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

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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.”

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 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.

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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 >>

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 METIER

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?

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 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.”

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5. Song for Sunday | Elza Soares, Pranto Livre


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