Good Ideas

The Caviar of Podcasts

Succulent aromas. Mouth-watering flavors. Palate-tingling, tender textures. blue-fin-tunaThese are only a few of the thoroughly understated ways I could begin to describe my favorite podcast, Words for Dinner, the most delicious auditory feast I have had the fortune to experience.

Have you a craving for duck foie gras? Roe from a bluefin tuna? Fret not. Words for Dinner is more delectable than these, and cheaper. In fact, it is free of charge.

O wandering ear of digital erudition! How I honor you with this, Episode 11 of Words for Dinner – “Decadent.”

I recommend you subscribe to it forthwith, humans, and save yourself the indignity of ignorance when you next dine with a more-enlightened creature than yourself, and he asks  you, have you partaken in the sonic smorgasbord that is all the rage? Partake, you! Go forth and partake.

Thoughts from F. Scott Fitzgerald

f-scott-fitzWhen the initial sales of his mediocre book The Great Gatsby failed to meet expectations, Fitzgerald expressed his disappointment in a letter to his editor, Max Perkins. In the letter, he decried the trend at the time of honoring the so-called “American peasant.” Wrote Fitzgerald:

Some day they’ll eat grass, by God! This thing, both the effort and the result have hardened me and I think now that I’m much better than any of the young Americans without exception.

Do you notice the barely-concealed contempt for grassy cuisine? He went on, however, to declare that:

There’s no point in being an artist if you can’t do your best.

I can’t disagree there, although, on the whole, I dare say I give better advice to young artists. For example, I was the first to utter the now-ubiquitous commonplace, never wipe your hindquarters with bark. That was me.

For that little gem and innumerable others, follow me on the Tweeter at @City_Sasquatch

(Notes on F. Scott from the laudable biography by Andrew Turnbull)

Book Recommendation of the Month: Wasp Queen

Wasp-Queen-COVERAh, a cheery morning to you, my bipedal comrades! It is especially cheery because I have a book recommendation for you.

And so, I give unto you the thrilling poet Claudia Cortese’s poetry collection, Wasp Queen, forthcoming in December from Black Lawrence Press. Cortese’s brave and unblinking work appears in such publications as Blackbird, Crazyhorse, and The Offing. An excerpt from Wasp Queen can be found on the latter journal’s site. Read more about her on her author page at Her writing does not shrink from the hard truths of modern life.

Go forth, humanoids, and read! If you have a suggestion for my next Book Recommendation of the Month, email me at or tweet me @City_Sasquatch.

What I’m Reading

In a detailed how-to piece on submitting to literary magazines, Ryo Yamaguchi says, “I write to trend, and I write against it.” In other words, pay attention to what other writers are doing, but don’t let that trap you. I recommend perusing the rest of the article, which can be found on The Michigan Quarterly Review’s delightful blog. Thanks also to The Review Review for tipping me off.

joy williams godIn an earlier post on this distinguished internet thingie, I referred to an interview by editor Lincoln Michel with the esteemed and strange author Joy Williams. And what do I find today, but an excerpt of her new collection, Ninety-Nine Stories of God, courtesy of the irrepressible resource, Lithub.

…Which also published this thought-provoking overview of books that stimulate – some more mildly than others – the human emotion known as empathy. I’ve encountered that emotion before. It being (as I mentioned) a human trait, what little experience I did get with empathy fredric jameson antimoniesgave me gas. I don’t recommend it.

(The latter article points to Fredric Jameson’s scholarly tome, The Antimonies of Realism, which Lithub makes out to be a perfect object to read ostentatiously on the curb outside Lorin Stein’s apartment. They paraphrase Jameson’s opinion on the contemporary time period known as “modernity” thusly: Jameson believes that modernity creates an “irreconcilable divorce between intelligibility and experience, between meaning and existence.” Quite so! My thoughts exactly. But then again, I never assumed that meaning and existence were dating? Forgive me, but isn’t it in bad form to presume knowledge of a couple’s relationship without any verifiable evidence thereof? Harumph. Perhaps I am unforgivably antiquated in my notions about etiquette.)

Hate or Love Twitter, It Found Me Joy Williams

joy williams barn oklahoma

In “When An Internet Skeptic Takes to Twitter,” Sven Birkerts, author of The Gutenberg Elegies, decries the flittersphere in no uncertain terms. Denigrating the “toddler-talk sound of the word” Twitter, Birkerts goes on to call the popular site an “unceasing purposeless chatter-stream” and a “mad bazaar of self-promotion…”

I agree. How hard it is to keep one’s head on straight in these heady days of our budding information age! Alas!

Shortly afterward, on Twitter, I came across a link to a Vice News interview with acclaimed short story writer and veritable luddite Joy Williams, known by many as an early darling of both Gordon Lish and George Plimpton during the early days of her career in the 1970’s. According to interviewer (and member of the Big Apple literati himself) Lincoln Michel, Williams commenced to schedule their talk by sending him a postcard from Oklahoma with a picture of a barn on it and her phone number on the back. She then mailed him a hard copy of her answers to his questions.

I recommend perusing the interview in its entirety. Among other things, Williams declares:

I used to rather like the word “empathy.” Now I feel it’s not nearly strong enough. Nor is sympathy hard enough. We need a radical shift in consciousness, a more generous conception of the whole, which is far more inclusive than we prefer to believe.

And just one of her rules for writing effective short stories:

8) A certain coldness is required in execution. It is not a form that gives itself to consolation but if consolation is offered it should come from an unexpected quarter.

Try to find a ruby with that kind of shine inside the Twitter mine, why don’t you?

Podcast Alert: New Episode of ‘Words For Dinner’

wfd logoFrom time to time, I like to relax by jumping into my pod with a pair of designer earbuds and listening to an audio collage of ambient forest sounds from my ancestral home in the pacific northwest. Nothing calms the nerves like a dose of crickets, bullfrogs, and leaves rustling in the breeze. In fact, on my way to the latest literary readings, I sometimes practice my budding ventriloquy skills by attempting to mimic these sounds with my own voice. The looks of wide-eyed, slack-jawed admiration proliferate along the streets of my city like crocus flowers opening with the dew of Spring.

Other times I listen to a wonderfully entertaining podcast by the name of Words for Dinner, a program described on its Podbean page as a “podcast for the people” hosted by “mild-mannered English professors Mike and Max.” The etymology and cultural signifiers of a different word or phrase serves as the topic of each episode. The latest installment looks closely at the word ‘buffalo’ and its role in the bizarre and grammatically-correct sentence, Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo. 

Give them a listen, humans. You won’t regret it. You can also contact the hosts directly on Twitter @Words4Dinner.

Interview of the Week: Becky Tuch of The Review Review

man at desk by pedro ribeiro simoes

This article of the week comes from my ghostwriter. How thoughtful of him to interview the founder of one of my favorite literary resources on the global interweb net, The Review Review, that most effective tool for researching literary magazines.

The innovative and delightful editress Mlle. Becky Tuch opens up about motherhood, her short story collection (and novel!), and the ongoing evolution of The Review Review in an interview for The Rumpus. Don’t miss it. Be a dear and leave a comment at the bottom, or tweet your reactions to @City_Sasquatch. I will be sure to pass them on to the author.

Find a list of my ghostwriter’s other publications on the About page at the top of your screen, and be sure to keep abreast of his weekly Song of the Day column for The Rumpus. I promise I’ll get around to it, as soon as I open this fan mail.

Today at Lithub

watch phone notebook

Excellent reading can be found, as usual, over at Lithub, your friendly neighborhood webnet site. Today I came across a few tidbits of particular interest.

  • Here you’ll find Lithub’s link to a wonderful Esquire essay by none-other-than the incredible Norman MacLean, author of A River Runs Through It. MacLean speaks persuasively on the merits of rhythm in prose.
  • A comprehensive run-down of essential literature about the sport and the culture of surfing. My nod to the summer season. Here I go – nod. Nod. Nod again.
  • Finally, the book review aggregator we have all been waiting for! Yahoo circa 1998, eat your heart out. Lithub should make a splash with this elegant, easy-to-use portal into the world of book reviews. Not sure what to think of a new title? Find it on Book Marks, the “rotten tomatoes for books,” complete with a handy letter grade, averaged from its available reviews.

Thanks to The Review Review, as always, for the helpful tips.

Kickstarter Spotlight: ‘Distilled Lit’ Magazine

notebook pen

“Write dangerously” is coined from Nietzsche’s “Live dangerously.” We believe if you’re not writing dangerously, not taking risks, not telling secrets, not being vulnerable, not throwing yourself into into the craft, then you’re not truly writing.

These are fighting words from the Kickstarter fundraising campaign page for an exciting new literary journal based in South Florida called Distilled Lit. South Florida, you say? Quite so. This region rarely receives the attention it deserves for its literary scene. I remember the constitutionals I used to take in my youth, several hundred years ago. I loved to lumber dashingly through the knee-high marshes of Florida, swatting egrets and singing Baudelaire at the top of my lungs. Ah, youth! Those halcyon days cause a swell of nostalgia to flow through me like a churning tsunami through the ocean of time!

Anyway, Distilled Lit proclaims its intention – feistily, no less – to champion the “ignored voices of South Florida writers,” especially those writers who have been “ignored for your unknown name, lack of awards or prestige, lack of titles, or lack of conformity to a contemporary aesthetic…” Hear, hear! This journal has won me over. Let’s offer them our support.

Visit their fundraising campaign page sometime in the next 41 days and contribute whatever you can, humans. As of this moment, they only have $2,379 left to raise. Sally forth, I say! And do your duty.

Also, if you know of another plucky journal, underrated author, or dogged artiste that would benefit from a tad of internet publicity (a la sasquatch), refer them to me! Little birdies may tweet me @City_Sasquatch or email me at