The Other 9/11: Chile in the time of Pinochet

A few days ago, my 10-year-old son asked me why I’d scheduled an event on 9/11. “Bad timing!” he said. He knew about the Twin Towers. But he didn’t know about 9/11/73, a date of infamy in Latin America. 9/11/73 was the day General Augusto Pinochet launched a military coup that ousted democratically elected Chilean…

“Reading Under the Stars” – brilliance in Silver City, New Mexico

On August 18, 2018, the book-loving community of Silver City, New Mexico, came together to listen to Philip Connors, Sharman Apt Russell, Beate Sigriddaughter and Jack Crocker reading recent work. The event was entitled “Reading Under the Stars” and a few duly came out and lit up the sky although the brightest stars were the…

Beloved Bilinguals: Writers Working in their Second Language

Ha Jin has his characters speak in a slightly “off” English to remind us they are speaking Chinese. The author says, “I think in English, but I hear in Chinese.” Gary Shteyngart thought in Russian while composing his memoir Little Failure in English. As a child, his nicknames included Solnyshko (Little Sun), Soplyak (Snotty), and…

Nelson Mandela – happy centenary, Madiba!

Happy birthday, Madiba. He would have been 100 on July 18th, 2018. Mandela was the greatest man of our time. Courageous, unrelenting, humble, forgiving. I cannot state how much his example has meant to me and countless others. His story is well-known: his fight for racial justice, the Rivonia trial, his lost years (27 of…

“Bestiary” – by Donika Kelly

A bestiary is a compendium of creatures – an illustrated book from the Middle Ages – with each animal symbolizing some abstract moral principle. They are there to show us foolish humans how to live by the divine code written by Nature/God. In Donika Kelly’s debut poetry collection, there are beasts large and small –…

Shakespeare in the Age of the Tyrant

Stephen Greenblatt’s new book, Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power, is a timely tome. As Greenblatt well knows, we’re living in an age of ruthless strongmen. The world’s recent and lamentable swing to the right is embodied by all-powerful authoritarians. Here’s the cast list: Nicolás Maduro (Venezuela) – presiding over an avoidable domestic catastrophe, a post-apocalyptic hellscape…

Morality clauses for authors: necessity or absurdity?

The #MeToo movement has spread to literature. HarperCollins, one of the biggest fish in the publishing sea, has introduced a morality clause to its contracts. The clause allows cancellation for “conduct [that] evidences a lack of due regard for public conventions and morals”, or if there is a “crime or any other act that will…

“Human Flow”: a film by Ai Weiwei

For a film with ‘flow’ in its title, the only surprise in this superlative documentary is that the most powerful images are those of stillness. An old refugee woman sits incongruously on a bench in the middle of nowhere. A young man stares out at us, daring us to enter his life. The implacable sea,…