Autumnal Equinox

categories: Cocktail Hour / Our Best American Essays

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In late August, more emphatically in September, the garden begins to die.  First frost in our valley location is generally within a week or two of Labor Day, and follows the olden wisdom: beware the full moon.  The first hard freeze (a full night at twenty degrees or lower–as opposed to mere frost) might wait till the next full moon, but then again, it might come any night at all, starting late August.  One looks to the evening sky after a perfect, clear day as the stars emerge and can almost see the heat flying up and up and gone.  The cold drops in.  I throw old sheets over the tomatoes the way my elderly neighbor Isabel Hammond showed me before died, pull a tarp over the basil and cover the cucurbits (cumbers, squashes, pumpkins).  Some years I do nothing but mourn: you can’t stop winter. Continue reading →

Are you Ready for Some Wife-Beating?

categories: Cocktail Hour


In the mad swirl of the NFL, it has been good to finally hear the voice of reason. That was of course Reggie Bush, who assured reporters that while he beats (“disciplines”) his one-year old, he tries not to leave bruises. Wait a second. Did he just “one-year old”? Is he really saying he beats his baby? Holy Shit.


Here is the video of Bush.


Meanwhile check out Steve Almond’s book Against Football: A Reluctant Manifesto.


My father was a Patriots season ticket holder and took me to Schaefer Stadium as a kid to watch Jim Plunkett and Randy Vataha. Doubt I will give up the Pats any time soon. But this bullshit right now is pushing me away, and the moralizing about the bullshit (by the likes of Ray Lewis) is almost worse than the bullshit itself.


Maybe it’s time we celebrate a more civilized but equally exciting sport. Ultimate Frisbee, anyone?






Bad Advice All-Stars: Lose the Suitcase!

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour


There is almost nothing more frightening for a writer than the idea of losing one’s work. This used to mean losing one’s work physically when, say, your house burned down.  (I actually remember reading, and following, the advice of another writer who suggested placing final drafts wrapped in plastic in the freezer, where they might survive a fire.)  Of course the world has changed and now the anxiety is focused more on forgetting to hit SAVE or having your computer crash. Here at Bill and Dave’s its been an anxious few days as we try to recover lost posts, but we consider ourselves lucky not to have lost the entire content as both of us do our final revisions on line.


But that’s not the kind of loss I want to talk about today. While there is nothing more frightening than losing your work, for the development of a writer it is not always a bad thing.  The most famous story in this regard was that of Hemingway and his wife Hadley.  As the tale goes, Hadley was on a train to Spain and lost the suitcase containing many of Hemingway’s earliest short stories.  And as the tale goes, narrated of course by Hemmingway himself, our macho hero greeted this news with stoicism.  (Why is it that I imagine there might have been a temper tantrum or two?)  Of course he was devastated, but later he could look back and see this tragedy as less of one, as in fact an opportunity to grow beyond his apprentice work. Continue reading →

The Georgia Review, Ecotone and Some Guy named Henry

categories: Cocktail Hour

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Culture and the Environment: Rebooting Spring 2009

By On September 11, 2014 · In Other Online Exclusives

spring09The Georgia Review seldom solicits work, but in 2008 we saw the chance to put together a special nature-writing feature comprising an essay, “Simplicity and Sanity,” by Scott Russell Sanders along with solicited responses to that work by four noted authors with a special interest in environmental issues. Drawing extensively from Walden, Sanders advocated a sustainable and environmentally sound life informed by Thoreau’s principles. Among the four other authors, the gently contrarian David Gessner mounted some opposition based, in part, on his own reading of Thoreau and simplicity.


In a recent editorial in Ecotone, of which Gessner is founding editor, he revisits his position from that Spring 2009 issue, providing us with an opportunity to present again, through these two influential writers, some ideas that have lost no currency or urgency in the last five years.

Here, with a link to Gessner’s new essay, we offer both original Sanders and Gessner pieces from Spring 2009.


Scott Russell Sanders’ “Simplicity and Sanity

David Gessner’s “Against Simplicity

On the Gallows with Henry DavidContinue reading →

Our Sunday Sermon: A Dialogue on Race (and Writing)

categories: Cocktail Hour





FROM: David Gessner

TO: Clyde Edgerton

Below find something my friend Tim Parrish posted on Facebook. He wrote a memoir called FEAR AND WHAT FOLLOWS: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist. on growing up poor in a racist family in the south. (“The story of a working class, Southern Baptist upbringing that transformed into a nightmare of bigotry and bullying in Baton Rouge”)

From Tim:

Trouble on my mind: FB is a way, I suppose, to simply express stuff, so I’m expressing and sharing a dilemma. My keynote talk yesterday was a great experience overall, but it included a problematic reading from my memoir (all of them are problematic with this book). Those of you who have read it know that I write the N-word extensively, mostly in dialogue, but also at times to express how I thought when I was younger. I preface my readings (except for an unfortunate lapse at Sanibel’s conference) with an explanation of why I think I have to use the word and how Audrey Petty helped me unknot some reservations, but I also believe that it’s not the right of a white person to use what is probably the most damaging word in American English (I also think it’s perfectly within the rights of African Americans to use the word, which I think of as a completely different word, but that’s another debate). Frankly, I’m exhausted from saying the word for over a year now (but don’t see how I can be true to that time and my experience if I don’t say it), and yesterday five African-American colleagues walked out of the room during my reading. Someone brought this up almost immediately during the Q and A, although I was already painfully aware of it. I don’t know why they Continue reading →

Guest contributor: Bill and Dave

Tour de Blog: Bill and Dave Join the Great All-Universe Blog Tour

categories: Cocktail Hour / Table For Two: Interviews

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Bill and Dave were invited to participate in the MY WRITING PROCESS BLOG TOUR by Dinty W. Moore, a truly remarkable individual (ask him sometime about Paul McCartney’s ashes) who also happens to be a kick-ass writer, and who just happens to be the editor of the first and best online journal, Brevity, which is devoted to short nonfiction.  The Brevity Blog is one of the greatest on earth, though Bill and Dave’s is quite a bit better.  Dinty loves to garden and crack jokes.  His books show greatness and include Between Panic and Desire; The Accidental Buddhist; and The Rose Metal Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction.

Bill’s and Dave’s answers to the four Blog Tour questions follow below, and our nominations come after that: Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday All Stars: Write a Fan Letter!

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour


Actual Photo


Let us start with Robert Browning’s fan letter to Elizabeth Barrett, January, 1845:

“I do, as I say, love these books with all my heart — and I love you too. Do you know I was once not very far from seeing — really seeing you? Mr. Kenyon said to me one morning ‘Would you like to see Miss Barrett?’ then he went to announce me, — then he returned . . . you were too unwell, and now it is years ago, and I feel as at some untoward passage in my travels, as if I had been close, so close, to some world’s-wonder in chapel or crypt, only a screen to push and I might have entered, but there was some slight, so it now seems, slight and just sufficient bar to admission, and the half-opened door shut, and I went home my thousands of miles, and the sight was never to be?” Continue reading →

Table for Two: Bill Interviews “Nightingale” author Suzanne Congdon LeRoy

categories: Cocktail Hour / Table For Two: Interviews


Elisabeth Congdon (third from left) playing Field Hockey, 1909 at Dana Hall


Bill: Greetings, Suzanne, and welcome to Bill and Dave’s.   And warm congratulations on the publication of your astonishing true story, Nightingale: A Memoir of Murder, Madness, and the Messenger of Spring.  It’s such a complex story.  How would you summarize it?

Suzanne: Nightingale is the story of my grandmother, Elisabeth Mannering Congdon, who was heiress to a mining fortune and victim of one of Minnesota’s most notorious homicides. As the eldest granddaughter, I was entrusted with the burdens and joys of memory as I detailed a family legacy of love, loss and perseverance. Elisabeth Congdon emerges not as heiress or victim but as the messenger of spring and the key to my survival as I tried to escape my own mother, a dangerous serial criminal falling deeper into madness. My grandmother’s early efforts to nurture a foundation of hope, optimism, and the power of possibility led me to advanced education, a beloved nursing career and the discovery of the ineffable relationship between healing oneself, service to others, and the connection to the spirit and beauty of the earth that made me whole again. Continue reading →

Good Advice Wednesday: Check out Nina’s New Book

categories: Cocktail Hour

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My wife, Nina de Gramont, celebrated the release of her new young adult novel yesterday, The Boy I Love, and celebrates her birthday today. The presents have been pouring in in the form of great reviews and blogs. This one came yesterday from Booklist:

The Boy I Love.
de Gramont, Nina (Author)
Sep 2014. 288 p. Atheneum, hardcover, $17.99. (9781442480568).

The day Wren Piner saw the alligator in the river by her North Carolina home seemed to change
everything, and overnight she became famous in her small town. After she begins a new friendship with gorgeous Tim Greenlaw, things fall quickly and completely apart with her best friend, Allie. But just as Wren is convinced that she is falling in love with Tim, he reveals a surprising secret, changing their relationship forever. This fresh and surprising novel has much to offer. The well-drawn characters Continue reading →