Monday, October 22, 2012

Ben Lerner's essay will change the way you watch and interpret the Presidential debates

Here is a brief excerpt from a wonderful essay that Ben Lerner wrote about his days as a smash-mouth high-school debater. As you will see, most of the text is behind the paywall. To read the whole thing, you will need to head off to your friendly indie bookstore and buy this issue of Harper's.  While this analytical and personal essay is not explicitly about the latest round of debates, you might wish that Lerner was up on the podium, giving grief to everyone involved,  including the moderator.  This essay is not short, but if you get in your car or cinch up your sneakers right now,  you will have time to reach your neighborhood bookstore, buy the magazine and a cup of coffee,  read and re-read this essay before Obama and Romney mix it up this evening.  If you remember from a couple of weeks ago, Ben Lerner is the author of Leaving The Atocha Station, and I am proud to say that I've got at least one of my Cactuseaters readers hooked on that book. You know who you are.

San Miguel and beyond: my interview with T.C. Boyle

I noticed that Andrew Goldman has a Q and A with T.C. Boyle in this week's New York Times Sunday Magazine. I spoke with T.C. Boyle a couple of months ago about his exploration of mankind's turbulent and strange relationship with the natural world. In light of the publicity for Boyle's new novel, San Miguel, and the launching of Catamaran this week, I am posting a brand-new edit of my previously posted podcast interview with Boyle. And here it is. You will find the podcast image and link about halfway down the page, which also includes detailed info about Catamaran's inaugural issue.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Video: Watch the first issue of Catamaran literary magazine getting printed out (while triumphant music plays in the background)

What does it take to publish a literary magazine? A group of hard-working editors, a whole bunch of talented contributors, lots of brainstorming sessions at the Salz Tannery in Santa Cruz, and a group of determined printers working with an enormous and complicated piece of machinery. In case you are curious, here is what it looked like when the first batch of them got printed up. Enjoy. Every time I watch this video and all those whirring, sorting, printing contraptions, Rube Goldberg comes to mind.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Please check your mailboxes over the next few days ...

... if you're a subscriber to Catamaran or if you are getting, for one reason or another, a complimentary issue. Your copy or copies should be arriving in the mail any day now. So if it doesn't arrive today, check again tomorrow. If not, Catamaran will be available in bookstores nationwide. And speaking of check again, I know that some of you weren't able to attend our reading last week. If that is the case, I just wanted to let you know that someone filmed the entire thing including the Q and A session at the end, and it should be uploaded at some point soon; I will let you know and will probably post the link here. Also, do me a favor and drive over to your local indie bookstore or to your Barnes & Noble or whatever you have in town and pick up the latest issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, which has a beautiful cover illustration by the great Chris Ware and a piece about the wonderful Louise Erdrich,  author most recently of the novel The Round House. I'm happy to report that this particular issue also includes a personal essay of mine, "The Man in the Shoebox," about an artifact that hangs on the wall to the right of my desk. In fact, it's hanging right above my keyboard as I type these words right now. At some point I really ought to take a picture of this artifact and upload it on the blog so you can see it. It is, truly, a conversation starter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Martin Rees on extraterrestrial life, space travel and the fate of mankind

Martin Rees, the United Kingdom's Astronomer, gave a fascinating presentation incorporating billion years of cosmic history. This was truly one of the highlights of the fall season for me. Here's a little story I put together about it. Photos by Steve Kurtz.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thank you for the great reading

hi everyone -- just wanted to let you all know that the reading went really well, and it was very heartening to see loved ones and pals who braved an unexpected, awful rainstorm and went up and over 'the hill' just to be there. Thank you so much for that. It means a lot to both of us. Also, it was great to see some SJSU undergrads from Kate Evans's writing class. This was Amy's first reading -- ever -- and it went over extremely well. As for me, this is the first time I've aired out any aspect of a new project that I'm working on. It has no title, and every piece of the project relates in some way to a physical artifact that I've either found or kept over the years or, in some cases, made from scratch. I'm envisioning this project as a kind of living museum or wonder-cabinet. Some of the material is pretty dark but I chose a piece that was quite a bit breezier and more lighthearted.  If you missed last night's presentation,  pick up the winter issue of Poets & Writers Magazine because the essay is going to appear in that issue.  By the way, the event was videotaped (all of it, including the Q & A afterward) and one of these days it is going to be posted on the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies' website so I'll give you a heads-up when it happens. I also wanted to let you know that Catamaran Literary Magazine (I'm now contributing editor) has been printed and copies of the magazine are going to ship really soon. In other news, I've dry cleaned my best shirt and suit because I am going to the UC Santa Cruz Founders Forum and Founders Dinner this Friday. I'm very excited about both of these things. On Friday I will have a chance to take in a presentation by Sir Martin Rees, one of the world's preeminent astronomers. The talk at this point is completely sold out but this TED talk should give you some sense of the breadth and the scope of Friday's discussion.  I will post a full report about Rees and his presentation on this blog early next week so stay tuned. I'll also do a big write-up about the dinner, too.  If the dry cleaners makes a mess of my shirt, I'm really up the creek.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Your final reminder and poster

Here is one last reminder for this event. Mostly I wanted you to see what they did with the poster; thanks, Nick Taylor, for putting this together.

Monday, October 08, 2012

If you are going to our big reading on Wednesday but can't figure out how to get there ...

Close to 100 percent of the people who read this blog will be going to my reading with Amy Ettinger so I'd better step up and give you better directions.

First of all, the basics: Amy Ettinger and I will both read personal essays that will most likely be incorporated into longer nonfiction projects. The reading starts at 7 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library on 150 East San Fernando Street in San Jose. Once you arrive at the MLK library, proceed to the fifth floor. We will be speaking at Room 550 -- the Schiro Program Room.

Refreshments will be served including wine and cheese but you already know that. You're here for the directions. You're sick of being reminded about the wine and cheese.  So here goes.


 If you just so happen to be traveling from Cupertino, here's what you should do. Get on I-280 toward San Jose. Take the CA-87 N/Guadalupe Parkway exit, EXIT 3A. Take the Santa Clara Street exit toward Downtown San Jose. Turn right onto W Santa Clara St. Turn right onto S 4th St. Turn left onto E San Fernando St. (You will see Flames Eatery Bar on the left) You will soon see 150 E SAN FERNANDO ST on the right. You could try your luck with the parking meters but there are parking garages that are pretty close to there, too. Most of them are within easy walking distance.


First, you'll want to get on Highway 17.  Then you'll want to merge onto I-280 South toward downtown San Jose.  Take the CA-87 N/Guadalupe Parkway exit, EXIT 3A. Take the Santa Clara Street exit toward Downtown San Jose. Turn right onto W Santa Clara St. Turn right onto S 4th St.Turn left onto E San Fernando St. Flames Eatery & Bar is on the left but don't eat there if you can help it. If you reach Paseo de San Antonio you've gone about 0.1 miles too far. The library, on 150 E SAN FERNANDO ST is on the right. If you reach S 5th St you've gone a little too far. I stole these directions straight off Mapquest. If these directions suck, blame them, not me.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Yarn-bomber turns tree into go-go dancer!

My friendly neighborhood yarn bomber has turned a perfectly ordinary magnolia tree into a high-kicking, long-legged go-go dancer. If you want to see this in person, drive out to Santa Cruz and head out to Cayuga Street in the Seabright neighborhood. It is impossible to miss.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Leonard Cohen: we'll be seeing in you in San Jose

I was amazed to find out that the great Leonard Cohen will be playing live in San Jose on November 7. At 78, he's a good seven years older than Bob Dylan. A few years back, an unexpected financial setback  (involving a trusted associate's skullduggery) forced him to hit the road again. It was just another extreme example of retirement cut short during the financial hard times that are affecting us all. Anyways, this setback was a surprise boon for fans. I missed him last time around -- and this time I'm not making that mistake again. Here he is, performing Tower of Song. And if you -- the three readers of this blog -- aren't familiar with the works of Leonard Cohen, you might want to start with The Essential Leonard Cohen, a lovely, two-disk overview. Don't miss the liner notes by Pico Iyer. Not surprisingly, the talented Sylvie Simmons is getting strong reviews for her biography of Cohen. I would love to read the book by the time Mr. Cohen appears in San Jose but I've got about seven other books to read before that one.