PEN on Twitter


Every safari begins before dawn. One has to prepare for the unknown. So I begin before dawn, a rough beginning:

In the week leading up to my visit to Westbeth, I lost my job (again), a block away from where my wife and I raise our two year old son a young man was murdered (again), and we were robbed (again). This time, the thief took my bicycle. I made it out of bamboo, built it by hand. One would think that such a start to a safari might be a bad omen. Maybe it would have stopped some from going. But since losing my job, I spend my days with my son and I’ve got to live the maxim I teach. I take losses as events not obstacles in my chance to live and love.

So off with a kiss for my wife and son I went, taking the train instead of riding my bicycle into the city, my heart a little broken that I wouldn’t see the sun setting as I pedaled across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Read More


I am on the 2 train headed to Madison Square Garden. I have Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones. It’s a hard copy so I can’t squeeze it into my pocket. I have to hold it proudly, which I do. It is a brilliant book about the human spirit. Last week, I attended a conversation between Ward and Paul Holdengrabber at the New York Public Library. Ward finds Faulkner inspiring. Holdengrabber introduced Faulkner’s Noble Prize Acceptance Speech as a topic of discussion.

“Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.”

Last night, I attended Politics As Story, a discussion between Tony Kushner and Paul Auster. Auster wasn’t there. I arrived late (no excuse) so I don’t know where he was. But it was May 5th, my mother’s birthday, Cinco de Mayo, so maybe Auster was drunk, with plastic beads and sorority sisters strung around his neck, their vaginas holding him by the throat, forcing him to pontificate on what it means to be a writer in Brooklyn these days. Or maybe he wasn’t at my mother’s birthday party, but celebrating Cinco de Mayo in the way American beer company’s have taught Americans to celebrate Cinco de Mayo so he was overstuffed on Tostitos and guacamole or vomiting Corona in an alley, or nursing a brain freeze caused by drinking his frozen margarita too fast. 

Read More