We got another graduating class launched yesterday, which means that, apart from putting some syllabi together, my holidays can begin in earnest. So let’s chat, huh?
For those of you who haven’t been through the hazing rituals that make up graduate school, grad students typically pay their way through by teaching classes in exchange for tuition and a stipend. As part of that, grad students and adjuncts often are assigned offices or veal fattening pens that serve as offices. When I was at the U of Kentucky for my M.A., I shared an office — 1307 Patterson Office Tower, to be exact. Over that five-year run, I had three officemates. It’s the third of these I want to mention today, a guy from Boston named Chris McGinley. Chris had a Boston accent so thick you could carve David out of it (assuming David’s nickname was “Sully”), very short hair, and a fondness for punk rock. I was more of a metalhead in those days, but since we both like our music loud and fast, we got on well. We hung out between classes and in slack periods, I watched a pay-per-view boxing match at his place once (I’m thinking it involved Irish Micky Ward — maybe the Harold Brazier fight?), and one of the two times I’ve been inebriated (at Lynagh’s Pub), Chris was an aider and abetter, but he didn’t walk me home — my girlfriend at the time did that.
After I graduated and moved back to Northern KY, Chris and I lost track of one another. I went into the magazine biz before returning to academia six years later, and Chris became an English teacher there in Lexington, at a very reputable private school. In fact, he wound up teaching the children of my dear friends James and Amy Kolasa.
With the rise of social media, I tracked him back down some years ago, and had the sort of contacts one has that way. But two or three years ago, Chris messaged me. He had written some crime fiction, and could I tell him about some possible markets? Sure, I said, and gave him contact info for some of the places that had taken my work, and likely some that hadn’t as well.
Well, he apparently has a knack for this stuff, as he’s found homes for several of his stories, and I’m delighted to note that this week saw the release of Coal Black, a collection of shorts set in Appalachia, and more specifically, that section of Eastern Kentucky that lies a short drive and a universe away from Lexington.
Chris is a good guy and a good writer, channeling the spirit of his adoptive home turf. For once, you might be pleased to find some coal in your stocking.
And speaking of reading, this week I’ve had the pleasure of reading an e-copy of El Bee’s new nonfiction miscellany, Hunting Buffalo with Bent Nails. And it is a pleasure, covering topics from numismatics to Mr. Block’s friendship with Dave Van Ronk, and a youthful trip to Mexico in the late 50s or early 60s that begs to made into a coming-of-age movie. The titular essay chronicles the multi-year road trip LB and his Frequent Companion made in order to visit every place in the U.S. they could find with the word Buffalo in the name (including LB’s hometown in upstate NY, which is significantly better known than the others.)
But I think the piece de resistance is a memoir LB wrote about his mother some years ago. As someone who writes about his family fairly often, I know the difficulties of this kind of thing. In addition to the desire to write well and honestly that’s part of being an artist and a professional, the stakes grow even higher as the subject is closer to home. (Indeed, that’s why, when people ask me if I’m going to write a book about The Big Noise, I have to say that I don’t know. If I do, I really need to Get It Right, and that self-imposed pressure may be daunting in its own way.) Larry’s piece is honest, and accurate, and beautiful. Even as he writes about difficult things, the love is evident. I’m pleased that he chose to share it with us.
And speaking of writing, I’m pleased to report that I’ll be appearing at a signing for From Sea to Stormy Sea, on Wed., 8 Jan 20, at the Mysterious Bookshop, 58 Warren Street, NYC. The event (indeed, the only official promo event for the book) starts at 6:30, and I’ll be there along with Janice Eidus, Charles Ardai, Jerome Charyn, and Our Illustrious Editor. If you drop by in person, you’ll be able to ask the common question: “How can Mondo write so slowly, yet still illegibly?” If you can’t make it, you can ring the nice folks at the Mysterious ((212) 587-1011 ) and order a copy. (Indeed, I’ll be happy to sign anything they have that includes my work.) But if you can make it, we’d love to see you!
The signing takes place the week before the new semester begins, so I’m turning the trip into a mini-vacation/safari/Christmas present, with a couple of spare days. I’m hoping to check out MoMA this time (I missed it last time), and I was delighted to see that I’ll be staying a few blocks from the Bowery subway station, the setting for another of my stories. But then I noticed the neighborhood, and it reminded me of a song, so what better way to close than with the track in question? The song, from the year of my birth, is from those underground/countercultural folk-rockers the Fugs, a band once described in an FBI file as the “most vulgar thing the human mind could possibly conceive”. Enjoy!
See you soon!