Friday, August 31, 2007

Wood & Wood & Mortar & Wood... — by Daniel Pritchard

I've recently been indulging myself in high-end theory: Marxist criticism by way of Jameson's Late Capitalism. Reading Marxist criticism is something akin to hearing a person speak English with a thick accent, when you have just taken a percocet — "can you say that again? I'm sorry I don't understand the words you are speaking; can you repeat yourself more slowly? no, that didn't help..." It goes on like this, until you become accustomed to the patterns and the context, sort of like getting used to dissidence in orchestral music.

Late Capitalism is a book I've been meaning to re-read for a while, although I could not have told you why. Something in the brief section I'd read while at University struck a chord. Even in rereading the book I wondered whether I was really getting anything out of it. And then I came across a gem, a shockingly true paragraph-length labyrinth sentence. Jameson is analyzing the Marxist thinker Adorno's critical writing on aesthetics, and writes that late capitalist economics is obliterating "possibility and creative novelty by intensified repetition and sameness."

Commercials. Branding. Starbucks. Sitcoms. Chick-lit. Ironic-hipster authors. Harry Potter. Barnes & Nobles. Conglomerate news.

And then a question occurred to me: is this being dealt with in any meaningful way in modern literature? There are poets whose work is specifically Marxist coming out of the small presses, such as Mark Levine, but not very many. Novelists? Not to my knowledge. It made me think of James Wood, and how much he hates "hysterical realism." It has been claimed (in a recent Boston Globe article) that Wood doesn't "get" America because "a messy, sprawling country demands comparable novels." Hysterical realists and other author / novels Wood has lambasted would apparently provide that mimetic literary content.

But that is only relevant if you really believe that America is all those things. If you agree with Jameson / Adorno (or really, just open your eyes to any strip mall) then "hysterical realism" is no longer mimetic, no longer the voice and image of the country, and the novels are, in many ways, plasticized versions of those mid-century sprawling "great American" novels such as The Adventures of Augie March & On the Road. I love these novels, but also recognize that they have as much in common with my daily existence as Jules Verne.

Wood argues against the mimicry of America's "weirdness." But maybe that isn't what misses the mark with him. What he calls for is that authors deal with the universal-social / biological of being human, to step away from trying to mimic weirdness. Wood isn't a Marxist in any way shape or form, but that doesn't mean that Jameson's criticism is not on the mark and the situation isn't affecting the current literary output.

Is it possible that what Wood really finds appalling in the novels he derides is the sense that the authors are writing about an America that only exists in marketing campaign slogans? Is that why the best new novels seem to mostly be set in alternate, fantasy & futuristic worlds — because there is no model for how to write about the repetitive sameness that obliterates possibility?

Discuss amongst yourselves. Comment as necessary.

Liked this post? Read more from Dan Pritchard at The Wooden Spoon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sentimental Journey

I'm in denial of many things (mortality, finishing my PhD, the percentage of my income that goes to area restaurants) but one of them is about to become all too real: for the next four months, I will be living away from Boston, and Grub Street, and my husband, and my friends, and the gorgeous New England fall. This denial has kept me from sharing this news officially with the Grub community, though most of you know by now, and those who don't are probably wondering why they should care. (The answer: you shouldn't, really; Grub will be in Whitney and Sonya's expert hands).

I have no burning desire to leave Boston, you see, but I was given an offer I couldn't refuse: a visiting professorship for one advanced fiction writing workshop at Swarthmore College, where I graduated in 1994, and, with it, the time to finish a draft of a new book. It will be a nostalgic, sometimes lonely, but (fingers crossed) productive semester, and I am honored to have been given the opportunity. I look forward to working with 12 talented college students, who will, I'm sure, teach me a lot and spark hundreds of compelling debates about writing. I'm also looking forward to being a half-hour's drive from my parents, who have promised to (a) fill my fridge with lasagnas, (b) do my laundry and (c) fix my car. If they could give me back my curly hair and metabolism, I'd truly feel 18 again...

Anyway, I still plan to post here as much as possible, and, with any luck, I'll have some anecdotes (and maybe even a few pearls of wisdom) to share from the workshops. In the meantime, I wish you all a joyful and inspiring fall here in Boston, and encourage you to take advantage of the many great events, seminars, parties, readings, courses, etc. going on at Grub. I will see you when I'm back in town for Adaptations on October 11th, and also at Taste of Grub on November 2nd!

Chris Castellani

Friday, August 24, 2007

Vacation / Get Inspired


Michael Graves

As writers, we all possess the colossal urge to be expressive. It sometimes feels as though this urge can never be squelched. Currently, I am engrossed in the concoction of my first novel, Parade. This piece has been simply pouring onto the page (I give thanks to Buddha and Trim Spa). Because of my non-stop creative burst, I have ignored sleep, housewifery, messages and shitty television. I cannot stop writing! It’s a fantastic feeling! And I’m rather proud of the work that I have completed. Yet still, it’s time for a miniature mental vacation from my prose.
We all spend a great deal of time secluded in cafes, bedrooms, libraries, etc. We all take Grub Street classes or seminars. We all attend readings, book parties and other literary events. Living inside the writer’s world can become some sort of a one way street. We’re all zooming in the same direction (agent, book deal, sex tape scandal!) and, along our journey, we stop for tune-ups (conferences, writing groups, etc.). At certain junctures, though, it is in the best interest of the writer, and his or her work, to take a break. If one exists, solely in the writing world, one won’t have very much to write about. Tomfoolery, naughtiness and random acts of horseplay feed an artist’s work immensely.
As the conclusion of yet another summer approaches, I propose that we all nab just one afternoon or evening (an entire day?) and goof off. Attempt something new! Jump into an adventure. Who knows? Maybe this will help to inspire you creatively and otherwise.
Below, find fifteen ideas. Remember: Relax and let your brain roam free. Also remember: Don’t be a smartass and get arrested or anything.

1. Venture out to Davis Square and lick something at J.P. Licks ( After, sit in the bustling courtyard where you can listen to local musicians or just people watch.
2. Head over to the Coolidge Corner Theatre and see a classic flick. Some Like it Hot or Tron. Be sure to investigate the late night screenings offered too (
3. Take part in a New England tradition. Candlepin bowling! Visit Milky Way Lounge and Lanes and roll your balls around ( With a cool atmosphere and wall-to-wall scenesters, you’re sure to have fun.
4. Shag all day, be nasty. I don’t need to offer suggestions here.
5. Rent a pair of skates and try not to land on your ass. Visit Chez-Vous for their Sunday evening adult skate. It only costs ten bucks and, maybe, you can hold someone’s hand during a slow song (
6. Jump on the T (any color line will do) and take a trip to a place you’ve never been before. Go to Wonderland or Revere Beach. You never know what you’ll discover (
7. With a friend (or someone you like like), swap lunches. Ask he or she to make you a brown-bagged meal and you do the same. But keep it a secret. Trek over to the Boston Common, open up your surprise feast and enjoy (hopefully you don’t get something crappy like an egg salad sandwich).
8. Hit up CVS or your local drug store. Purchase some low-priced facial masks (don’t freak out fellas, beauty knows no gender). Slather up, following the directions carefully. Then, relax and listen to some jazz on 89.7 FM (
9. Dress up in something classy and prance into the Ritz Carlton. Have a delicious drink at their JER-NE Restaurant and Bar. Try a flute of the Champagne Ritz Brut…because luxury always nurtures the soul (
10. Drop by the Animal Rescue League of Boston and volunteer. Support the wonderful work that they do by lending a hand. Maybe you could walk a puppy or pet some kitty cats. Any critter would love your attention (!
11. Get wild with the working ladies! Stop by Centerfolds and take in the dancing sights. Tuesday is Amateur Night where the winner receives $1000! Awesome! Again, don’t get arrested (
12. Invigorate your mind by touring the Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts. The work is contemporary, fresh and stunning. Give them a look (
13. Create a mix CD for a friend or lover. This shit never goes out of style. And it’s a fitting way to show whomever that you’re thinking of them. Consider old school Chaka Khan and Cameo. Think about Steve Miller Band, Pink Floyd and Stevie Nicks.
14. Clean your room! Dig through your closet and drawers and collect whatever you don’t need/use. Throw a swap bash with friends! Donate your findings to Salvation Armani.
15. Give yourself a hug. Or give yourself more. You deserve a break and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about that fact. Give you and your writing time…all will be terrific.

Hopefully, these suggestions are useful and, hopefully, they infuse your creative soul with joy and enthusiasm. Keep writing!
If interested, you may find me at the local roller skating rink, at Centerfolds or at
Remember: Please continue to support Grub Street, Inc. The classes available this fall are going to be amazing!.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Modernist, Schmodernist: What makes a book a good book?

It's Friday night. Ryan and I are at the Jolly Trolley, in Westfield, NJ, waiting for his sister to come home and let us into her house, where we're staying for the weekend. The Yankees are on TV, and I make the mistake of jokingly shouting "Yankeeeeeees suckkkkkk!!!!" before remembering that I'm in a land where this will get me lynched. "Ha ha, just kidding!" I murmur weakly, as three beefy men turn to stare at me from behind their Budweisers, which suddenly gleam in the neon light like imminent weapons.

Ryan's having a Dead Guy Ale (fitting, no?) and I'm having an Amstel Light. We don't fit in with the general vibe, which is more "Eat-this-stale-snack-mix-they-have-sitting-on-the-bar-in-refilled-
Mason-jars-and-stare-blindly-at-the-telly" than "slowly-sip-low-cal-beer-and-blather-about-how-much-you-don't-
remember-about-the-Modernists" -- which happens to be what we are doing. We don't do this all the time -- thank God -- but we went to the same college, both majored in English, and sometimes like to reflect back to the old days when we sat around and read books all day because We Were Required To. We started down this conversational track because I asked Ryan to name his top five favorite books. You'd think I'd know his top five favorite books, since we've known each other for a decade and spend a more-than-average amount of time talking about literature, but I don't.

R: I really don't know what my top five are.
W. You have to know. Just think about it.
R: [surly] I mean, it's an impossible question.
W: [condescending] Well, I just think of which five books I've re-read over the past ten years, and figure those must be my favorites. Are they the best books ever written? No. But they're MY favorites, and that's what I'm asking you.
R: Yeah, but it's a category mistake to lump Crime and Punishment and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy into the same top five list.
W: [as to a child] Not if those are your favorites.
R: I always thought that the Modernists were my favorite writers, but all I can think of is Joyce and Woolf, and neither of them would be in my top five.

This led us into a discussion of the Modernists. Who are they? Ryan was insisting Faulkner was a Modernist, I was disagreeing. Predictably, though, I was not able to refute his argument with actual fact, and just began mumbling that Pound and Eliot were the only Modernists I knew.

The Trolley was not the place to wrap up this discussion, and now that I'm back at a computer, I'm happy to report that Conrad, Rhys, Mansfield and Lawrence are Modernists, Faulkner is not, and we don't NEED to remember what we spent hours learning in college because we have Google to do it for us. Phew.

The more lingering question is what puts a book on someone's top 5 list? Is re-readability a useful criteria? How about recommendability? If a book's ability to be enjoyed when recommended is the top criterion to rate its worth, then I'd put Donna Tartt's The Secret History at the top of my list. If it was quotability, Hitchhiker's Guide would be at the top of Ryan's. Or what about a book that when you read it, you can feel a writer's entire soul wrapped up in it? If that's part of the scale, then let's put Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson or The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt on there.

For what it's worth, here are my five, in no particular order:

1. On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
2. Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
3. Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
4. Feast of Love, Charles Baxter
5. Possession, A.S. Byatt

Ryan's still working on his. How about you?

In dread,
Whitney Scharer

Monday, August 20, 2007

Grub Street Rag, 8/20/07

* Pent-up Grub gossip
* Roomy Grub events
* Daytime writing

"A definition is the enclosing a wilderness of idea within a wall of words."
-- Samuel Butler

Welcome to the Grub Street Rag, a newsletter of the Boston literary scene sent out every Monday from the Mandatory Napping Room at Grub Street's world headquarters. As always, if you are receiving this e-mail in horror, please advance to the bottom of the page to unsubscribe yourself.

Our neighbors at Ploughshares
We love Ploughshares magazine, and not only because they're our neighbors. Their fall fiction issue looks particularly great, and is guest-edited by novelist and short story writer Andrea Barrett (if you don't know Andrea's work, be sure to check out her collection Servants of the Map. It's amazing!) The twelve-story issue of the magazine includes many of our favorite authors--some of whom even teach at Grub--including Bret Anthony Johnston, Paul Yoon, Jill Gilbreth, Ellen Litman and Peter Orner. It's on sale now online and in bookstores.

Grub instructor and novelist Jon Papernick (you may know him through his 1001 Book Project) is posting online podcasts of his new novel, Who By Fire, Who By Blood. Take a look at, or preorder the novel at

Department of Congratulations: Student and Teacher Edition
Grace Talusan, who just taught our Jumpstart Your Writing weekend, has a short story called "The Book of Life and Death," in Tufts Magazine. It's available online at Also, Grace's Jumpstart student, Lisa Braxton, is publishing her "novelette" as a serial in BostonNOW.
Read the first installments online and follow the story during your morning commute: Hurrah to both of you!


Whitney, Chris, and Sonya

The P.S. Rev up your engines, because our fall schedule will be online NEXT WEEK!

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Art of the Interview

Hello Penny Dreadful Readers,

Greetings from my blog AreYouOutsidetheLines! I’m Christopher Hennessy, a poet, book reviewer, interviewer. I’m pleased to be today’s guest blogger.

One of my passions as a reader and a writer is the art of the interview (check out some great links below). I authored a book of twelve interviews with some of today’s foremost poets, and in the process I learned a great deal about contemporary poetry, my own aesthetic and literary inquiry itself. As I told my students in the Grub Street Forms of Poetry course I’m currently teaching, “If you ever want to learn a lot about writing, lock yourself in a room with an author for a few hours with a tape recorder on.” Of course, it’s not that simple, but nevertheless, I do believe in the power of the interview as a vehicle for learning.

The art of the interview (hmm…sounds like a possible Grub Street course, no?) is one that, like any writing form, takes practice, study, a certain level of skill and hard work. My interview questions are drawn up by a close and thorough examination of an author’s work, as I believe is proper, and considerations of context, the author’s ‘project’, and how he or she has been influenced and influences others.

The worst question you can ask is the question that has been asked before. And the best question is the question that will elicit from the author the statement, “I’ve never thought about my writing in the light before, but I’m glad you asked” or something similar. Interviews should be neither fault-finding nor praise-giving. They should be investigations, shared journeys between the interviewer and his subject and following the map provided by the subject’s work.

Last year in the Guardian Review, Pico Iyer complained about decline of the literary interview because interviewers, he explained, had given their research over to Google rather that immersing themselves in their subject’s work. The article is certainly worth reading (and taking to heart), but I also enjoyed how he views the interview. He writes:

Interviews used to be one of the (occasional) perks of the writing life. A keen, or at least hard-working reader would approach you, after you'd written a book, and tell you things about yourself you didn't know.

At least in theory, and at least sometimes, interviews could prove a heightened form of conversation; as soon as the tape recorder's little red light came on, people paid attention, rose to the more eloquent side of themselves and talked with a care and intensity they would seldom muster in life. Text and interview circled round one another, and the latter served as a handy postscript (or complement at least) to the extended enquiry of the former.

My thoughts exactly!

A good question is always better than an answer.

Interview Links

The Paris Review interviews are often seen as the gold standard of interviews.

Check out the BBC’s many audio interviews. has a healthy repository of interviews.

The Academy of American Poets only have seven interviews, but they are with some of the most well-known contemporary poets. Their site,, also contains amazing resources, from bios to essays and of course lots of poems.

I just discovered this wonderful site, Identity Theory, which includes many interviews. I think this is my new favorite site.

Philly’s Kelly Writer House has archived a bunch of their interviews.

The PEN American Center is full of links, some of author discussions.

The Library of Congress offers up some audio programs.

Writers on Writing is a weekly radio program hosted by journalist and author Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

I can’t vouch for these poetry-centered podcasts (they are A LOT of them), but some of them indicate they have interviews.

Need a laugh. Check out this tongue-in-cheek interview from the Poetry Foundation’s dispatches.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

You Complete Me, and You Read

I've been trying to write about writers and booze, and why the two seem to love each other. You wouldn't believe all the studies and theories and experiments around this topic, including one that involved putting writers on a diet of whiskey and gin.

But there have also been quizzical studies like the one below, which suggests that fiction-readers are more socially able and empathetic than nonfiction-readers, and that nonfiction-readers may even be uniquely disadvantaged in this way.

I know plenty of nonfiction readers who would disagree. But doesn't it make sense?

"A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality and led by Raymond Mar, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Toronto, found that people who read narrative fiction often have improved social abilities, while for those who read non-fiction, the opposite holds true.

"All stories are about people and their interactions -- romance, tragedy, conflict," says Mar. "Stories often force us to empathize with characters who are quite different from us, and this ability could help us better understand the many kinds of people we come across in the real world."

...The participants were asked to identify fiction and non-fiction authors from a long list of names (which included non-authors). Research has shown that the more authors a person identifies, the more the person reads.

They were then tested on measures of social awareness and empathy (such as recognizing a person's emotions from seeing only a picture of the person's eyes). The study found that:

  • People who frequently read narrative fiction scored higher on tests of both empathy (the ability to understand and identify with another person's feelings) and social acumen (the ability to make quick judgments of people and situations).

  • Frequent reading of non-fiction was associated with poorer empathy and social acumen.

A follow-up study found similar results. Those who read a short story from the New Yorker performed better on a social-reasoning task that followed than those who read an essay.

"In general, fiction print-exposure positively predicted measures of social ability, while non-fiction print-exposure was a negative predictor. The tendency to become absorbed in a story also predicted empathy scores," the researchers wrote.

Read the whole thing!

~Sonya Larson

Monday, August 13, 2007

Grub Street Rag, 8/13/07

* Incisive Grub gossip
* Salubrious Grub events
* Daytime writing

"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books."
-- Franz Kafka

Welcome to the Grub Street Rag, a newsletter of the Boston literary scene sent out every Monday from recently excavated ancient ruins at Grub Street's world headquarters. As always, if you are receiving this e-mail in horror, please advance to the bottom of the page to unsubscribe yourself.

You might not have asked, but we're still going tell you
We're excited to announce that Grub Advisory Council member Steve Almond has a new essay collection out called (Not That You Asked). It features a televised brawl with Sean Hannity, love letters to Oprah Winfrey, a lot of naughty oversharing, one amazing lobster pad thai recipe, and tributes to Kurt Vonnegut and insufferable Red Sox fans. You can read excerpts and check out the fall tour schedule at Steve's website, Here's what Kirkus had to say: "Almond scores big in every chapter of this must-have collection. Biting humor, honesty, smarts and heart: Vonnegut himself would have been proud."

New rules

Since release in early June, Grubbie David Scott's book The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to use news releases, blogs, podcasts, viral marketing and online media to reach your buyers directly has enjoyed terrific success. It scored a Publishers Weekly starred review, has been the number one bestselling marketing and PR book since release, and translation rights have been sold in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Finnish, Czech, and Portuguese with more to come. David will be teaching a seminar on promotion and publicity this fall, which we're sure will be just as informative as his book. Congratulations, Dave!

Money, honey
Many of you know instructor Kris Frieswick from her popular Humor Writing classes at Grub, or from her awesome reading at our "Grub Gone..Silly" party. Now, Kris's multi-media series is live and online. Click the link below to check out "Buy Me Love," which explores the issues that arise when money and relationships meet.

Whitney, Chris, and Sonya

Friday, August 10, 2007

Meta-Meta Blogging


Chris Castellani,
No meta-blogging,
Blogging about blogging is a pet-peeve,
Of mine,
I disregard his wisdom,
The reckless intern,
I blog on,
Blogging not about blogging,
But blogging about blogging about blogging,
Meta-Meta Blogging.

Into the slipstream of cyber-garble,
Honking like a flock of Canada Geese,
On their way,
To Mexico,
For vacation,
I blog on,
And on,
Blogging like,
An injured raccoon,
To the break of dawn.

And when,
The flock descends,
On the sandy beach,
To order Anejo Tequila or,
Banana Daiquiris,
From Manuel,
The man known to friends,
As “El Guapo Pescador,”
He says “No, you only get cerveza … Canadiens.”

And the geese sigh,
“Oh Canada,
Oh blogging,
Oh hell,
We are Canada Geese,
Not Canadiens,
Those guys play hockey.”

“Serve us dear Manuel,
As we deserve after,
Our long journey,”
And Manuel laughs,
And pours Anejo,
And puts the bananas,
In the Blender,
And warns,

“No blogging about blogging exhausted Canadian Sirs,
Drink your drinks and fly home,
To the land of ice and snow.”

Advice received,
Chris Castellani,
A wise man,
And consummate,
Visionary leader,
And friend.

Note: This is the author's first attempt at poetry since his 8th grade epic haiku, "Mental Hospital," which sparked a teacher /parent conference in which he was proclaimed "intellectually dull." The author has not taken "Forms of Poetry" or received any instruction in poetry at Grub Street ever ... obviously.

All apologies,
Jonathan Sisler

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Power and the Glory

For its 10th birthday, Jane Roper gave Grub Street a lovely gift: a well-worn copy of The Glory of Grub Street: Impressions of Contemporary Authors, edited by A. St. John Adcock and E. O. Hoppe, published in 1928.

I was enchanted by Adcock's preface, which extols the pleasures of the struggling and hard-working writer -- the hack who lives "in Grub Street," that metaphor for struggle itself -- and suggests what we all might secretly know: that the tumultuous journey (the uncertainty, the labored revisions, the thirst for something greater in ourselves, the solidarity with fellow hackers) might really be the most satisfying aspect of the writer's life after all.

So here's the first part of the Preface, which mostly speaks for itself. I did want to point out, though, how it takes Adcock no time to at all to announce his own faults and failings as a writer. A true Grubbie! Enjoy --

"The title of this second volume of The Gods of Modern Grub Street was originally given to it for the comfort of my publishers and would have been altered if, before going to press, I could have thought of a better one. It is not intended to suggest that every author once lived in Grub Street, nor that those who did were not glad to get out; it is intended to suggest that the Grub Street tradition has grown and put forth branches until it is no longer a mere street but a whole literary world of many-coloured romance which seems to be as fascinating to the artistic temperament as webs are to flies, so that one almost may say of it, as Chaucer said of the married state, that 'They who are in would fain get out,/And they who are out would fain get in.'

Anyhow, you find the author who formerly dwelt in Grub Street, but has become prosperous and changed his address, will confess that, looking back from the affluence and tame security of the present, he realises that when he lived in the Street, and everything seemed possible and nothing sure, those early days were more stimulating, richer in excitement, adventure, even in happiness, than he was aware of at the time, and he has wistful feelings that if he could return there something of the freedom and enthusiasm he lost with his youth might be restored to him. On the other hand, authors who fortunately (or unfortunately) had no initial difficulties to overcome but walked or were handsomely carried to success along paths strewn with roses and other soft things, have unsettling suspicions that they have missed something and often take to Bohemian haunts and habits under the impression that they are thus breaking "their birth's invidious bar" and doing the thing properly; and of course they are, if they sufficiently think they are.

So, in a sense, you may say that all authors belong to Grub Street, and the glory that was Grub Street belongs to all authors, so long as they have left the place behind them or never lodged in it...When the Pilgrim Fathers emigrated they evidently took their share of the Grub Street tradition with them and planted it in that soil, and, from information received, it is flourishing there sturdily. "

~Christopher Castellani

Monday, August 6, 2007

Grub Street Rag, 8/6/07

* Fresh and clean Grub gossip
* Scrub-a-dubbed Grub events
* Manuscript Matchup

"A classic is classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules, or fits certain definitions (of which its author had quite probably never heard). It is classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness."

-- Edith Wharton

Welcome to the Grub Street Rag, a newsletter of the Boston literary scene sent out every Monday from the rooftop viewing deck at Grub Street's world headquarters. As always, if you are receiving this e-mail in horror, please advance to the bottom of the page to unsubscribe yourself.

Department of Congratulations

When it rains, it pours. We've got tons of great Grubbie news to report. First up, Jennifer Elmore won the prestigious 2007 Gulf Coast Prize for Poetry for her poem, "Incoherent Flash of Panorama." The judge was Terrance Hayes and the poem will appear in the next issue of Gulf Coast, due out in October. Next up, Lisa Genova's new novel, Still Alice, was just published to rave reviews. You can find the book now at or on Amazon, and Lisa will be donating up to $3.00 per book to Alzheimer's care and research.New member Anthony Donahoe just had an article published in the "Modern Love" section of the New York Times. It's called "I Made Him What He Is, but Who Is He?" and you can check it out by clicking here: Next, Cool Plums published a short fiction piece Ericka Tavares wrote called "Easy Money." Find it on their website: And last but certainly not least, Dave Demerjian has been accepted for a month-long residency at The Byrdcliffe Art Colony. Congrats to all.

National Department of Congratulations
A hearty Grub shout-out to Charles Simic, who has just been appointed as the Library of Congress's 15th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. Simic succeeds Donald Hall as Poet Laureate and joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including most recently Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass and Rita Dove. The laureate generally serves a one- or two-year term. Simic is the author of 18 books of poetry. He is also an essayist, translator, editor and professor emeritus of creative writing and literature at the University of New Hampshire, where he has taught for 34 years.

Memoir II & Forms of Poetry morph into a new 6-week courses
Our Memoir II and Forms of Poetry classes have changed their lengths, prices and start dates. They are now 6-week classes that start next week, and cost $275 ($250 for members). Click on the class titles for all the details, and call us at 617.695.0075 to sign up.

Whitney, Chris, and Sonya

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Grub Turns Ten

We got some great photos from a generous freelance Globe photographer who covered our party. Check them all out at Flickr!

We were really happy to see so many friends and fellow Grubbies at our "Grub Turns Ten" birthday bash on July 27th. If you weren't there, here's a small sampling of what you missed out on: perfectly replicated grub logos painted on people's faces, stellar readings from Hacks, 10 pounds of pulled pork and a variety of other scrumptious barbecue, 2 really heavy birthday cakes (see the rest of the Flickr photos for a visual), a fill-in-your-own-Grub-history 23-foot timeline, a smorgasbord of beer including the oh-so-quaffable NattyLight, 10-minute tarot readings, 8 kinds of wine donated by Newport Vineyards, temperatures in the high 80s that kept most of the partying indoors, indoor temperatures that weren't far from the high 80s by the end of the night, overly-loud music from 1997, over 200 guests, many adorable Grub babies, and an all-around amazing time!

And we're already planning Grub's Sweet Sixteen...

In dread,
Whitney Scharer

Friday, August 3, 2007

>On Night

Wind slipping through the leaves of the maple tree. A dog passing by my apartment, metal tags jingling from its collar. (Is it pooping on my lawn again? The worry dissipates.) A neighbor slamming a car door, the alarm’s “wheep wheep” telling the owner, “OK, all is safe.” Lulling us all into safety, at least for one night.

Inside, the fan humming on the desk. A sax solo --- discordant, staccato --- burbling from the stereo. The sound of the computer whirring its mind. I turn them all off to hear --- or, rather, to NOT hear --- the well of night, its absolute silence.

It’s 2 am. The time of night I most revere. Especially now, summer, as the dark cool of the outside leaks slowly inside my office, by osmosis, replacing the apartment air stagnant and thick from today’s 87 degree day.

Night. The world is asleep. No one calls. No one sends me email (unless this “Penny Madison” and her ilk and messages such as “re: hot teein suycking double fuukd & faciall” count).

There is no one. And I need no one.

That is the lie I tell myself, anyway, as I click and clack, my fingers making love to my keyboard, and the last lighted rectangle of window from my visible neighbors winks out. Two am becomes 3, becomes 4. And I am still going.

Writers are told --- lo, the cliché is shoved down our throats --- that the act of writing is the ultimate solo act, an expression of “oneness,” a primal state of loneliness. No one craves and despises solitude more than writers. At 4 am, this myth feels most true, I think. I believe it. I’m seduced by its me-against-creation heroism, me alone plucking words from the stratosphere, me in tune with the croon of the cosmos --- even when I know it’s partly hogwash.

I’m getting a reputation for these late night writing marathons that turn into all-nighters. I work on deadline, and I leave the deadline to the absolute zero of the last moment. 1,200 words will be due on my editor’s virtual desktop at 10 am, and at midnight I’ll have not even started. I’ll take a bath. I’ll make myself some scrambled eggs and toast. I’ll have some chocolate, a beer or brew up a Bodum-ful of coffee. I’ll eat my eggs in the tub, read a newspaper from two weeks ago. I'll hear the faint murmurings of a late Red Sox game from my left-hand neighbor’s open window. Ah, someone is alive out there. But I will outlast him. He will sleep, and I will stay awake.

Still in the tub, I take a nap. I wake. My eyes readjust to the lighted bathroom. An idea comes to me --- a lead, a line, a kicker, a string of words for a poem I’ll never finish. This idea has come from the night. Issued from it, from the place where thoughts are born, the tunnels of the cerebellum, from the black sieve of stars and restless moon pensive in their transit over Somerville and every dark corner of the world.

Night. Who needs the sun? A new day? I prefer to struggle with the old one, to wring from it every last drop of wisdom and procrastination.

Back to my desk. To work. To race the arrival of dawn. To fight the bluish and birdish cacophony of tomorrow.

--- Ethan Gilsdorf