Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Utopianist

A few days ago, a post I wrote about labor unions went up on the new politics site, The Utopianist. Editor Brian Merchant started it the site as an alternative to the more partisan websites currently out there. Here's how he describes The Utopianist's mission:

"Where are the new ideas? The big ones? The ones that could move us towards a more livable, just society? They’re out there, believe it or not. The Utopianist gathers them, explains them, discusses them. We look beyond horse-race politics, beyond ideology — towards finding real solutions for the increasingly dire domestic and global crises of our time. Issues like climate change, poverty, disease, growing income inequality, and widening social divisions demand thinking on a larger scale. We’ll try to diagnose the vast array of problems we face — both local and global — and look at the big picture solutions.                                       

And no, we’re not actually trying to engineer a perfect society here. We’re not communists, fascists, socialists, radical revolutionaries, or violent guerilla terrorists, either, for that matter. We just want things to get better."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Me and My Chick

A version of the article I wrote about farming in the South has just been published by our local paper here in Portland, The Oregonian. The picture alone is worth a look.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Heart Healthy

The Rumpus has posted a piece I wrote last year about being unemployed in Portland (among other things). It's not exactly an accurate portrayal of my life in Portland now -- I wrote it almost a year ago -- but I'm gratified to be included in the ongoing cultural conversation that is The Rumpus.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

Inequality is Corrosive

From Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt:

"In the US, taxes are typically regarded as uncompensated income loss. The idea that they might (also) be a contribution to the provision of collective goods that individuals could never afford in isolation (roads, firemen, policemen, schools, lamp posts, post offices, not to mention soldiers, warships, and weapons) is rarely considered. 

In continental Europe as in much of the developed world, the idea that any one person could be completely 'self-made' evaporated with illusions of 19th century individualism. We are all the beneficiaries of those who went before us, as well as those who will care for us in old age or ill health. We all depend upon services whose costs we share with our fellow citizens, however selfishly we conduct our economic lives."

I have been meaning to write about this book for awhile, but in case you missed it, it is a great retrospective of post-World War II America and Europe and it makes a strong argument for European-style social democracy. "[Income] inequality," Judt writes, "is corrosive. It rots societies from within...Of all the competing and only partially reconcilable ends that we might seek, the reduction of inequality must come first."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

See Me Improving

The Rumpus, o
ne of my favorite writer websites, has posted a review of Travis Nichols' new collection of poems, See Me Improving (a great title). I met Travis back when I interned at Wave; he was partner to the managing editor at the time. I'm happy to see his work is making its way into the world. The review's interesting, too.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Probably Incomplete List of the Literary Books I Read in 2010

And sadly, only one of them was poetry! By this count, I read 22 books of fiction, 15 books of literary non-fiction (essays and memoir), and one book of poems. I reviewed seven of the 38 for outside publications, and liked (more than I didn't like) 29 of them. (Many others I started and did not finish.) I loved seven without reservation, but only one (Happy Baby) which I was charged with reviewing.

My New Year's resolution, then, is to read more poems and fewer essays: to ask more from honey and twilight, as Neruda said.

Without further adieu...

My Life in Heavy Metal, Steve Almond
The Invention of Solitude, Paul Auster
Repeat Until Rich, Josh Axelrad
Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin
Burning Down the House, Charles Baxter
Arkansas, John Brandon
Standing by Words, Wendell Berry
Bringing It To The Table: Essays on Farming and Food, Wendell Berry
Misconception, Ryan Boudinot
Ablutions, Patrick DeWitt
All-American Poem, Matthew Dickman
Happy Baby, Stephen Elliott
My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up, Stephen Elliott
The Adderall Diaries, Stephen Elliott
The Ticking is the Bomb, Nick Flynn
Hunger, Knut Hamsun
Airships, Barry Hannah
Ray, Barry Hannah
Ill Fares the Land, Tony Judt
Misadventure, Millard Kaufman
The Farewell Party, Milan Kundera
Home Land, Sam Lipsyte
Bluets, Maggie Nelson
Netherland, Joseph O'Neill
Kentucky Straight, Chris Offutt
Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell
Refresh, Refresh, Benjamin Percy
The Wilding, Benjamin Percy
In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
Goodbye, Columbus, Philip Roth
Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
A Common Pornography, Kevin Sampsell
The thing about life is that one day you'll be dead, David Shields
The Death of Conservatism, Sam Tanenhaus
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, Wells Tower
Marry or Burn, Valerie Trueblood
Old School, Tobias Wolff
In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, Tobias Wolff