Change of plans Wednesday, Sep 30 2009 

Alas, the event at the Commerce Township library has been canceled, for  rescheduling in March. In lieu, a quote from the insanely quotable Oscar Wilde:

“Art never expresses anything but itself.”

Sidebar thought: Wouldn’t Wilde, Rimbaud, Flannery O’Connor, and Jim Carroll make a perfect high school reading list!


Who’s your monster? Tuesday, Sep 29 2009 

Fear is so relative, isn’t it? (No jokes about Thanksgiving dinner with the family of origin, or kooky uncles, ‘k?) Writing Planchette took me back — though there wasn’t far to go — to my love of the Dracula story: what happened in that novel was undeniably eerie, all the blood, the graveyards and Carpathians and lizard-crawling down castle walls, but it was thrilling, too, the idea of a whole dark world unfurling like a night-blooming flower, right beside the staid British landscape of Whitby and London — and by inference, my own.

Clearly I had receptors for that story built in, no need to reverse-install. Dracula was my monster, in a way that, oh, Frankenstein’s poor creation (talk about reverse installation!) never could be.  And forget about the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  He didn’t scare me, I felt sorry for him, I wanted those people to just leave him alone in the goo and ooze to go about his daily scaly life.

What makes a monster personal? Is it that we are frightened by but not of him (or her or it or they)? Is it that we want to be that monster, have those powers?  Is it simply a matter of style? Do you secretly long to be the Queen Alien?  Does anyone secretly long to be that thing that lives under the bed? (Oh come on: you know it’s there.)


Will the banning never stop? Monday, Sep 28 2009 

Let’s discuss.  At the Commerce Township Library, on October 1 at 7 PM, we’re going to talk about banned books: from a reader’s perspective, and from a writer’s, and from a librarian’s, and from yours if you come out to join the discussion, which I hope you do.  And bring along your favorite banned book. (Call  248-669-8108 for more info.)

Rebel.  Read.  Repeat.reader

Ban this guy! Wednesday, Sep 23 2009 

What if someone had wanted to ban this guy, based on his appearance in my childhood nightmares? I loved those nightmares! Lee Brown Coye, you ruled then and you rule now. And August Derleth’s Sleep No More. …”Thus I Refute Beelzy” is a nice cautionary tale for the anti-whimsy crowd.  But I don’t remember “A Gentleman from Prague,” so I’d better get busy and read it again.

lee brown coye illo

Let’s ban a book! Friday, Sep 18 2009 

No, let’s don’t.  But what, in the most top secret recesses of the mind, is the book you – yes, you – would ban, would gladly ban, would even, gladly, burn?  Is there anything written, ever, that might cross that final line with you?

The act of banning itself (a curious word, “ban”) is a strange one, if you think about it.  A book is a physical object, but the object itself poses no threat (unless you whale on someone’s head with it, or drop it from a cruising zeppelin): it’s those ideas, images, thoughts, words within that are so potentially bannable, right? Oh, and the illustrations, too. But how can you “ban” an idea?

“Even their virtues were being burned away.” Tuesday, Sep 15 2009 

That line comes from Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation,” where the redoubtable Mrs. Turpin dresses down the Almighty One from a pig parlor, and gets a metaphysical punch in the face – a benevolent one, but still a punch – for her trouble.  That’ll teach her to traffic in the divine.

On a DVD of the John Huston film of Wise Blood, O’Connor’s first novel, among the special features is an audio recording of Flannery herself, introducing a reading of her funny, terrible, tender story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”  There’s something so moving about that calm, dry, utterly unself-centered voice, that writer who knew so well what she was about, who always wanted to write, as she once put it,”as well as I can, or a little better.”  Listening to her – I had never heard her speak before – was a surprise and a joy.  She was 39 when she died.


Gashlycrumb Tinies, or, It’s so sad, he was so young Sunday, Sep 13 2009 

Reminded by a fellow fan (hello, Mr. Hat!), let’s revel again today in the glory that is Gorey, and the untimely and gruesome ends achieved by this clutch of unlucky moppets.  FYI, Mr. Hat’s Facebook quiz told him he was Basil, assaulted by bears.  Me, I identify with Neville, felled by ennui.

If this book doesn’t make you laugh I don’t know what will.


Back to school-ish Thursday, Sep 3 2009 

Though Labor Day comes so late this time around, it’s really back to school with a vengeance.  Notwithstanding the tragic dearth of really good girl-themed lunchboxes (or so declares an acquaintance of mine, with seven-year-old twin daughters), the wheel is rolling: notebooks, crayons, sports physicals, lesson plans, the smell of clean hallways, the silence before the rush. Happy New Year, all students and teachers.  I hope to be both learning (French) and teaching (writing) right alongside you this year. lunchbox