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Cocktail Hour

Anxious Bode Loves Paris (Despite Anxious Times)

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Sunday Sermon

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Thierry Kauffmann, aka Anxious Bode

Thierry Kauffmann, aka Anxious Bode

Bonjour! It’s me, Anxious Bode. I’m having French roast at my favorite
cafe, in the Paris airport. I’m on my way to New York. That’s the
truth. Many writers write to access a reality deeper than reality
itself. That’s my street address, reality deeper than reality. I write
to reach the surface of things. Pardon my levity, but the joy of
actually flying is hard to resist. But for you, readers of my Continue reading →

Lundgren’s Lounge: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Many years ago, as I was dipping my toes into the teaching profession, I wrote the following: “Between the campus where I attended graduate school classes and the school where I was student teaching was a large city park. I would sometimes mention my walks through the park to my students (who were all brown or black), describing the welcome sight of the spring’s first crocuses or the sense of wonder that came while watching birds gather material for their nests. One day James, one of my students, interrupted me: ‘Why do you keep talking about that park? Don’t you know that park’s not for us? We’re not welcome there. That’s a park for white people.‘ “ Excerpted from Becoming (Other)Wise, “Notes From a New Teacher.” Continue reading →

Dave’s first poem

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snyder 2Brother Gary


In Oregon

Sitting by my deep green

swimming hole

in Lookout Creek on a coldish evening,

Drinking my Lagunitas and

reading Gary Snyder

(No Nature),

I am the perfect hipster.

I even try to write a poem, my first

It goes like this:


A net of mist

Almost indistinguishable from



past Douglas firs

up the valley

to join its brethren

the clouds


Not bad, I think

For a beginner.

Then after another sip of IPA

I decide to cut

its brethren.

Bad Advice Wednesday: Need a Job? Be a Writer First (from the archives)

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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Do not listen to this man…

Oh, I’ve seen such anguish on FB and elsewhere about the thin market in college jobs for writers.  More jobs will turn up, of course, and somewhere, right now, someone’s writing up a job description that sounds a lot like you.  But that September job list really is depressing. Then again, if you’ve set out to be a writer, why let the job statistics for teachers bother you?  Yes, you need a way to make money, but what difference does it make how you get there, if the whole point is to buy time to write? Continue reading →

Table for Two: An Interview with Jeff Thomson, Poet and Memoirist

categories: Cocktail Hour / Table For Two: Interviews

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Jeff Thomson

Jeff Thomson is a friend of mine, and lives in the same small town in Maine, which is Farmington. His poetry and now his memoir echo out into the world, however. Jeff spent a Fulbright year in Ireland, and returns to Costa Rica frequently both for surfing with his son and teaching a college course in the rain and cloud forests there. He’s a birder and athlete and likes a pint of beer. He’s a translator, too, and has published a juicy edition of the poetry of Catullus, rendered from the Latin. For our Table for Two meal—a fantasy, of course—he suggests the deck of the Corcovado Tent Camps adjacent to the back entrance of the Corcovado National Park (which is little more than a tapir path). So we’ll sip a couple of boozy drinks while looking over the Pacific, the primordial green of the Pacific coastline running for miles in both directions. Scarlet Macaws overhead. Spider monkeys in the wild almond. Crocodiles lying on the beach like distant logs, ceviche and patacones and margaritas made from fresh mandarina juice. Continue reading →

Table for Two: An Interview with Julianna Baggott

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Julianna Baggott

You’ve never heard of Harriet Wolf, one of the 20th Century’s great American writers. But don’t feel too bad — neither had an unnamed faculty member in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program.

“I gave a reading at VCFA to a bunch of writers,” says Julianna Baggott, whose novel, Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders, imagines the existence of a seventh book in the Wolf oeuvre, a memoir that exposes the “true stories” behind Wolf’s six other classics. “And a couple of writers, well-known writers, came up to me afterwards, and said, ‘you know, I’m really not familiar with Harriet Wolf’s work.’

“And I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t think I made that clear — she doesn’t exist.’ So, then I thought, well, let’s not make that clear, let’s build a little bit of her lore…” Continue reading →

Table for Two–An Interview with Philip Lopate

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Table For Two: Interviews

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 Your essay, The Poetry Years (from Portrait Inside My Head) looks back at where and how you started writing professionally.  You say you had no ambitions toward writing poetry until you were a student at Columbia and suddenly doing it, kind of by accident. What experiences drew you in?

PHILLIP: When I was an undergraduate at Columbia, my writer-friends were mostly poets.  A few fiction writers, not a single nonfiction writer in the batch.  Monkey see, monkey do: I started reading and writing poetry. Continue reading →

Tree Hugger Dave on Nat Geo’s Born to be Wild

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I have often been accused of being a tree hugger. Well, here is the proof. On Sunday January 10 at 8 pm I will be hosting an episode of National Geographic’s Explorer series called “Born to be Wild.” Check out this clip and the links below. (Quite proud of myself for figuring out how to embed these. Hadley would be proud of me too even though this whole show is about trying get her off screens–though,as she likes to point out, you need a screen to watch it.)

Continue reading →

All the Wild That Remains: A Year End Report

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book in handHere is a wrap up of some of the stuff that has happened with All the Wild That Remains since its release in April.

The downside? No New York Times review. But considering how the NYTBR treated Abbey and especially Stegner, I suppose that is not a huge shock. Despite the fact that the Washington Post ended their reviewPerhaps now even Easterners will take notice,” that has not always happened.


The upside? Pretty much everything else…..




All the Wild That Remains:

Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West

By David Gessner

A New York Times Bestseller

                                              An Amazon Best Nonfiction Book of 2015                                      

A Kirkus Best Book of 2015 and Best Book about Significant Figures in the Arts and Humanities

A Christian Science Monitor’s Top Ten Nonfiction Book of the Year

A Southwest Book of the Year

A Smithsonian Best History Book

To the Best of Our Knowledge Top Ten Book


“If Stegner and Abbey are like rivers, then Gessner is the smart, funny, well-informed river guide who can tell a good story and interpret what you’re seeing.” The Los Angeles Review of Books.


As western rivers dry up and western land cracks from aridity, the voices of Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey have never been more important. Those voices can be heard, loud and clear, in All the Wild that Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West. The book takes the long view of the land, and of the importance of Continue reading →