Publications
Honesty, Confession, and Other Dramas of "Creative Writing" Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

Klee_Monument(AWP Chronicle March/April 1998)

My "Creative Writing" class begins with the same assignment every semester, an idea I stole from the fiction writer and essayist, Carol Bly. Each student must write a ten-page autobiographical essay about a significant person, place, or phase in his or her life and finish it in one week. Raw is fine. First draft encouraged. I read the essays, meet privately with each student, then suggest revisions. I hope this task focuses students on one personal story, which most will produce anyway, and allow their imaginative pieces to emerge separately. Fact differentiated from fiction. A few years ago, when I began this assignment, I received one of the most brilliant and disturbing first drafts of my teaching career—a paramedic's nightmarish story of his worst shift ever on the job. His piece would change my thinking about the "creative writing" classroom forever.

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Review: When Memory Speaks: Reflections on Autobiography by Jill Ker Conway Print E-mail
Criticism

when_memory_speaks(San Diego Union-Tribune March 22, 1998)

A Mostly Male Form

Jill Ker Conway, feminist historian of memoir, knows the form firsthand. Her best-selling The Road From Coorain (1989) captured her indomitable family and hard-knocks girlhood in the Australian outback as well as her self-sufficiency when that family was plagued by loss.

True North (1994) showed her immigrating to the United States to study history at Harvard and later to teach at the University of Toronto, where she specialized in women's issues. Now, with When Memory Speaks, Conway charts the slow, at times ossified, growth of memoir over the last 200 years.

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Skull and Roses: Reflections on Enshrining Georgia O'Keeffe Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

okeeffepink-tulip-lg(Southwest Review Volume 83, Number 1, 1998)

1.

In Santa, Fe, New Mexico, I spent the summer of 1997 writing and, on several occasions, standing agog inside the new Georgia O’Keeffe Museum before some eighty selections of her sculptures, watercolors, drawings and those famous silky geometric images in oil: the floating pelvis, the blood clot, the lustrous orifice, the sky wedge, the eggy nutrient, the fetishized shell, the crucified sky, the lonely comic orb, the birth aesthetic, the pastel creation. I felt guiltily alone, an infidel at a church service who is happily seduced by the resplendent altars and rose windows, and forgets the presence of the word. And all the while, enjoying my O’Keeffe, I was buffeted from gallery to gallery by a procession of lovers: the turquoise matriarch, the bemused father, the ecstatic Spanish girl, the garrulous rodeo queen, the mute college boy and his shrieking girlfriend, the leering cleric, another writer (several other writers) eyeing me, the man with his hand over his mouth and the Japanese woman, her arms crossed, stroking her bare shoulders, crying.

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Review: Grace and Favor by Thomas Caplan Print E-mail
Criticism

grace_and_favor(San Diego Union-Tribune January 4, 1998)

Because They're Entitled Is Why

Call Thomas Caplan's novel Grace and Favor a romance of multinational capitalism, with corporate takeovers and insider trading at the heart of its pithy intrigue.

Call it also a classic tale of self-conceit, in which England's landed gentry (a notch below royalty) show that entitlement must endure, at any cost. The moral value to which this class is born is clear: Hold on to an estate, to wealth, to family honor.

And yet, according to Caplan, the gentry's most prized possession is its ability to rub out any threat against its mossy primogeniture. Caplan, an American, sets his story in England, where an American, John Brook, has married the very beautiful Julia Midleton-Lygham.

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Open Mouth, Out Comes Home Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

SL24Picasso Le Sauvetage.jpf (The OC Weekly September 16, 1997)

In England, my companion Suzanna and I began traveling with the self-assurance that for the next several weeks our American voices would be the source of fascination, if not playful suspicion, by another group of people who—Hooray!—speak the same language we do. Coming from a country that venerates and distrusts, occasionally vilifies and deports, the “foreigner,” now we’d discover for ourselves the complexity of being “other.” We were ready to be enjoined: Cali-forn-i-yay? by hosts civil and curious: O.J., riots, Hollywood, quakes, affirmative action. Just ask; we’ll tell.

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Review: Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty Print E-mail
Criticism

gracenotes(San Diego Union-Tribune September 14, 1997)

Song of Ireland

What is it with Ireland and its writers?

Why do so many leave—Joyce, Beckett, Frank O'Connor, Frank McCourt—and then, in one guise or the other, write the story of their exile?

Must every tale mix unforgiving parents, oafish young men and an inhospitable Catholicism that dislocates the artist's bones and resets them, stronger at the broken places, in another country? Such questions shadow Bernard MacLaverty's fine Grace Notes. Composer-protagonist Catherine McKenna is like the author: AWOL from the armed camp of Northern Ireland.

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Freshman Comp, 1967 Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

Thomas_MacAfee(Anchor Essay Annual: Best of 1997 edited by Phillip Lopate)

That I was a severely bookish eighteen-year-old must have been fairly evident to my dormi­tory roommates at the University of Missouri, my freshman semester. The night before classes began, they tried to pry me away from my desk for a keg party to which I responded, “I can’t go. I need to finish studying the introductions to my textbooks.” I believed those small Roman-numerated pages would offer insight into the learning models that awaited me. In fact, so intent was I to begin my education that after saying goodbye to Mom and Dad a few days earlier I rushed out to purchase my course books and then, parked at my desk, nearly memorized the glossaries of each text. I wanted more than a head start; I wanted to achieve, as my dad sug­gested, the notice of those who mattered, the professors with whom I was soon to be engaged, and I hoped, enthralled. If called on in class, my responses would prove just how formidably prepared I was.

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