Friday, September 18, 2009


This is simply to show you a picture I took last year. I took it with my old LG cellphone camera so the quality is, you know.

This is Raisin.

Raisin belongs to Jo Jackson. This is at a gallery show that she and Chris Johanson curated in Portland. Raisin is a real, actual dog. Though its planetary origins are, to my knowledge, unverified.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


1. KIKI, my parents' cat. (Née Isaac and male; since moving in with them, his name has turned from Kitty to Kiki and sometimes just Kkkhhh, and his/her gender is in constant flux.)

2. At the Nelson Bros truck stop in Clear Lake, Minnesota, this new invention: "GO-nuts." As described in the picture:
Option One was a great one this morning. Option Two I'm trying on the way back down to the cities, though I worry it might be a little disappointing á la those peanut-butter-and-jelly-in-the-same-jar products.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


The last time I saw my grandmother was August 21. She was sitting at the kitchen table in my parents' house. The oxygen tubes were out for the moment and my mom had persuaded her to wear the wig that she said itched her head, where the chemo had left her with birdlike tufts. She'd been saying some weird things, drifting back and forth between past and present, herself and her inventions. She applied lipstick, shaky but sure.

My car was packed up and Emmett was following me around with an anxious gaze, wagging tentatively, don't leave me. "I'm taking off now," I said, bending to kiss her. "I love you."

Her cheek was very soft. She put a hand on my face. "Love you too," she said. "We'll see you at Christmas."

And I almost believed it--even though I knew better and she usually did too--that the next time I came home would be Christmas and she would be there at that same spot at the kitchen table, where she always holds court.

My grandmother Addie loved her kids and grandkids and great-grandkids, going to the lake, Reba and Dolly, reading Vanity Fair and People, eating Mexican food at Compañeros, dancing, and the sun. She had great legs. Her parents were Norwegian and she spent her whole life in northern Minnesota. My grandfather claimed proudly that she was "tougher'n boiled owl." To her great shock, she discovered at age 65 when she went to sign up for social security or something that on her birth certificate, her legal name was not actually Adeline but Leigh Camilla. "Why did they call me Adeline?" she said over breakfast at Perkins on Paul Bunyan Drive. "I would have liked to be Leigh!" But Addie she had been, and Addie she stayed. Seventy-seven years.

Here is one of my favorite pictures of her, dancing with my cousin Ben, from my cousin Sarah's wedding just eleven months ago.

And this was just January, with her great-grandchildren Ava and Addie, her namesake.

This is how I'll always know her: vital and warm and with her arms around one of us.

Monday, September 7, 2009


My friend Matilda (Tilly, you witty brainiac, why aren't you a blog writer?) pointed me toward the site of one Kat and her dry, funny, compulsively readable stories about working at Portland strip clubs and the general weird politics and culture of stripping. Like,
My psychiatrist regular paid me to talk to him about my love life, which is our usual thing. He never buys dances or sits at the rack, he just hands me $20’s to talk to him while he drinks gin and plays video poker. I try to make stuff up that is loosely based on the truth.
Now that you can't make up.

Friday, September 4, 2009


In the perfect convergence of my favorite chef and my favorite newspaper, Amy now has a food column in the Park Rapids Enterprise. Behold, Recipe-phile!

Already she has written about making wild raspberry syrup, broccoli pesto, green bean salad with spicy cherry tomato vinaigrette, swiss chard pie (I had that one when visiting a few weeks ago, it was amazing--olive oil crust!), and kimchi, for starters. Park Rapids has come a long way since we entered kindergarten there together.

The latest is one I've had chez Amy before, and it is simple and mind-bendingly good: fresh corn soup. Golden and hot, it tastes like the sun. I'm going to head down to a roadside vegetable stand and get the ingredients right now so I can make it for fast-breaking tonight at Kazim's. Kazim has been fasting for Ramadan (and blogging about it for the Kenyon Review), and I love the small impromptu dinners we've had when the sky grows dark. He lives right across the street from me now, and it's such a pleasure to cross over to his huge old house and sit down around the table with a handful of friends and neighbors. The dinners are lush with summer vegetables, hearty and generous, and even though Kazim has to cook without tasting them, they turn out absolutely delicious every time. Good ingredients, good hand on the spoon. And their two hilarious kittens wrestling gymnastically before melting sleepily into our laps.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Up to my ears in nonfiction. Literally, if I could stack this all in one tower, not to mention the other books I already returned to the library, I think it would go up to my ears.
Putting together my nonfiction workshop, I've been reading nothing but. I'm really into it.

• I like Dorothy Allison's essays better than her short stories.

• I love James Baldwin's fiction, and I have discovered I like his essays just as much and maybe more. Here's what he says about writers, in "Alas, Poor Richard": is extremely difficult to deal with writers as people. Writers are said to be extremely egotistical and demanding and they are indeed, but that does not distinguish them from anyone else. What distinguishes them is what James once described as a kind of "holy stupidity." The writer's greed is appalling. He wants, or seems to want, everything and practically everybody; in another sense, and at the same time, he needs no one at all; and families, friends, and lovers find this extremely hard to take.
• The New Kings of Nonfiction, edited by Ira Glass, is a disappointment. For one thing they weren't kidding when they said "Kings"--all but two of the contributors are dudes. (And the one Susan Orlean piece is a meticulous character study of a ten-year-old boy.) Maybe I'm just an impatient reader when I'm panning for teachable gold--but I'll more likely assign segments from the radio show.

• I've long held a candle for Jo Ann Beard's stunning essay "Undertaker, Please Drive Slow," which originally appeared in Tin House and is now anthologized in their nonfiction reader Cooking and Stealing; now I have also read "Werner," which appears in Best American Essays 2007 (ed. DFW) and that too has blown my mind. I was literally balled up on the edge of my seat with bated breath as I read it; and then, well, you just have to right now read "The Fourth State of Matter," available in full here on the NY-er, which is about a lot of things, but crucially, about the unwittingly life-changing decision to leave work early one day. Unbelievable, I want to rave, incredible, but those words are the opposite of her stories' flesh-and-blood truth.

What she's doing with this fusion of other people's stories and her own imagination is pretty astounding. It's the kind of thing where I can't wait to get to that point in the syllabus so my students can experience it.

• I am hard-pressed to name a single literary anthology that does not contain Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl." On hand I have no fewer than six.

This is what it looks like if I lay my head on the table. Which just maybe I sometimes have to do.