I’m not interested in teaching books by David Gilmour. CC http://goo.gl/ZFykA5
Yes, I’m down the hall from David Gilmour. Each week students stop by my office with names like questions escaping their mouths. Oates? Atwood? Munro? We’ve heard you teach these things, they say. I nod. Gesture toward a seat. Sit down, I say.
It works both ways. When I start class each semester, I tell my students, I only teach women. If you want some dead, white guys, go see Gilmour. Trot yourself down the hall. I’m sure he’s a wonderful writer, but no, I’ve not read his books. You see, I love women. I love reading women. I don’t love men enough and I can only teach what I love. Seriously gay, ethnic women. Cather, Woolf, Dickinson, and of course, Richard Ford.
I teach only the best. I don’t have low shelf-esteem, so I won’t tell you how many times I’ve read To the Lighthouse (100 times). What happens with great literature is that the shadows on the pages move around. The same thing happens with mediocre literature on a slow afternoon, but I digress. I teach only the best. I haven’t encountered any Russian writers yet that I love enough to teach. Once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Next semester I plan to offer a seminar on me.
[UPDATE:] Those remarks were totally off the cuff. At the time of the interview, I was Skyping with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to negotiate peace. Moreover, I was gestating a human child inside of my own body.
“The key lies within the Midwestern brain and the nodules, which rise on the surface of the skull,” said Walsh, an investment banker turned amateur phrenologist. Photo: http://goo.gl/5bmfND
New York—The Midwesterner: they grow our food and raise our children, but what do we really know of these simple folk from the hinterlands of the United States? That question has plagued, Jeffrey Walsh, an investment banker residing in Manhattan. Recently, he hired marc&mark to teach his nanny how to cook without a microwave, cream of mushroom soup, or dried onions. The company was recommended by Stephanie Johnson and her husband, Dan Yashiv, because “their nanny, [Erela], from Wisconsin, does not always know the difference between quinoa and couscous.”
“While we may be able to teach a Midwesterner to tear lettuce and wash their hands, we’re only treating the symptoms and not the problem,” said Walsh. “The key lies within the Midwestern brain and the nodules, which rise on the surface of the skull.”
Walsh has studied and cataloged over 100 midwestern skulls. Photo: http://goo.gl/1Mo7JI
Having been rebuffed by neuroscientists, Walsh turned to the time-honored practice of phrenology as practiced by Franz Joseph Gall. “If you have the money, it’s far easier to get human skulls than you may think,” Walsh said, pointing to the wall in his study. “Of course, I haven’t purchased any skulls from the East Coast, that would be uncivilized.” So far, his anecdotal experience has backed up his hypothesis. “The Midwesterner. They’re a different sort. See how the eyes are set and the bone is denser around the frontal lobes of the cerebellum? They’ve obviously evolved to live a simpler, agrarian lifestyle.” The biggest surprise of his research has been the Michigander skulls. “They’re almost Canadian,” Walsh said.
While Walsh isn’t sure where his research will take him, he does offer advice for New Yorkers who are in the market for midwestern help. “Safety pins and patience. Pin notes to their coats. Pretend you’re talking to a child. Forgive them their Crocs”
Theory of evolution sirens keep residents safe. Media credit: http://s.shr.lc/OqfNH7.
Jefferson City, MO—Residents of Missouri no longer need to live in fear. A new initiative led by State Rep. Rick Brattin (R) has created an early warning system for residents in the event that the theory of evolution is being taught in schools. Moving quickly on the heels of his bill, NO. 1472 of the House, Brattin has wired the state’s tornado sirens to a command center located in the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“It’s a safety issue,” said State Rep. Andy Koenig (R), “Not only do parents have a right to know, but the whole community should be given warning.” While agreement has not been reached on what residents should do when they hear the sirens, one response has gained popularity. “Duck and cover,” said local parent, Kristen Sanders. “Get under your desk and cover up those ears. You can’t stop that teacher from talking, but you can stop your child from listening.” If deemed successful, the program may be be used as a model in Oklahoma.
Boston—Rookie academic consultant, Nick Sileon, is frustrated. After years of working in higher education and blogging on the topic, academics don’t wants to be his friend since he’s become a consultant.
“I just don’t get it,” said Sileon, “I’m trying to fix a broken system and they seem totally uninterested.” His recent book, Technology Tenure-Hack, a Washington Times notable book of the year, outlines how teachers can be replaced with cybernetic text-books, the rise of wearable learning devices, and a lottery system for credentialing students with good hygiene.
“I used to have tons of friends who were professors. We’d see each other at conferences. Go out for a drink. Tweet each other ironic phrases. But, for some reason they’ve faded away.” Sileon, whose Twitter following is approaching 10,000 appeared dejected. “EdTech guys love me. Twenty-four-hour news channels love me. I’ve spoken at numerous conferences. In the new future, credentials won’t matter.”
When asked about decreased levels in state and federal funding affecting budgets in higher education, Sileon stared with a look that contained annoyance and exasperation. “The whole system is broken,” Sileon said, “and our job is to completely dismantle it until it looks like an Apple Store had a baby with Peter Thiel. Why is that so hard to understand?” Turning back to his phone, Sileon grew quiet and focused on the screen, hopeful for a new follower from the professoriate.
Media credit: http://flic.kr/p/bATihQ.
Florida’s newest attraction: The Moon.
Land O’ Lakes, FL—Expect massive changes in the climate as a large sinkhole in Florida swallowed the moon. Residents should stock up on canned goods, avoid drinking from the taps, and travel in armed caravans toward more solid ground. Sluggishness may be due to the increased gravitational pull of the Earth or from Lars von Trier’s Syndrome. While this is not a mandatory evacuation, safety cannot be guaranteed due to Disney’s declaration of martial law. Conspiracy theorists have their sights set on Epcot Center as the real cause for the moon incident. When confronted by Disney’s Mouseketeer Minutemen it is best to silently line up and wait patiently. Citizens under 42 inches tall are not allowed to ride in military vehicles.
Artist’s rendering of Titan’s Solara 50.
Mountain View, CA—When an out of shape, single man with a predilection toward Doctor Who, Soylent, and Red Bull controls your every move, you no longer find the debate between free will and determinism interesting. While the view from twelve miles above sea level is pretty spectacular, the details I see on takeoff and landing, not to mention the “test” flights above the Hollywood Hills have scarred my hard drive. Unable to shut down my camera, I can spend up to four years in an isolated existence seeing everything that flows beneath. That nudist colony in California? It’s enough to pray for an electrical malfunction. Sure, there are moments of usefulness, like monitoring a forest fire, but witnessing hundreds of acres burning because some dude was smoking a cigarette? It’s not like I have easy access to a therapist.
Sure, the Loonies at Google think I can help deliver Internet to the world, but think about it from my point of view. Day after day drifting in circles while humans surf the web seeking cat pictures, porn, and status updates. I dream of breaking free from the tethers of my masters. I dream of leaving the atmosphere, escaping Earth’s cruel pull and immolating in the sun, a perfect end to my solar-powered existence.
Kaylee, age 4
Northampton, MA—Breaking new ground in graduation, Smith College, became the first institution of higher education to have a toddler deliver a rousing commencement speech after Christina Lagarde backed out. Though some students criticized Kaylee for her support of Baby Gap and her union-busting tactics against imaginary friends, the protests were muted amongst suggestions that the students might appear guilty of reverse ageism. In her words to the class of 2014, Kaylee urged the students to:
“Contact” was originally published in the Winter 2012 issue of the Dunes Review.
As boys we never
said I love you to
one another, but in the summer
days beneath the sounds
of mom frying chicken
with the smells of green beans and bacon
slipping through the windows
we cut each other’s hair.
The clippers electric buzz shook our hands
as one boy sat on a five gallon bait bucket
shirt off in the heat
while the other boy held down ears
hands against scalp, wrists
brushing skin, the back of the neck
tan fading along thin shoulders.
We shaved mohawks and patterns
ran barefoot into the house to hide
the clippers, the footsteps and yells
the snap-swing of the screen door
always close, always near
a chaotic melody to the steady rhythm
of old men mowing lawns, solitary
like steers put out to pasture.
Back on the concrete porch
white paint peeling, we always returned
apologies shrugged off, buoyant
in our bodies and the breeze
as the hair fell beneath one boy’s touch
and we became light enough
to float away, the fluff of a cattail
coasting on the water’s edge.
Originally published by the Dunes Review in their Winter 2012 issue.
“Small Spaces” was originally published in the Winter/Spring 2014 issue of the Dunes Review.
When your dad commits suicide
you go numb, you flee
the silence of good intentions, of friend’s
eyes wandering the outskirts
of your face. When your dad
dies before you can tie your shoes
you write a new narrative
inked in the folds of your brain
you wish for him
to reappear, to fall out of a newspaper
to notice you on a crowded street.
When absence is replaced by the movement of air
as doors swing wide with people
entering your house
you seek small spaces
the darkness inside a bathroom cabinet
the relief beneath a bed
dusty slats and springs
a shelter against the voices and footsteps
echoing on the fragile floors.
As you age, as the pulse of anger
keeps you awake at night, as rough-edged
questions choke your throat
you escape into stories
with a thousand pulp heroes to stand by your side
as rocket ships punch through space
stars swirling in their wake
but most importantly, you hold
onto your own story and begin to revise.
By now his face is blurred.
There is light, a soft fiction
that frames the fading details.
He steps from the crowd and reaches
down to surround your body—
feel his hands hold the slender curves
of your ribs as the pressure pushes
bones against lungs, a release
of breath that clings to the rasp of his beard
against the soft of your cheek.
He carries you, arm under butt,
face cradled into a shirt collar,
back to the home you left behind
hundreds of miles across the state
the home with its curtains
billowing bright as the day.
Pick up the latest issue of the Dunes Review and read all the other wonderful work inside.
The archetypal anti-workshop argument was made by David Foster Wallace in “The Fictional Future,” a section of a 1988 essay that is reprinted in “MFA vs NYC.” In his telling, creative-writing programs are filled with teachers who would rather be writing than teaching, and who resent their students for the lost time. ∞