ObitCon VI

  I went to the sixth conference of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers in Washington, DC. Below are some highlights. I’ve left a lot out, but must record this: it was the best conference I’ve ever attended. Kickers The kicker is to an obit what the punch line is to a joke. Matt Schudel discussed […]


    Last week I posted individual sentences from books read over the summer. Now I’m going to share with you the one I’ve thought about the most. It’s from Wilderness at Dawn: The Settling of the North American Continent, by Ted Morgan: Both were shot, and Captain Gregg played dead while an Indian removed […]

Pretty Little Liars

  When deep night fell, the fishermen paddled out and we watched the horizon slowly fill with little orange lights, kerosene lamps swinging from the bows of their boats. It soon looked like a whole city out there, or like a constellation of stars that had fallen lightly on the surface of the water. It […]

Dahl’s Tiger

Years ago I had to read an assigned novel with 5th graders. The book – which I refuse to name, but will allow was written by a famous children’s author – began excellently. On the very first page, two children find a tiger in a cage. Pause to imagine what Roald Dahl would have done […]

American Cheese

  I just finished The Possessed by the estimable Elif Batuman. I really like it, especially what she says about craft: I realized that I would greatly prefer to think of literature as a profession, an art, a science, or pretty much anything else, rather than a craft. What did craft ever try to say about the world, the […]

The Verdured Margarita

I was once offered a ticket to go see Jimmy Buffett. My reply: “Buddy, I don’t sing along about margaritas, I drink ’em.” Then I blew imaginary smoke off my bepistoled fingers. Yippee Ki Yay, my good fellow! I’ve got somewhat of that attitude toward reading books about books, or books about writing. However, at the […]

It’s Time Is Now.

  I was putting up a set of posters on common misuses (to vs too, etc), and when I came to the it’s vs its one, I hesitated. Between you and me – not in front of the children – can we just abolish “its”? My objections are twofold: I don’t see how “it’s” shouldn’t always be valid “Its” […]