Thursday, March 13, 2014







Many thanks to the Oxford American, for giving new life online to this Janis Joplin essay of mine in their print archives.  Basically, I once went AWOL from a museum curators meeting in South Texas, and drove over to her hometown, Port Arthur, a place of powerful and ghostly mojo.



Friday, April 5, 2013



From Kathleen Quinn, former New York Times op ed editor, writing in Lingua Franca back in the brave 1990's:

Academic writing stinks.
I'm sorry. I know it doesn't stink to fellow academics. I'd even be willing to admit that, in a parallel reality, it qualifies as great. Personally, I think Ludwig Wittgenstein was a literary genius. But the fact is that most newspaper editors would rather be stranded on a desert island with nothing but a list of the active ingredients in Sinutab to read than so much as glance at another piece of academic prose. Perhaps it's that academics don't realize that those little bits of incomprehensible jargon that keep turning up in their work are kind of creepy. "The gaze," "embeddedness" and "discontinuities of discourse" are words and phrases that, like clammy-handed zombies, drag an editor into a swamp of meaninglessness.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My daughter has an uncanny way of gravitating to music that her father and I were listening to a lot when we first got together, when she was no more than a dust mote of a dream, years away from being born. You could made a strong case that... Leah wafted her way to earth on soundwaves of Chrissie Hynde, Grace Slick, and Elizabeth Frazer of the Cocteau Twins. Leah sent me this song of Fraser's below on Spotify, sort of in the spirit of "you need to hear this." I first heard this song in Oxford, Mississippi, mid 1980's, in an old Civil War era house with high ceilings, on the Walkman of some English kid prodigy undergraduate from the OTHER Oxford, who I hired to tutor me for Ph.D. prelims. He introduced me to the Cocteau Twins as a way of illustrating the principle of vers donnee, the words that are given, dictated by presumably by whatever you construe to be God. What I did not know at the time was that these given words capture EXACTLY what it is like to be the mother of my own particular girl full of words given from God. I may have already been pregnant with her when I first heard this, not sure. 

this song

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Colm Toibin's The Heather Blazing

Not sure how I missed this when it appeared in 1992...lovely Irish book that runs like a clear stream, without being falsely amped on the Troubles. It's no small talent to be able to slow fictional time down to its honest reality: families in rooms, talking, lunching in gardens worrying about getting the rugs wet. Toibin captures the simultaneous intimacy and utterly unbridgeable distances that constitute a family. For teaching purposes, this novel would be great for showing students how much deliberate and methodical pattern must be put down in layers first, before you can bring a reader to his weeping knees in the final paragraph, which is simply a grandfather walking out into the surf with his baby grandson, then walking him back in when he frets, afraid. That paragraph on its own is mere description; at the end of this novel it raises you from the dead.          

Saturday, April 14, 2012


You can have your bluebonnets. . . Give me Indian paintbrushes.  I wonder what the Comanches called them.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Meanwhile, Back At the Ranch

View from my office window, round about the time the tornado was hitting Six Flags in Arlington, etc. Classes shot to hell, we all huddled in the basement a while, then came back upstairs in Reed Hall. I worked on a grant proposal for the university, oddly calmed by the business of shuffling sentences around, looking for the magic. I am geeky that way; I love technical writing.