Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Always a Bridesmaid

My essay, "On Not Being E. B. White," which appeared in Kenyon Review a year ago, has been chosen by Robert Atwan for his list of "Notable Essays of 2010." This list is printed at the end of each volume of Best American Essays for that year, and indicates the essays that were considered for inclusion but didn't quite make it. This has happened to me before, with "Location, Location, Location," which was published in The Briar Cliff Review in 2006. One of these years....

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Speed Map

The speed of traffic and the dynamic feel differs across the States. As you move outward from the center of the country, traffic speeds up in the cities. Traffic is faster in Nashville than in Memphis, and as you move east from Tennessee into North Carolina or from Ohio into Pennsylvania, you are precipitated into the great frenetic Brownian motion of The East. It’s a peculiar business, but speed is a different matter in the I-95 corridor of the eastern states from the speed on Los Angeles freeways or on any roads in the wide-open spaces of the southwest.

In the west drivers change lanes purposefully: they want to exit or they enter the express lane to move ahead. In the east the pace is as fast but without order. The concept of an express or passing lane seems unknown, and it is all futile speed and lane-changing, chaotic motion.

Monday, November 21, 2011


A poem in Eavan Boland’s, Outside History, “On the Gift of The Birds of America by John James Audubon,” begins “What you have given me is, of course, elegy.” When I read it I thought immediately of my wife Katharine’s telling me about her reading of old bird guides. Even one published as recently as fifteen years ago is already a sad reminder of the past, she said, because it describes a world that no longer exists—the size of flocks, the range of birds, and even some individual species. With Audubon’s Birds the world elegized is more than a century and a half in the past. Elegy, writes Boland in this poem, is “the celebration of an element/which absence has revealed,” where “the pine siskin and the wren are an inference,” along with the hawk and the tern, of the rest of the past these colored drawings elegize.