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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
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”