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I remember some night when I am eating a Mexican dinner in the company of a Famous Eastern European Poet. As we celebrate his reading, a member of our party starts to choke on her food. We laugh at first, but her situation escalates. Emergency medical technicians come in, stick a tube stuck down her throat. She is taken away in an ambulance. And all the while, Famous Eastern European Poet continues to eat his meal and speak with other famous poets. They glance back twice. The only explanation for why this Poet did not react to the woman choking on a bony burrito was it was messing up one of his few nights in Manhattan. I have no explanation, however, for Poets A and B sitting next to him, who continued their conversation on European literary festivals and the pros and cons of living in Iowa. –“Goodbye to All Them,” Daniel Nester, The Morning News
Right this moment, there are armies of writers going through workshops, getting their work ruthlessly dissected as they try to create that lyrical effect of waning poignancy. Students labor day and night trying to imagine themselves as Gabriel Conroy, looking out onto the snow-covered wasteland. Adjunct professors, desperately trying to squeeze into the Kenyon Review, are trying to imagine their careers as the Bog of Allen, their aging parents as relics of a bygone day, their own spouse wanting more from them than they’re willing-or able-to give. Michael Furey is the ghost of their aspirations. The distant music of their thought-tormented lives is the rattling piano of an aging piano teacher. If that’s what they’re after, the short story isn’t a story anymore. What we come out with now, too often, is an architectural feat, carefully layered to texture a feeling that is, not coincidentally, the sort of feeling you might get after teaching short-stories for years, while writing the occasional book review. It’s the kind of story not many people read anymore, unless they want to learn how to write a story. It’s a story that many people publish, some of them so that they can keep their jobs. –“Dead End: Has a single James Joyce short story unduly influenced contemporary American short fiction?” by John Barry, Baltimore City Paper
February 2008, Richmond: At a heat for a competition the comic on before me does his entire set about mutilated vaginas, referring to them as “flanges”. He then proceeds to show the audience A3-size photographs of mutilated vaginas with titles such as “Spewing Chunks”. The audience is stony. With the atmosphere in the room plunging well below zero, the MC brings me on by saying, “Here’s Maureen Younger, let’s hope she doesn’t show us her flange.” I go on stage, slap him and then threaten to get my cock out. That shuts him up. –“Diary: Backward step,” Maureen Younger, New Humanist
Estimated acres of forest Henry David Thoreau burned down in 1844 trying to cook fish he had caught for dinner:
The bombardier beetle, which can fire liquid at its enemies from its rear end at up to 300 squirts per second, was being scrutinized in the hope of building a better airplane engine.
London Fire Brigade investigators blamed a building fire in South London on a bird that carried a lit cigarette to its rooftop nest. “Smokers,” said neighborhood baker Richard Scroggs. “What can you say?”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”