“Flying Camels, Butterflies, And Twizzles”: In Which I am a Sports Correspondent

for the American Spectator: In early January, I attend my very first professional sports competition. The U.S. National Figure Skating Championships have already been going on for four days; the event sprawls over four disciplines and five age categories. I’m at Boston’s TD Garden to watch the senior men, including the two men we’ll be sending to the Winter Olympics in Sochi.Sport, like art, uses the limited body to hint at a world without limits. The ball soaring over the stands, the runne … [Read more...]

“No, Where Are You Really From?”: Dinaw Mengestu’s Novel of Ethiopians in America

Dinaw Mengestu's 2010 How to Read the Air tells two parallel stories: In alternating chapters, Jonas Woldemariam retells the story of his Ethiopian immigrant parents' ill-fated road trip through the Midwest, and his own equally ill-starred career as a teacher and husband. But the book is more tangled than most parallel-lines-meet narratives. Jonas is not only retelling the road trip but retracing it; the chapters about his teaching include the many stories he tells his students about his … [Read more...]

“City of God”: Love and Rocket

I watched the 2003 favela gangster film City of God last night, and I have little to add to Victor Morton's insightful review: ...[T]he hyper-caffeinated style in CITY OF GOD is just breathtaking and entertaining as all get-go — the orange-clay look of the 50s segment, a bravura one-shot dissolve through the history of a single room in the favela over decades, the repeated freeze-frames, a 360-degree stop-motion shot, the great sequence of Benny’s “leaving the life” party. And it’s not all that … [Read more...]

Dostoyevsky Pitches “Crime and Punishment”

don't miss the endnote: TO M.N. Katkov[First half of September], 1865, WiesbadenK[ind] S[ir] M[ikhail] N[ikiforovich]May I hope to have my story published in your magazine, R[ussian] M[essenger]?I have been working on it for 2 months now here in Wiesbaden, and it is nearing completion. It will contain between five and six printer’s sheets. I still have a couple of weeks’ work left on it, or perhaps a bit more. In any case, I can promise definitely that in a month at the very lat … [Read more...]

Cheer Up with the Smiths! I’m at the American Spectator

reporting live from 1984! What everybody forgets about the Smiths is how much fun they were.And not just fun: The band careened through the '80s putting out four studio albums which were joyful, sexy, funny, self-deprecating, silly, and even sometimes compulsively danceable. The myth of Morrissey and his mopey muse has some truth to it—and he made the jokes first, in song titles like “Miserable Lie,” “Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now,” “Pretty Girls Make Graves” and the rest—but the band mocke … [Read more...]

Too Much Harmony: “Water by the Spoonful,” A Play About Friendship, Dissonance, and Humiliating Identity

Last night I saw Quiara Alegria Hudes's Pulitzer-winning Water by the Spoonful at Studio Theatre. It uses dissonant jazz as a metaphor for the disjunctions and collisions in our own lives, asking whether these discordant notes will ever resolve into harmony. The show tells two parallel stories: A young vet with PTSD fights with his cousin about how to mourn his dying adoptive mother, and members of an online support group for "crackheads" (their term, which is important, see below) strive to … [Read more...]

Lenten Linkfest: Includes One Actual Lent Link.

Mudblood Catholic a) echoes the novel I'm working on and b) frightens me, via CS Lewis: Of course, we're all insufferable sometimes and to someone. I think it was C. S. Lewis who speculated that one of the disciplinary aspects of Purgatory might well be perceiving ourselves as others perceived us while on earth. Trying to see ourselves from the perspective of someone who dislikes us intensely -- and perhaps not altogether unfairly -- can be a salutary experience. Though it is admittedly an … [Read more...]


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