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February 15, 2007
Your entries to the “One True Sentence” contest prove you’ve seen and heard some things. No wonder you have that mad gleam in your eyes.It was difficult for Mrs. Churm, but with two sons of her own, she chose, “I’ve seen both of my brother’s crying at the same woman’s kiss that left marks on them that looked like welts, but was only lipstick.” So Noah wins. Noah wins.
February 13, 2007
The "One True Sentence" contest will remain open another day. Give it a try! See the two previous posts for details.Until then, here's an essay I wrote for the current issue of Adjunct Advocate: " On Babies ." (It probably isn't what you think.)
February 11, 2007
In the last post, I wrote about Ernest Hemingway’s “Paris 1922” writing exercise, which helped him find his mature style. “All you have to do is write one true sentence,” he said. “Write the truest sentence that you know.”
February 9, 2007
Students often tell me the old lie they’ve been told themselves—Hemingway’s prose is simplicity itself. (“What do Hemingway scholars have to talk about?” a grad student sneered, a beer and a cig in his hands.) But once you start looking at it, the prose is too idiosyncratic to be called simple. In fact, it looks more like poetry.
February 8, 2007
I was brought up short by the snap of recognition the other day.In classes I often use the late Michael S. Reynolds’s wonderful books on Hemingway. Last week we looked at secondary source material that Hemingway probably read before he wrote of the execution of the six Greek cabinet ministers (“Chapter V”) in In Our Time. This is Hem’s whole chapter:
February 5, 2007
How did the Liberty Bell get stuck in an ugly prefab, which looks like a small rest stop you’d see outside Des Moines, in the corner of an empty lot across from Independence Hall?
February 2, 2007
I’ll admit it: It took me too long to come around to Scotland, and I blame that on the American tendency to reduce all culture to the equivalent of soda pop, oversweet and easily swallowed.
January 30, 2007
After applying for tenure-track jobs this year, I got a letter from a university in the California State system, signed by the English department chair:“Dear Applicant,” it read. “Thank you for applying for our position. For the University to approve our interviews of finalists, we need you to complete the Applicant Information Form that I include.” The Equal Employment Opportunity form had standard questions about sex, racial/ethnic identity, and citizenship.
January 29, 2007
Our house was built at the end of the Civil War and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in part because the man who built it also brought the university to town by out-scheming other state politicians. In the winter it can look grim, a tall, heavy Italianate rising from a plain of mud. The trees that keep grass from growing are bare themselves now too, and when squirrels have been burying nuts, the yard looks like a tidal flat scarred with land-crab holes.
January 25, 2007
My mom was a teacher. What’s more—and it is more, since not all teachers are the same—she had an intense curiosity and so was a perpetual student herself. But in the way that a deeply spiritual person may not care for organized religion, she didn’t trust schools’ rules and rituals, or even some of my teachers, whom she’d observed as a colleague.

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