Archive for March, 2010


Dispatches from the Future Last Saturday

March 26, 2010

On Saturday, March 20, The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, hosted an all-day conference, “Writing the Future,” organized by the Center,  The Creative Nonfiction Foundation, and Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes. My original plan was to keep a running blog of highlights from the event, but I quickly found that intention to be overly ambitious. The event offered such a torrent of information and ideas that I had troubled just keeping up, much less processing it all — and even now, days later, there’s still so much to consider that I’m hesitant to try to synthesize it all into any overarching conclusions about what’s ahead next for writers and publisher.

Instead, then, I just wanted to excerpt a few choice nuggets from the various presentations and panel discussions that I attended over the course of the day, all of it moderated by Lee Gutkind, author most recently of  Almost Human: Making Robots Think and the founder of Creative Nonfiction, a journal whose relaunch celebration ultimately closed the day’s events. The day began with presentations by Jay Ogilvy, co-founder of the Global Business Network, and Daniel Sarewitz, co-director of the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, talking about the approaches to predicting the future — scenario building, for instance — and the difficulties with predicting the long-term impact of new initiatives and technologies: Radio, as Sarewitz pointed out, was intended simply as an upgrade for the telegraph, but who could’ve known how tremendously it would affect so many realms of society and culture. (Unaddressed were all the questions lingering in the air about the Kindle and the iPad.)

After those presentations, the discussion narrowed its focus to writers and writing,  Read the rest of this entry ?


NC Events: Lee Smith!

March 24, 2010

In Southern literary circles, the biggest news this week is the publication of Lee Smith‘s new book, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger: New and Selected Stories. While perhaps best known as a novelist of major repute (and with a fervent following), Smith is also a master of the short form, as she displays here with seven works sampled from her previous collections — Cakewalk (1981), Me and My Baby View the Eclipse (1990), and News of the Spirit (1997) — as well as seven new pieces. Among the new stories is a little gem called “Toastmaster,” about a shy, underdeveloped eleven-year-old boy (often mistaken for eight, says the story, and it’s a a mistake the book’s dustjacket made as well, which must be slightly embarrassing). Jeffrey travels from Washington, D.C. to Key West with his domineering mother and there, in a beachside bar called Salute, he discovers something bold and daring inside himself: a stand-up comic, waiting for his stage. Radical shifts in his family dynamic — and his entire future — follow, and throughout it all, Smith captures a sense of both life’s messiness and its gloriousness: individuals struggling to find their place in a chaotic world, and then — happily, amazingly — actually finding it.

Smith’s tour takes her to a number of North Carolina venues, beginning tonight (Wednesday, March 24) at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge books. She’ll also be reading next Wednesday, March 31, at Durham’s Regulator Bookshop, and then on Saturday, April 3, at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village. A complete listing of her events can be found at her own website here.

A few other events of note over the next week include:

  • Frank Lentricchia with The Italian Actress, on Thursday, March 25, at the Regulator
  • Harlen Coben with Caught, on Friday, March 26, at Quail Ridge Books
  • and poets Marty Silverthorne and Nancy King as part of the monthly NC Poetry Society Series on Sunday, March 28, at McIntyre’s Books

For a more complete listing of North Carolina events from the Triangle to the coast, visit the MetroBooks calendar here.

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NC Events: Allen, Mosher & Skloot

March 17, 2010

Among the notable writers making the rounds through the Triangle over the next week, Rebecca Skloot is the one riding the biggest publicity wave: raves reviews in the Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe and Entertainment Weekly, among others; an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross; and a recent segment on CBS Sunday Morning (perhaps the best news show on television in my opinion). Whether you’re already a fan of the book or just want to find out more about this remarkable story, you’ll definitely want to mark your calendars for Skloot’s visits to North Carolina in the coming days. She’ll be at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh on Monday evening, March 22, and at Durham’s Regulator Bookshop on Wednesday the 24th.

In the meantime, two other authors are also worth checking out:

  • Sarah Addison Allen, with her new book, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, on Thursday, March 18, at Quail Ridge and again on Saturday, March 20, at the Barnes & Noble in Cary.
  • And Howard Frank Mosher, author of Walking to Gatlinburg, on Friday, March 19, at Quail Ridge and then on Saturday, March 20, at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village.

And stay tuned for word on Lee Smith and her new story collection, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger. That book officially publishes next Tuesday, and Smith kicks off her local tour the following night — Wednesday evening, March 24 — at Quail Ridge.

For more information, check out the MetroBooks Calendar here.

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Bourbon Trail: A Miscellany Of Bourbon Quotes

March 13, 2010

After stopping at the last of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, we’ve filled our passports — and earned our t-shirts! What other pleasures does Louisville have to offer? We’ll find out today, and the Louisville Slugger Museum and Churchill Downs are already on the plan. As for today’s bourbon entries, here are a few quick quotations on the subject from actors, writers, and — speaking of Louisville Sluggers — even a baseball player.

“Sure I eat what I advertise. Sure I eat Wheaties for breakfast. A good bowl of Wheaties with bourbon can’t be beat.” — Dizzy Dean

“How well I remember my first encounter with The Devil’s Brew. I happened to stumble across a case of bourbon — and went right on stumbling for several days thereafter.” — W.C. Fields

“Nothing is so musical as the sound of pouring bourbon for the first drink on a Sunday morning. Not Bach or Schubert or any of those masters.” — Carson McCullers (from Clock Without Hands)

“Bourbon does for me what the piece of cake did for Proust.” — Walker Percy

“We’ll get them. We’ll throw the book at them. Assualt and kidnapping. Assault with a gun and a bourbon and a sports car. We’ll get them.” — Cary Grant, as Roger Thornhill in North By Northwest

“Codeine… bourbon….” — Tallulah Bankhead (last words)

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Bourbon Trail: The Mint Julep, Part II

March 12, 2010

Thunder, the Buffalo Trace mascot, carved from the remains of a tree that had been all-but-destroyed by lightning.

Thursday brought not just one but two tours at the Buffalo Trace distillery — basically the Bourbon Mecca for many of us. After the standard tour, including the hand-bottling assembly line, we were treated to a “hard hat” tour, where we went behind-the-scenes of the bourbon-making process and (here’s the fun part) got to taste each step of that process: the crushed grains, the reconstituted spent grain, several stages of the yeast fermentation, the sweet mash, the sour mash, and right on up to the final product… which, of course, tasted the best.

Friday brings four distilleries: Tom Moore, Maker’s Mark, Heaven Hill, and Jim Beam. Have we had enough bourbon yet? Not hardly.

For today’s literary bourbon bon-bon, here’s another recipe for the Mint Julep, this one from Henry Watterson, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of The Louisville Courier-Journal:

Pluck the mint gently from its bed, just as the dew of the evening is about to form on it. Select the choicer sprigs only, but do not rinse them. Prepare the simple syrup and measure out a half-tumbler of whiskey.

Pour the whiskey into a well-frosted silver cup, throw the other ingredients away, and drink the whiskey.

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