Category Archives: Uncategorized

Preorder page for MIDWEST FUTURES, my first book

(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 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.

New piece on Robert Alter’s translation of the Hebrew Bible

Or, as I put it on Twitter, “I reviewed the FREAKIN’ BIBLE, no big deal.” It’s at Plough.

Catching up

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.

New piece on the Kenner/Davenport letters

I reviewed the correspondence between Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner, two of my favorite writers, for the University Bookman.

A new thing

One, I reviewed Keith Gessen’s novel A Terrible Country for Commonweal and used the occasion to try to repay (well, acknowledge) some of my own intellectual debts to n+1, a journal of which Gessen was a cofounder.

New piece for THE OUTLINE on religion and certainty

I am so happy to be making my Outline debut, part of their Unconditional Wisdom series, in which writers take on pieces of conventional wisdom that (in editor Brandy Jensen’s words) “make your eye twitch” with irritation. I decided to say a few things about that old chestnut “Religion is something people turn to so they can have a sense of certainty in a complex world.”

My response to this little platitude is always “I effing wish” and this essay talks about why.

New essay for HEDGEHOG: “What Is It Like To Be a Man”

Besides teaching and my union (yay!) and moving (boo!), this essay was the main thing I spent time on during the first half of this year. It is about masculinity, a subject some of my acquaintances consider me too little qualified to speak on, and others too much. It also talks about lawnmowing, poverty, The GodfatherRiverdale, Bronze Age wrist sizes, why overworked moms make me feel … small, Samuel Delany’s Triton, and the time my then-girlfriend-now-wife and I got robbed at gunpoint. It settles my beefs with the following people:
–Harvey Mansfield
–Carl Jung
–Carl Jung’s one-man shitty Canadian cover band
–all those “traditional men” with YouTube channels and ex-wives who hate them
–the sport of cross-country. Oh, cross-country, why did I waste my time on you when we were so clearly adding nothing to each others’ existences? Why didn’t I just put in three comfy miles a day and spend all those grueling training hours learning Hittite or something?
–that dude who flicked my balls when I was clocking out at McDonalds that one time. Not cool, buddy. We both work at McDonalds. Haven’t we both suffered enough? Can’t we unite against our true enemy, capitalism?

New piece on Curtis Dawkins, THE GREYBAR HOTEL, prison writing …

… separating the art from the artist, the State of Michigan’s penchant for cruel and dumb lawsuits, and a number of other things. It is at Commonweal.

Still, the existence of the book scandalizes some readers. Such is the conclusion we must draw, at least, from the lawsuit recently filed by the State of Michigan against Dawkins and his publishers, which seeks to reclaim his book’s royalties to recoup the cost of Dawkins’s incarceration. It should be noted that Michigan, like all other states, appropriates prisoners’ labor at sub-sub-minimum-wage levels for a variety of tasks to ends that nobody any longer seriously pretends are rehabilitative; sometimes in conditions such that, last year at Michigan’s Kinross Correctional Facility, inmates risked death to go on strike. It is just possible that Dawkins is earning his keep. Suits similar to the one filed by Michigan against Dawkins have been levied against imprisoned writers before—most famously, perhaps, in the case of a group of women writers at Connecticut’s York Prison taught and subsequently anthologized by the novelist Wally Lamb. After considerable heartache and expense, that suit was defeated. That Michigan’s government is risking the possibility of such a defeat, and using taxpayer money to do it, might raise one or two questions, especially when one considers that a major Michigan city has been without clean water for, at this writing, well over 1,300 days. One can only marvel at the intensity of the state’s devotion to protecting the readers of The Graybar Hotel from the possibility of moral complicity.

I wrote that in January. Flint’s water situation is still unresolved. Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed is the first and, to my knowledge, only such candidate to take a public stance against the Dawkins lawsuit, which is one of many, many reasons that he has my vote.

Preorder RED STATE BLUES!

Hey, you! Yes, you! Are you a Midwesterner? Or a reader? Or, like, a sentient being? Then you should preorder Belt’s new anthology Red State Blues, which includes a number of fantastic pieces by fantastic writers, and also my Midwest essay from Hedgehog Review.

Guest Post at John Warner’s IHE Blog

Many thanks to that good fellow John Warner, whom many of you will know for his fiction or the years he spent editing the funny parts of McSweeneys, for letting me write about the higher ed labor struggle, my hopes for the rebirth of open-ended inquiry through that struggle, and my union, LEO, at his blog Just Visiting.

This was originally my first draft for something that Maximillian Alvarez and I were going to cowrite. Max (whose columns you are surely reading, right?) graciously allowed me to use this version and put his editorial contacts at LEO’s disposal as well, even though he’s extremely dissertating right now. (He has shown up for LEO in so many ways this year, while guiding the campus struggle against fascism and somehow doing his own work. Here is one leftist intellectual who isn’t just building a brand. I’m indebted to him, and I’m also always indebted to Tressie McMillan Cottom for helping me begin to understand how higher ed is structured.)