My review of Salvatore Pane‘s Mega Man 3 (Boss Fight Books, 2016) has just gone live in Entropy. You can read the review here. It’s provocative take on why we need difficult video games like Mega Man 3, an NES classic.
Check out the review, and then pick up this fantastic hybrid of memoir and video game criticism. (There’s a great passage, in which Mega Man 3 functions as an anti-anxiety device during a presidential debate—and I think we could all benefit from that prescription right now.) You can order it in physical or electronic copy directly from Boss Fight Books.
I’m excited to announce that my short story “The Survivors” has gone live in the fourth issue of Duende Literary. You can read my story here, but be sure to check out the other fantastic works of poetry, prose, and hybrid writing in the issue! Click here for the splash page into Duende, issue #4. Duende is operated by the BFA program at Goddard College. The journal is one of the most aesthetically striking online publications I’ve encountered. You should all keep your eyes on this one!
This new story of mine has become strangely personal during the past few months. I first drafted the story a few years ago, and I did a bit of research to tack down the details about the ocular cancer that afflicts Barry and Caroline’s daughter, Marcie. This summer, “The Survivors” became a touchstone for me. In July, my wife and I learned that Campbell, one of our beloved two-year-old cats, was suffering from an aggressive case of lymphoma. At the beginning of September, we learned that the cancer had spread to Campbell’s eyes, and it soon claimed her life. “The Survivors” now feels strangely prescient to me, and the parents’ pain that much deeper.
Today, my review of Wendy J. Fox’s The Pull of It went live over at Necessary Fiction. You can read the review here. The Pull of It is published by Underground Voices, and you can purchase the book through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your local indie book dealer. This title is definitely worth a read for Fox’s deft characterization and soulful narration.
Yesterday was a personal object lesson in racism and white privilege in America. In the early afternoon, I ordered a pizza for delivery; I would be tutoring a student that evening and my wife would be getting home late from a conference in DC, so I thought we would both appreciate the leftovers. Upon his arrival, the deliveryman called up, asking if I could meet him outside of our high-rise. By itself, this is unremarkable: our building has a concierge desk, and a call from a deliveryman usually means that the desk is unstaffed for a moment. So, I went downstairs.
I wasn’t startled to see the concierge desk unstaffed. But something else did take me by surprise. In the lobby were several police officers, wearing their flak vests and talking with the front office staff. The pizza guy’s car was idling outside. I walked—unnoticed—around the police and outside to the car turnaround in front of our building.
The deliveryman was a Black man. He thanked me, repeatedly (and unnecessarily), for meeting him outside. He said he had looked inside and felt uncomfortable going in. If you don’t immediately understand why he was afraid, I can only assume that you’ve been held hostage for decades in Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride.
Later that evening, my wife got home from her conference, and she realized that she had lost her cell phone at the hotel. I booked a Zipcar and drove into DC—it was only a twenty minute drive from where we live in Virginia. I recovered the phone from hotel security, and then went through the steps to unlock her iPhone. On the corner of E Street, a plainclothes officer flashed his badge and asked why I was in possession of two iPhones (with the implication that I could be selling stolen goods). I told my story, and in a few minutes was on my way.
And here’s the moral of this story. As a white man, I was given the luxury to explain. To tell a story. (I’ve been told I’m a decent hand at the storytelling gig.) By dint of skin color alone, I have little to fear. That is not true for people of color, who have every reason to be distrustful of people who pin their badges and holster their firearms with prejudice. The Black pizza deliveryman who sees a few cops, their agenda unknown, in an apartment building’s lobby—American law enforcement does not afford him the right of an explanation, however peacefully he’s willing to provide it.
I hope that these anecdotes speak for themselves.
This isn’t going to be a long post. But I’m emerging from the shadowy frontiers of dissertation- and novel-writing to say this: there should be universal outrage over the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where gunman Omar Mateen murdered at least 50 people and injured another 50. News broadcasts from NBC, the BBC, CNN, and others indicate that Mateen targeted the club precisely because of it was a gay club—a place where the gay community should feel safe, should feel free to be themselves. So we should be enraged—enraged at this commission of a hate crime, irate that once again a mass shooting has taken innocent lives, infuriated at a perverse system of laws and loopholes and outmoded constitutional provisions that allow anyone to own these deadly weapons.
During the past few years, March has inevitably been a month of extensive travel. This year is no different. Last week, I was in Hartford, CT, for the NeMLA conference; now, I’m in New Jersey, for a reading I’ll be giving Tuesday in Montclair State’s Live Literature series; and next weekend (April 1st-2nd), I’ll be returning to my alma mater, Susquehanna University.
(I promise: we’ll circle around to Jim Harrison in a moment. But Harrison wouldn’t want us to proceed directly and inattentively to the clearing in the woods, where epiphanies converge. He would demand a lyrical hike to our destination, a slow and meditative trek where the colors of the foliage, the veins of water feeding the land, would become the pigments of our own understanding.)
Of course, I’ve been neglecting the blog and my [very private] resolution about using my voice here. I’m interrupting that silence with a brief update.
Recently, I’ve been featured at the Bucknell University Press’s blog. The piece is based off an interview that Olivia Kalb, the Press’s current graduate intern, conducted with me over email. You can read the entire post here. I spent two years at the Bucknell University Press as an editorial assistant/graduate intern, and during those exciting years the Press was celebrating its 40th anniversary and transitioning into a new publishing relationship with Rowman & Littlefield.
Also, I had ample occasion to wear my kilt and feign conversations into obsolete telephones. (If you check out and follow the Bucknell University Press on Facebook, you’ll see what I mean.)