I’m gonna be on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Central Time from 5:30-6pm on Wednesday if anyone is interested. It will be live, so this could be an opportunity to watch someone embarrass themselves in real time. (I will have to practice not cussing.) I think this link takes you to a feed where the thing can be listened to. https://www.wpr.org/listen-live?network=ideas
Then immediately after that, my friend Raechel, whose book you can buy here, and I will talk to each other via Zoom while anyone who wants to listens. That event is hosted by Literati, a store that I really miss walking through and hope to soon walk through again.
These spectral presences will constitute my book tour for Midwest Futures for the moment, though one hopes for more.
I’ve been doing a poor job of keeping this site updated. Since the last thing I posted on here, I have published this piece about my weird obsession with Richard Nixon, and the first installment of what I hope will be a continuing bimonthly new books column at Plough, on science fiction. (In this environment, who knows what will and won’t “continue,” but I’m working on the next two installments just in case!) My editor for the Plough piece, Caitrin Keiper, is absolutely brilliant and is available for freelance hire. Any person or organization would do well to hire her.
My book, Midwest Futures, an expansion and reimagining of this essay about the Midwest, is already shipping, and can be bought here. (They won’t be able to ship physical copies till April 6 because of Ohio’s shelter-in-place order, but that’s not that long to wait). You can also buy the ebook. Midwest Futures, as of this moment–I won’t look again because it can only get worse–has a 4.67-star rating at Goodreads. I don’t know a single one of the reviewers, so that makes it extra sweet. An excerpt from Midwest Futures has appeared at Vox. I had not worked with Vox before and I want to shout-out both Karen Turner, the editor, who was thoughtful, imaginative, and patient, and also whoever did the illustration that accompanies the article. It’s quite attractive.
Finally, I interviewed the poet Mark Nowak about his new history of community creative writing workshops, Social Poetics.
I hope anyone reading this is as well and safe as possible.
To a child, the adult world is oppressive in part because of its apparent competence, its air of knowing what ought to be done and when and what to call everything. The unending, dogged, elaborate, even painstaking failure of Plan 9—the way it seems to go out of its way to fail—was tonic to the imagination, a kind of carnivalesque reversal. I needed to see adult inadvertence, and name it as such; I needed to observe the little hole it made in the world.
I wrote about loving terrible movies for Hedgehog Review.
I wrote about teaching writing (and about John Warner’s excellent book Why They Can’t Write) for Plough, about Linn Marie Tonstad’s Queer Theology for the Century, and about the TV show Black Mirror and the podcast The Dropout for the Courier.
Upcoming topics: disenchantment (is it a thing??); Richard Nixon (what was his deal??); Mark Fisher (why was he so great??); the similarities between the Epstein and Manson cases (were they CIA plants??) (just kidding) (not really)
(To the tune of “Ring My Bell”) You can buy my boo-ooo-ook!/Buy my book!
You can do it here, and you can also gaze at the cover design, which is so good I want to go buy the thing. Comes out in March 2020 unless the revisions I’m about to turn in need more revising.
It’s an expansion of the Midwest essay, but I’m concentrating more on the ways in which the Midwest has been a focus of technological change and ideas about the future, and how these interact with the idea of its “plainness” and “averageness” and “normality,” and how all of it comes into play again when we talk about the future under climate change.
The two people who have read it (in its first draft) did so in one sitting without meaning to, so I take that as a good sign.
Or, as I put it on Twitter, “I reviewed the FREAKIN’ BIBLE, no big deal.” It’s at Plough.
A couple small pieces I forgot to post here: Me on Meghan O’Gieblyn’s Interior States, a book that tied with lazenby’s Infinity to Dine as my favorite of 2018. And my tribute to Mary Midgley, the late English moral philosopher, at Hedgehog.
My book Midwest at Midnight (current title, anyway) is with the publisher now. (Sentences of this form remind me of the thing a parent says to a child about a dead pet. “Mittens is with God now, honey.”) We’ll see what amount of edits I get back, but I believe our target is still publication in 2020. Visitors to this web site will, Heaven knows, hear a great deal more about that subject.
So go ahead and read the depressing-looking cancer theology book. It’s actually life-giving, and you need it. Our planetary situation, after all, is more or less the same as Thompson’s bodily one. Our nomos is disrupted down to the level of plankton and sperm cells, and our disease is, in some sense, a part of us. The people in charge seem to want the world to be four degrees hotter by the end of the century, and reactionary movements in all the richest countries seem determined to make sure the refugees we’re creating will have nowhere to go but into the sea. We don’t know how long we’ve got, and none of our stories seem to be working. If we survive, it will be in a version of ourselves unrecognizable to ourselves. We’re all in exile from an ordered world. With the help of thinkers like Thompson, we can relearn how to sing our songs in a hot, barren land.
Wrote about a good theology book for the Christian Century, here.
I reviewed the correspondence between Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner, two of my favorite writers, for the University Bookman.
I reviewed The Death of Stalin for the Christian Courier and Minding the Gap for the Weekly Standard.