Publications
Growing Sugar Beets in Sonoma: Elegy for Bruce Brown Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

relaxing

(Written January 2020)

Bruce died in April, 2019, and I’ve been mulling a piece to remember him by since then—not so much because of the feeling of loss, monumental to most of us who knew him over his 70+ years, but more because there is too much about him to remember. Bruce was so boisterous, so forceful, so opinionated, so funny, so adventuresome, so story-packed, so definitional or diversionary to phases of our lives, which, like a popular music era or a social movement, he became a centrality—or, at least, he epitomized some hegemony in the culture of the time. I can’t begin to think what it must have been like to have him as a partner (to Mary Dee), a father (to Street), or the eldest son, after his dad died (to his mother).

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Michael Steinberg: A Remembrance & a Review Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

Mike Steinberg

(River Teeth Blog, January 3, 2020)

1/

In December 2019, in a country torn apart by Donald Trump’s bullying and Fox News’ Pravda-like misinformation, in congressional hearings that traded in the ridiculous and the profound, in a democracy under such partisan assault it seemed to buckle before our eyes, and in the month of Trump’s impeachment, we were hit with grave news of another sort: creative nonfiction’s (and my) beloved colleague, mentor, and friend, Mike Steinberg, 79, died from pancreatic cancer, undiscovered until a week before he passed.

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Elegy for the Trapdoor Spider Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20191120(San Diego Reader as "San Diego's Changing Bugs" November 20, 2019)

At typing breaks when journalists gather at the water cooler to compare notes, the noise we’re hearing of late is as deafening as a Darrell Issa car alarm: “colony collapse,” “catastrophic,” “apocalyptic,” “extinct.” These terms of “urgent concern,” however egregious, apply when climate and its caterwauling crisis dominate the news. No day passes without a new dead canary brought up from the mine. The latest: In the last 50 years, America has lost 29 percent of its bird population, three billion fewer winged creatures.

One flashing yellow light centers on insects. Their populations are stressed, diminishing, and changing the dependency humans have enjoyed with bees, butterflies, beetles, ants, and spiders. We have a good idea of what we are doing to climate, its stewards and ravagers. But what are we doing to insects who are as vulnerable and predatory and ungovernable as we are? How fast are arthropods declining, disappearing, drowsing, and migrating like refugees across land, sea, and sky for greener climes?

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The Pleasures & Paradoxes of Spiritual Writing Print E-mail
Articles

Head in Sand(Rain Taxi Interview with Renee D'Aoust Fall 2019)

Renee E. D’Aoust: Tom, in your new book you argue that “the spiritual essay anchors the biggest part of the briefest moment, an economy of insight, if you will, that the long-winded autobiography and memoir do not share.” As you point out, many of our spiritual experiences occur, if we pay attention (and write it down!), as part of quotidian life. In what ways is writing severed from spirituality, and in what ways might it be reattached? Am I correct in assessing that part of the book's project is to focus on the mystical aspects of creativity and on reattaching our creative endeavors to spiritual foundations?

Read the rest of the interview here.

 
My College Is Better Than Your College Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20190815(San Diego Reader August 14, 2019)

The Event: College Fair Night.

The Venue: San Diego Convention Center.

The Scene: A big-box room rowed with white linen-covered tables behind blue-curtained backdrops.

The Hosts: More than 300 college admissions table-sitters selling the glories of their schools, from the Moody Bible Institute to The Ohio State University, Holy Spirit to Holy Buckeye.

The Supporting Players: Moms who look like their daughters — jeans, middle-parted long hair, and shiny leopard-print purses; Dads, startled and leash-led.

The Central Players: Scores of kids, 15 and 16, shopping avidly with questions and concerns, their cellphones pocket-packed.

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Review: Fluid States by Heidi Czerwiec Print E-mail
Criticism

Czerwiec cover(River Teeth Blog August 2, 2019)

Shapes Shifted, Senses Altered, Values Freely Wheeled

There may be no more startling way to bait readers into an essay than this: “Is there a word for the unsettling sensation of sitting down on an unexpectedly warm toilet seat, because someone used it just before you and sat there for a good long while? Maybe something in German?” The author titles it: “FREUDENSCHANDE: PRIV(AC)Y,” translated as “joyful-shame.” Using more of these “made-up” German compounds as section titles, she goes on to compare the “bowel mover” in the “public privy” to the commodious confessions of the personal nonfictionist, the emotional “shitshow” so many memoirists and essayists insist readers have to sit with. All this “warmth sharing” breaks “the illusion of privacy” and invites us into the shape-shifting, sense-altering, fearlessly original prose of Heidi Czerwiec.

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DH Lawrence & Spirituality Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

D.H. Lawrence 29 November 1915

(Excerpt from Spirituality and the Writer June 2019)

Perhaps the finest spiritual essay in English is “The Spinner and the Monks,” the second chapter of D. H. Lawrence’s Twilight in Italy.In 1912, Lawrence and Frieda von Richthofen, having just met and gone lust-mad for each other, spent the winter/spring seasons on Lake Garda in Gargnano, Italy. High above Gargnano and its tangled streets sits the Church of San Tommaso. The small chapel, which Lawrence espies from the lakefront, seems to float in the sky, looking out at the snow-capped peaks of the Tyrol. Climbing ancient cobblestone streets up through the village, passing walled houses atop steep stairways, he discovers San Tommaso’s terrace, “suspended” “like the lowest step of heaven,” a place with an earthen sacredness in between (or joining) the sky and the earth. He enters the Church and inhales “a thick, fierce darkness of the senses.” His soul shrinks, he says, and he hurries outside.

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