Good news around here. Along with a wonderful group of Oregon writers and publishers, I’ve been awarded the 2021 Literary Arts Walt Morey Fellowship in Nonfiction. Thanks to Literary Arts!
Hello. Since I last posted news, lots and lots and lots has changed. If you were to look at my bio, say, you would see I have moved across the country, from New York City to Portland, Oregon, to take up as director of the MFA in Writing program at Pacific University. I’ve also written a few things for magazines, one about Deniil Medvedev for Racquet and another about Zadie Smith’s new book Intimations for Los Angeles Review of Books. Hello again. I’m back. I’m around.
Just in time for the holidays, Guernica is running a short essay from me called “We Need to Talk.” Set largely in the Pacific Northwest with friends Debra and Barry, and with ties to my teaching in New York, the piece makes the case, with Baldwin, that in these times we must confront each other, face to face, to save one another, body and soul.
Longreads is running a new essay from me in their “Fine Lines: Writing about Age” series. The piece is called “Father’s Little Helper.” It’s both about the time I took half a Valium and the result of that occasion.
The fall issue of Oxford American has an essay from me about the Florida town called Starke, where my grandfather moved his family in the early 1960s to operate a whites-only motel. As I say in the essay, “I think my family’s discomfort in Starke was real and, in its way, understandable. I have found it worth describing, at least.”
There is a new online magazine out there to read; it’s called Popula. I’m grateful to have a new essay appear there today, “The Extravagant Inversion of Values,” which takes its title from the French writer Emmanuel Carrère and details the pull the Christianity continues to have on me.
The New York Times Sunday Review today has an essay from me called “The Soul-Crushing Student Essay.” Here is the takeaway:
A decade teaching young writers has taught me a great deal. First, we need to value more the complete and complex lives of young people: where they come from, how they express themselves. They have already lived lives worth of our attention and appreciation.
Second, we need to encourage young people to take seriously the lives they’ve lived, even as they come to understand—often through schooling and just as often not—that there’s a whole lot more we'll expect of them. Through this, we can help them learn to expect more of themselves, too.
I am very pleased to announce the Longreads release of a mini-course about empathy that began as a talk I delivered in June 2017 at Pacific University’s MFA in Writing Program: “Between the Wolf in the Tall Grass and the Wolf in the Tall Story.” This was a collaboration with the psychologist Paul Bloom, author of Against Empathy; Daniel Raeburn, who wrote the glorious memoir Vessels; and William Gatewood, who originally heard the talk as a Pacific student. My many thanks go out to them and our editor at Longreads, Krista Stevens.
This week in Guernica I have an essay about kissing, Misskiss. In it, I make reference to some of my son’s early attempts to write and I look ahead to when we might stop kissing—and then when we might start again. This piece will be collected in a book forthcoming by W.W. Norton, and edited by Brian Turner and Ed Winstead.