is a beautiful challenge.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 7.08.45 PM

 2. American the Beautiful | Richard Blanco

Inaugural poet, Richard Blanco – photo by Nikki Moustaki/AP

When I Was a Little Cuban Boy

O José can you see… that’s how I sang it, when I was
cubanito in Miami, and América was some country
in the glossy pages of my history book, someplace
way north, everyone white, cold, perfect. This Land
is my Land, so why didn’t I live there, in a brick house
with a fireplace, a chimney with curlicues of smoke.
I wanted to wear breeches and stockings to my chins,
those black pilgrim shoes with shiny gold buckles.
I wanted to eat yams with the Indians, shake hands
with los negros, and dash through snow I’d never seen
in a one-horse hope-n-say? I wanted to speak in British,
say really smart stuff like fours core and seven years ago
or one country under God, in the visible. I wanted to see
that land with no palm trees, only the strange sounds
of flowers like petunias, peonies, impatience, waiting
to walk through a door someday, somewhere in God
Bless America and say, Lucy, I’m home, honey. I’m home.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of a man who writes poems like this one giving the inaugural poem? Too good to be true.

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 7.08.45 PM

3. The Courage to Create | Barry Lopez

Long time ago I read Barry Lopez’ opus, Arctic Dreams and fell for the man, head over heel. Gorgeous book. Very sensitive, a bit on the romantic side, but what’s not to like about that? It turns out that Barry Lopez may have come by his sensitivities via a difficult journey.

Barry Lopez, photo by David Littschwager

In Sliver of Sky, an article that appeared in a recent Harper’s Magazine, he details the years of boyhood sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a true monster. The story at Harper’s is paywalled, but he did a radio interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. It’s unbelievably wrenching. But you can’t help admire a writer facing that kind of moment — to tell the world or not. His voice, compassion, and wisdom are worth every second. Listen to Barry Lopez here >>

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 7.08.45 PM


William Zinsser

“If you would like to write better than everybody else, you have to want to write better than everybody else.”

Zinsser, William


I’m not sure about the ‘better than everybody else’ part. But better yes. Wanting, yes. I love that word. In other words, desire. Speaking of Barry Lopez again and his great big book, Arctic Dreams – Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape. I’ll never forget the hook in the subtitle, that imagination shapes desire. We can only desire what we can imagine for ourselves. I’ve always thought that hunger, desire, wanting, an almost painful wanting — were essential ingredients to the pursuit of writing. Otherwise, how could you?

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 7.08.45 PM

 4. 100 Years Old | Happy Birthday Dick

Richard Nixon campaigning in New York, photo by Gary Winogrand

This past week, January 9, 2013, was the birthday of number 37, one Richard Milhouse Nixon. Had he lived, he’d be 100 years old. There is no American politician, living or gone, who can make as large a claim on our darkest imaginings as Richard Nixon. In celebration, here’s an excerpt from the infamous Dr. Hunter S. Thompson eulogy, He’s a Crook, in The Atlantic Magazine.

“Richard Nixon is gone now, and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing — a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that “I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 7.08.45 PM

5. Song for Sunday | Elza Soares, Pranto Livre

Whoa. Learn more here >>